They’re just kids, but sentenced to life

Remember what you were like when you were a kid? Did you do anything stupid? I did. "Stupidity" was my middle name. I even broke the law a time or two. I would often drive my mother’s car without a license. One afternoon, to the amusement of my friends, I turned on the headlights and joined a funeral procession. Anyone who saw us having a big laugh must have wondered how much we were inheriting.

I didn’t commit any major crimes, but with the wrong influence, I easily could have. Kids just don’t have the mental capacity to realize what they’re doing and think of all the consequences. But you wouldn’t know that from some of the sentences being handed down in America.

THE United States has far more juveniles serving life terms than
any other country — 2387. Israel, the only other country that
imprisons juveniles for life, according to a new study by the
University of San Francisco’s Centre for Law & Global Justice,
has seven — and has not issued such a sentence since 2004. [Link]

America is way out in front of any other country. The last time I saw this much domination, the Patriots were playing the Redskins.

In the US, life terms have fallen disproportionately on
non-white children, who are 10 times more likely than white
children to be given life without parole, the report found.

The study, titled Sentencing Children to Die in Prison,
also found that in California, black juveniles are 20 times more
likely to receive such sentences. [Link]

Someone once told me that justice was colorblind. But perhaps he was just talking about David Justice.

The US Federal Government and 44 states permit life sentences
without the possibility of parole for juvenile offenders.

"Among those states, 13 allow sentencing a child of any age to
LWOP and one sets the bar at eight years or older," according to
the study.

There are 18 states that could apply the sentence to a child as
young as 10, and 20 states that allow it for children 12 or older.
The minimum age is 14 in 13 other states. [Link]

A child of any age can get a life sentence in 13 states? You thought you lived in America, but it’s actually Americanistan.

The report asserts that "harsh sentences dispensed in adult
courts do not take into account the lessened culpability of
juvenile offenders… Psychologically and neurologically,
children cannot be expected to have achieved the same level of
mental development as an adult, even when they become
teenagers." [Link]

Even young adults don’t have the same mental development as older adults. Just ask the man who got busted at age 30 for driving under the influence. He’ll tell you he’s a changed man today. Either that or he’s really guzzling it down in the White House.

If you enjoyed this piece, you'll love Melvin's novel Bala Takes the Plunge, available in North America through and You can also find it at major bookstores in India and Sri Lanka or online at FlipKart, IndiaPlaza, FriendsofBooks or other sites. A number of readers have written reviews of the novel. An excerpt of the novel can be read here.


  1. Ramadas Mannattil says:

    Usually your posts are hilarious. This news was a very sad one. I could not believe it, that too in the USA?

  2. Love your posts!!! Always makes my day!!
    Cheers to you!!!

  3. Ramadas, you’re right: it’s pretty sad.
    Alok, thank you!

  4. Have they stopped executing juveniles yet? Last I heard (which was a few years ago) about 20 states still had laws allowing the executions of children and there was just over 70 people sitting on death row who had been children at the time of the crime for which they were to be executed. Life without opportunity for parole is bad but there’s always a chance that the situation might change, if they’re dead the efficacy of any changes is rather lost.

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