Cruel and Unusual

(10:30PM EST – promoted by Nightprowlkitty)

Did you ever make a mistake when you were 13 years old? Hang around with the wrong people? Go to the wrong places? Take risks with your behavior?

Well, imagine that in addition, you’re a black or brown 13 year old who has lived a lifetime with neglect, abuse, poverty, crime, and drug abuse on a daily basis. Imagine the kinds of “mistakes” you might make.

Do you deserve to spend the rest of your life in prison?


Well, in this United States of America, that’s exactly what has happened to 73 children who were sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole for crimes that were committed when they were 13 or 14 years of age. All of this according to a report by the Equal Justice Initiative.

Here’s just one of their stories from an article in NYU’s Office of Public Affairs:

Antonio Nunez was 14 when, in April 2001, he left a party in California with two men nearly twice his age. One of the men later claimed to be a kidnapping victim. When police chased their car and shots were fired, Antonio – along with the 27-year-old driver – was arrested. No one was injured, but Antonio was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment with no chance of parole. Just a year before, Antonio was shot multiple times while riding his bicycle near his house in South Central Los Angeles. His brother, 14, was fatally shot in the head when he ran to help Antonio.

And some data from the report:

# The U.S. is only country in the world known to have condemned 13- and 14-year-old children to imprisonment until death.

# Most of these young children were accomplices to adults or older teens who were more culpable for the crime.

# Seven, or roughly 10 percent, of the 73 children were convicted of crimes in which no one was killed. In one case, no one was even injured. All seven are children of color.

# Six states have condemned 13-year-old children to imprisonment until death. All but one of these children are racial minorities.

# Most of the 73 suffered years of severe abuse and neglect. Some tried to commit suicide as young as age eight.

# Judges in the vast majority of these cases were forced to impose mandatory death-in-prison sentences without considering the child’s age or background or the circumstances of the crime.

# Children of color are disproportionately sentenced to die in prison. Of the 73 children identified, roughly two-thirds are people of color; nearly half are African American.

# Most of these kids are from poor families and received grossly inadequate legal representation. Court-appointed attorneys failed to file post-conviction appeals and never challenged the death-in-prison sentence in most of these cases.

# All of the 73 have been sent to adult prisons, where many are the target of horrendous physical and sexual assault by adult inmates. One EJI client attempted suicide three times after being repeatedly raped by adult inmates.


In terms of international standards of decency, the U.S. once again finds itself alone. In a United Nations resolution calling to abolish life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for children, the vote came out 185 to 1-the U.S. was the lone dissenter. It is one of two countries (the other being Somalia) not to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which among other commitments to protecting persons under the age of 18, forbids life sentences without parole.

So next time you hear a politician tell you that “children are our future” or some other such pablum…ask them what they’re going to do about this.


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  1. Any part of the population that is not actively involved in generating a profit (the poor) is ignored or shunted out of the way. Prisons make good warehouses for useless surplus “units.” Saves on the cost of occupying poor urban neighborhoods with security forces. Armies are another good place to unload the unprofitable poor.

  2. what a set of tragedies.  Heavens.

  3. of our country.  “Justice” is as good as your money — so these poor kids are thrown into jail to be forgotten about and to rot.  No legal aid or civic representation coming to their aid.

    Even if most of these kids start out with little to engage them in their social environment, society makes sure that they have will have no chance of doing so, hence, they wind up where they do.  

    Such as is the land of the free, equality for all rhetoric!  

    Everything we do, it seems, is totally without regard for the growth and development of “selected” human beings and uses all means to be “rid of them” as expeditiously as possible.

    Strange, isn’t it, how we have undoubtedly fostered great hatred of us by so many in this world, apparently, we do the same to our very own, as well.  In other words, we do all the things and treatment that could only encourage criminal behavior and reaction.

    Thank you for this, MNP! A thoughtful and heartbreaking statement and essay!


  4. a State Supreme Court Justice here in MN challenged us all with was to question why a face like this provokes compassion

    and a few years later, when he looks like this, that same face can provoke fear.

  5. …mass murderer extrordinaire…

    …remains free…

                       …to go on murdering?

  6. America is a shitty country.  

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