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Sentencing juveniles in the United States

Should minors be sentenced to life in prison?

The United States, as I understand it, is the only country in the world that sentences minors; that is, those under eighteen to life in prison without parole. This was challenged in court some ten years ago when the Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional to sentence minors to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Teenagers are basically the same all over the world. They have the same kinds of social, physical, and emotional issues to deal with, but their environment can make or break them. It is this environment that may be the determining factor of where they end up. Given the right encouragement and the right tools, they can do amazing things that will put your life on the right track; however, things happen that derail their hopes and dreams.

Teenagers around the world appear in court for a variety of reasons, with murder being the most extreme charge, but after serving a sentence of a set number of years, they are released subject to certain conditions. One of them is that the authorities are convinced that there is no risk to the public. They, except on rare occasions, cherish their freedom and live their lives as law-abiding human beings.

People can and do change their lives so that at the age of thirty they are completely different people than they were when they were fifteen. I have read that the human brain does not fully develop until the age of twenty-five. The American justice system does not seem to take this into account and charges them as adults, but for all intents and purposes they are minors; even US law classifies them as minors.

Keeping people locked up serves no useful purpose and the motivation for wanting to keep another human being in prison can only be retribution, which is the mentality of revenge. “I want him or her to pay for what they did.” I think a person with that kind of mindset is choosing to be a victim and it’s quite sad to be known to have influenced the judge to keep an offender locked up.

There is a case in Florida where a fourteen-year-old boy killed an eight-year-old girl. He appeared before the judge to re-sentence after the Supreme Court ruled that life imprisonment was unconstitutional, but after pressure from relatives of the deceased, the judge ruled that he should remain in prison. The young man was now in his mid-thirties and a completely different person compared to that fourteen-year-old boy.

One only has to question the mentality of people who see the worst in another human being.

A young woman, also from Florida, killed a sixty-eight-year-old man and stole his truck when she was fifteen. She received a life sentence without parole, but do you know what the most pathetic aspect of this case was?

It was that she committed this crime with her boyfriend of twenty-one years.

Pathetic because nothing was ever mentioned about her supposed adult co-defendant leading her astray. The justice system never seems to take this factor into account, yet under the law a person under the age of eighteen is classified as a minor.

In 2007, a young woman named Erin Caffey, then sixteen, plotted to kill her family because her parents disapproved of her then-boyfriend, Charlie, who was nineteen. It wasn’t just the age difference, but the things Erin was doing. Her family was a devout churchgoing family and they were all part of the worship team at the church they attended in Texas. Charlie’s friend and her girlfriend participated in a barbaric slaughter in which Erin’s mother, Penny Caffey, and her two brothers were killed, while her father, Terry, survived to tell the tale.

The two boys who committed the murder received a life sentence without parole, Erin’s friend received twenty years, while Erin herself is not eligible for parole until 2038.

My opinion is that Erin should have been treated more fairly considering her young age; I mean the fact that Erin planned all the murders should have been treated differently than if she did all the murder herself. Erin was the only minor in this foursome, so who is responsible for the actions of the other three? Certainly not Erin.

I first found out about this case in 2017 after watching a TV show about Criminal Investigation. I started a letter-writing campaign for Erin the next day and continued throughout 2018 and into 2019, but I did not receive a single response to all the letters I posted to the White House on this matter, but I did receive a letter from the Erin herself. She comes across as a bubbly young woman who gets visits from her dad; if you read that right, her dad who forgave her daughter.

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