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Children Left Behind Bars: Sullivan, Graham, and Juvenile Life without Parole Sentences

March 2013

From Northwestern Journal of Human Rights 

The practice of sentencing children to life in prison without parole (LWOP) is not only a misguided violation the standards of decency in U.S. law, but also a violation of international human rights law as well. The Supreme Court had the opportunity to eradicate the practice of sentencing children to LWOP. However, the Court ruled that LWOP sentences would only be prohibited in cases where children committed non-homicide offenses. The Supreme Court should have categorically banned juvenile LWOP because it violates both domestic and international human rights law and has a disparate impact on racial minorities. If the Court weighed the practice of sentencing children to LWOP against the Supremacy Clause, customary international law, and international treaties, such as the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC), the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (Convention Against Torture), and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), it would have had a stronger impetus to categorically ban juvenile LWOP.