Applaud Ban on Life Sentences for Youth Offenders


Target: Honorable Joyce L. Kennard, Supreme Court Justice

Goal: Praise ruling against life without parole sentences for youth in California

California’s Supreme Court has recently overturned a decades-old legislation allowing sentences of life without parole to be handed down to youth under the age of 18. Currently, the United States is the only country that allows such sentences for youths, and California has made a step toward nationwide change of youth sentencing.

The court recognized key differences between adults and youths which hold crucial relevance in terms of court sentences. For example, youths hold less responsibility over their actions due to factors such as immaturity, impulsive behavior, and inability to associate risks with consequences. They are also more likely to be successfully reformed than adults- it is almost impossible to know, beyond a doubt, that a young person is incapable of being rehabilitated.

The recent ruling now requires these differences to be taken into account by the judge where a life without parole sentence is possible. The court has, however, reserved the possibility of a life without parole sentence for extenuating circumstances.

Across America, over 2,500 people are serving life sentences for crimes they committed in their youth, with 300 of these inmates in California. Over half of these youths were convicted without any prior offenses, with a significant number of them only playing accomplice roles in their crimes.

California’s new ruling will protect dozens of youths annually from the possibility of a life sentence in prison. It will also set precedence for other federal and state-level bans on such sentences. Your signature will commend the ruling, which will return focus to rehabilitation, rather than punishment.


Dear Joyce L. Kennard,

The Supreme Court of California recently ruled against a decades-old law allowing youth to be sentenced to life without parole. The court recognized important differences between youth and adults, such as a greater likelihood to respond to rehabilitation as well as a diminished sense of responsibility.

In the US, over 2,500 people are imprisoned for crimes they committed while they were under 18. 300 of these prisoners are in California, and over half of them were sentenced without prior criminal records.

The court’s new ruling will return focus to rehabilitation, and protect dozens of youth annually from unfair and disproportionate punishments. I commend your decision, which could set precedence for similar rulings in other states, as well as possibly the entire country.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: SalFalko via Flickr Creative Commons

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62 Signatures

  • Jill Ballard
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