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An Appeal to Join the Civilized World
By Kyra Nicole Millich
The United States has over 2,500 youth offenders serving life in prison without the possibility of parole. The rest of the world has zero. It has not always been this way in the United States. In recognition that teenagers in trouble with the law should be treated differently than offending adults, a separate system of justice was established for children in the early 1900s.1 Children were to be tried separately from adults with “open-ended, informal, and highly flexible policies to rehabilitate youth offenders.”2 In response to perceptions of rising violent crime by adolescents in the 1980s and 1990s,3 the federal government and the majority of states changed their laws to allow or require that children be tried and sentenced as adults for certain crimes.4 As a result, an estimated 250,000 youths under the age of 18 (only five percent of whom committed violent crimes) are prosecuted, sentenced, or incarcerated as adults each year.5 In more than half of the states, there is no lower ag
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