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Retroactive Abolishment of Juvenile Life Without Parole Sentences

WHEREAS, the United States currently, nationwide, leads other industrialized nations with over 2,400 individuals imprisoned serving life without parole sentences for crimes committed as juveniles; and

WHEREAS, sentencing juveniles to life without the possibility of parole contravenes international law, and with the U.S. failing to ratify the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child (signed by the U.S. on February 16, 1995), banning the practice of sentencing juveniles to life without parole; and

WHEREAS, the United States failure to ratify the U.N. Convention of the Rights of the Child places the U.S. in violation of the Vienna Convention of the Laws of Treaties (entered into force on January 27, 1980- to which the U.S. is a party); and

WHEREAS, nationwide youth of color and youth from poor communities are more likely to be certified for adult adjudication than their white or affluent peers facing similar criminal charges; and

WHEREAS, currently in several states (Michigan, Ohio, Connecticut, North Carolina, Virginia, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia) representatives and legislators have proposed legislation aimed at abolishing juvenile life without parole sentences in their states and jurisdictions; and

WHEREAS, many individuals serving life without parole sentences are first-time offenders and their criminal offenses indicate that their participation was minor and another participant was the actual perpetrator of the crime; and

WHEREAS, the American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International, The Campaign of Youth Services, Center for Children's Law and Policy, Center for Juvenile Justice Reform, National Juvenile Justice Network, Human Rights Watch, and many other organizations currently call for an end to the sentencing of juvenile offenders to life without the possibility of parole; and

WHEREAS, countless individuals who have been under such terms of imprisonment since they were adolescents are now rehabilitated and can become productive members of society if given a second chance; and

WHEREAS, a life sentence for a juvenile can be a confinement term of 40, 50, or 60 years due to life expectancy; and

WHEREAS, 73% of the people (whose race has been identified) serving life without parole in U.S. federal prisons for a crime committed under age 18 are people of color; and

WHEREAS, there has been a shifting trend within the state judiciary system as to the sentencing of juvenile offenders to life without parole, in many states, judges have used their discretion in sentencing certain juveniles outside of the mandatory guidelines; and

WHEREAS, mandatory sentencing of juvenile offenders is archaic and inhumane, in that, it leaves juvenile offenders with no rehabilitative incentive; and

WHEREAS, juveniles are considered a suspect class, in that, juveniles are given limited rights by the U.S. and individual state laws, restricting persons under the age of 18 from such acts as voting, driving, buying liquor or tobacco products; and

WHEREAS, juveniles are not considered to have the culpable mental state to handle such responsibilities in a reasonable manner and fashion as his/her adult counterparts.

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the NAACP reaffirms its support to eradicate and eliminate federal and state policies and laws that allow the criminal justice system to sentence juvenile offenders to the ultimate and final sentence of life without parole, and virtual death sentences; and

BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that the NAACP takes a stand and works to ensure that any abolishment of juvenile life without parole sentences should be applied retroactively as well.