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A 50-year sentence for teens might as well be life without parole

The California Supreme Court has ruled to get rid of 50-year sentences for juveniles convicted of certain crimes. When a kid who has just turned old enough to drive faces five decades behind bars, that is the equivalent to a life sentence. The case of two teenage boys convicted of kidnapping and raping two young girls in Rancho Peñasquitos was cited as one of the rulings behind the court’s decision.

Young, wild but not free

Both boys received sentences of 50 years to life for the crimes they committed in 2011. At least 85 percent of the sentence will be served before the possibility of parole will be entertained, if at all. Defense attorneys pushed for lesser sentences stating the boys were young and immature when they committed the crimes and had no previous history of violence. The legislation to eliminate the half-century sentence comes with stipulations; only a select few crimes apply. Kidnapping, rape and sodomy will not be punishable with a 50-year sentence for juvenile offenders under this new law.

Looking at the numbers

In a study done by the Human Rights Watch in 2010, it was shown that the United States had 3,000 inmates serving life terms for crimes they were convicted of before the age of 18. Imagine that number now. It is probably not what you think. Common sense tells us if there is a high number of people that are incarcerated there must be an equal amount of crime, if not more. The statistics paint a different picture. Since the 90’s crime has been dropping in the U.S. while the prison population has seen a steady rise.

By passing this law, The California Supreme Court is offering juvenile offenders a second chance. The court majority deemed it cruel and unusual punishment to deprive teens a chance at parole until their golden years. While you cannot change the past, this legislation may help to change the future.

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