Kids are still maturing and developing, and as a result society treats kids and adults differently in a wide array of contexts: kids cannot drive, sit on juries, enter contracts, join the military, smoke, drink, marry or hold political office. Yet in the criminal justice system, we often treat them like adults.
Despite a global consensus that children cannot be held to the same standards of responsibility as adults and recognition that children are entitled to special protection and treatment, the United States allows children to be treated and punished as adults.
Young people need to be held accountable for their criminal actions in a way that allows them to grow and develop into successful adults. We need laws that protect public safety and reflect kids' capacity for rehabilitation.
The overincarceration of youth is a huge issue in the United States. States such as West Virginia, Florida, South Carolina, and Nevada are all undergoing ACLU-led campaigns to address incarceration of youth. Young people confront several challenges when incarcerated, the goal is to provide community-based alternatives so our troubled youth don’t end up in jail or prisons from the outset.
Too many young people have been sentenced to life without the possibility of parole - in other words, sentenced to die in prison - for crimes committed as juveniles. Young people should be given the opportunity to demostrate growth and maturity and a chance to re-enter society.
Every day, in jails and prisons across the United States, young people under the age of 18 are held in solitary confinement. A new report from the ACLU and Human Rights Watch is based on interviews and correspondence with more than 125 young people who spent time in solitary confinement while under age 18 as well as with jail and/or prison officials in 10 states.
Growing Up Locked Down: Youth in Solitary Confinement in Jails and Prisons Across the United States (2012 report)
Hill v. Snyder (2011 case)
The ACLU and the ACLU of Michigan filed this lawsuit on behalf of nine Michigan citizens who were sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for crimes committed when they were minors.
A lawsuit charging conditions at the Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility, where children were subjected to brutal conditions and solitary confinement, were unconstitutional. As a result, children will no longer be housed at Walnut Grove, operated by the for-profit GEO Group.