Ignorance of their basic rights can make it difficult for young offenders to protect their own interests, and too often, juveniles forgo their rights without realizing that they have done so. The ACLU works to ensure adequate representation, decent care and conditions during periods of incarceration, and other rights for juveniles in the justice system.
Through our focus on the School-to-Prison Pipeline, we also challenge policies and practices in public schools that channel children out of schools and into the criminal justice system.
End Juvenile Life Without Parole (2009 resource)
In the United States each year, children as young as 13 are sentenced to spend the rest of their lives in prison without any opportunity for release. Approximately 2,570 children are sentenced to juvenile life without parole or "JLWOP" in the United States. 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.
The United States was founded on the principles of individual freedom, equality and due process in a democratic society, but in the area of the justice system, these principles have often been challenged.. Nowhere are the principles of human rights and democratic society more at risk today than in the U.S. juvenile justice system. The United States strongly advocates for the extension of human rights enforcement throughout the world, but when it relates directly to U.S., there is resistance to the enforcement of those rights by United Nations agencies. We act as if no external body, least of all the UN, should question that we do not enforce human rights here at home or that we assert that they do not apply here.
Juveniles and the Death Penalty (2004 resource)
Juvenile Justice System Failing Ohio's Children, Investigation Finds (2009 press release)
ACLU of New Mexico Wins Agreement to Overhaul State Juvenile Justice System (2006 press release)
Re: ACLU Applauds Reauthorization of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Reauthorization Act of 2008 (2008 resource)
Families of Victims Murdered by Juveniles Oppose Juvenile Executions (2003 PDF)