The Sentencing Project released a report that finds a large portion of people sentenced to die in prison were emerging adults 25 and younger when sentenced to life without parole (LWOP), despite irrefutable evidence that their younger age contributes to diminished capacity to comprehend the risk and consequences of their actions.
“Left to Die in Prison: Emerging Adults 25 and Younger Sentenced to Life without Parole” finds that the peak age at conviction for people sentenced to LWOP was 23-years-old, falling well within the period of emerging adulthood. Emerging adults share many key developmental characteristics with adolescents under age 18. Despite their serious crimes, these individuals have tremendous potential for growth and opportunity
U.S. courts have ruled that people under 18 should be protected against the cruelest sentences because of limits in their brain development. The report authors recommend extending this understanding to the full class of individuals who fall into this stage of development. Specifically, we recommend that the U.S. eliminate the use of LWOP and impose a sentence cap at 15 years for people 25 and younger.