Life Sentencing of Juvenile Without the Possibility of Parole: Lost for Life

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Vanderbilt University
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Who is a juvenile? Based on international law, a juvenile is any person who is yet to attain eighteen years, otherwise known as a child (Drinan 10). A juvenile is, therefore, a minor person who has not attained the age of responsibility, a person who cannot be held accountable for anything. Can you sentence such kind of a person to life imprisonment? No matter the magnitude of a crime committed, you cannot sentence a person who did a crime he or she cannot be held accountable, for children lack maturity and are vulnerable to outside influence and pressure (Fiorillo 12). When people with mental problems commit murder, do we take them to courts and sentence them? No. Instead, they are taken to mental institutions. Why then do we take children guilty of atrocities to juvenile courts instead of rehabilitation centers? For children just like people with mental problems cannot be held accountable for their crimes. Lost for life, a documentary about American juvenile offenders serving a life sentence without parole justify the need to replace life sentencing of a juvenile with the rehabilitation of the juveniles guilty of various atrocities.

In the Lost for Life documentary, the first incidence presented to us is quite shocking and horrific. A 16-year olds Torey and Brian plotting to kill a classmate just for kicks! This shows that the two kids are still naive and unaware of the repercussions of their actions (Rofe). Now in the event of this atrocity, the first person who was to be held responsible are the parents of the two children. This is because it is them who failed in their responsibility of upbringing children with good virtues. Instead of sentencing the two kids to life imprisonment, they should have been rehabilitated. Now I understand the pain inflicted by such atrocity on the family of the classmate but is it not meaningless to destroy two lives? For two wrongs cannot make a right!

Joshua Rofe also presents us with convicted criminals he interviews. From the discussion, we understand that these kids were abused as children. One of the convicts interviewed had spent more than twenty years in prison having been involved in a gang from a very tender age. One of the scenes presented display photographs of a little kid besides his mother and stepdad. The little kid, now a man, describes how he killed the parents; as he recounts how he was abused both physically and emotionally by the parents (Rofe). Based on this evidence, can blame the chi or his parents! Being abused at a tender age by a person supposed to be protecting you, what other option do you have as a child! This should have been treated as self-defense, and the child rehabilitated. If there is any case that needed redemption, it should have been this one.

In another incidence presented by Rofe, we are presented with a story of a gang member convicted of murder at the age of 17. While in prison, this kid turns his back on all gang activities and dedicates his life teaching other young people to avoid his fate. A person, so reformed deserves at least a second chance to amend his wrongs. Supposed this kind of person was rehabilitated, think of the goals he could have achieved!

Based on the evidence presented by the documentary Lost for Life, I believe that convicted juveniles deserve a chance to rehabilitation. It is also wrong to sentence juveniles to a life sentence because children usually are in the process of development and making mistakes is part of their lifestyle. With guidance and corrections, they get to grow up knowing what us fundamentally right or wrong (Zarrow 21). As such, the only way of helping these kids is via rehabilitation.


Works Cited

Fiorillo, Sara E. "Mitigating after Miller: Legislative considerations and remedies for the future of juvenile sentencing." BUL Rev. 93 (2013): 2095.

Zarrow, Jason, and William Milliken. "The Retroactivity of Substantive Rules to Cases on Collateral Review and the AEDPA, with a Special Focus on Miller v. Alabama." (2014).

Drinan, Cara H. The War on Kids: How American Juvenile Justice Lost Its Way. Oxford University Press, 2017.

Rofe, Joshua. Lost for Life. New York, NY, 2013. VAST: academic video online. EBSCOhost,


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