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32,000 Have Served In Prison Since Childhood, New Report Says

An organization called Human Rights for Kids issued a report that it said shows "the full scope of the harm of prosecuting and incarcerating children as adults in the U.S. It says that more than 32,000 people in prison today have been there since childhood, comprising nearly 3% of the national prison population. Many children sentenced as adults spend more than two decades in prison. Nearly 30% of children convicted as adults receive life or de facto life sentences. Unless they are able to obtain an early release, these young people either will die in prison or will not come home until they are near retirement age. Children of color are far more likely to be tried as adults and often receive lengthier sentences than do white children. More than 50% of the children who receive life sentences are Black, and 80% of the people imprisoned since childhood are minorities.

While the incarceration rates for children in the juvenile justice system has declined over the past 20 years, it fails to account for children who are tried as adults, Human Rights for Kids says. “The United States is shockingly comfortable with discarding the human rights – and lives – of children,” said the group's founder, James Dold. “Instead of offering children in crisis the healing they desperately need, the United States inflicts further suffering by cycling kids into adult prisons where they face continued abuse and harm. Prosecuting children as adults is inhumane, ineffective, and an international embarrassment." The number of people incarcerated in U.S. prisons for crimes committed as children is greater than the entire prison population in nearly 80% of countries. The report analyzes how the incarceration of children has proliferated over the last 50 years, tracing back to the "superpredator" theory popularized in the 1990s. The group proposes ways of preventing children from entering the justice system and providing retroactive relief to those incarcerated.


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