However, no such law has been established when it comes to life sentences. There are thousands of kids in the U.S. who have been given the infamous LWOP sentence: life without parole. Kids as young as 14 have been sentenced to prison until their natural deaths, without any chance for parole.
This evening, I went to the San Francisco Main Public Library to see a screening of a new documentary called Me Facing Life: Cyntoia's Story.
It was an incredibly compelling account of Cyntoia Brown, a Tennessee girl who, frankly, was never dealt a fair hand. Her mother gave birth to her at age 16, and confesses that she drank heavily every day while she was pregnant. After Cyntoia was born, her mother began using crack cocaine and prostituting, resulting in danger & instability for Cyntoia. According to psychologists, ages 0-3 are crucial when it comes to forming attachment, trust, decision-making, etc.
Cyntoia was eventually adopted by a friend of the family, but was sexually abused, repeatedly, starting at age 7. It comes as no surprise that by her early teens, she was doing drugs and hanging out with the wrong crowd.
One night, having escaped her violent pimp, Cyntoia walked to a local gas station, where she was picked up by a 43 year old man looking for sex. He took her back to his place and showed her several of his guns, and after he grabbed her forcefully, she shot and killed him.
Cyntoia, at the hearing to determine whether she would be tried as an adult
In the end, she was tried in adult court, found guilty, and sentenced to life in prison. Producer/Director Daniel Birman explores issues of biology, abuse, and social factors as they pertain to crime and sentencing.
I urge you to watch the trailer here, and try to catch the documentary when it airs on PBS!