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Against All Odds: Prison Conditions for Youth Offenders Serving Life Without Parole Sentences in the United States

NCJ Number
Date Published
January 2012
53 pages
This report from Human Rights Watch presents information on the prison conditions of youth offenders serving life without parole sentences in U.S. prisons.
This research is based on interviews conducted with a sample of the approximately 2,570 youth offenders in U.S. prisons who are currently sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. The researchers interviewed 335 youth offenders between 2004 and 2005 who were serving life without parole sentences and 225 individuals serving life without parole sentences for crimes committed as children in California between 2006 and 2011, and obtained survey responses in 2007 from 145 individuals sentenced to life without parole in California for crimes they committed as children. The responses obtained by the researchers indicate that youth offenders are most susceptible to physical and sexual assault during their incarceration compared to adult offenders; youth offenders are often placed in isolated segregation from the rest of the prison population leading to little human contact and depriving these individuals of the opportunity for participating in educational and vocational programs; and youth offenders often suffer from depression and intense loneliness which is not often addressed due to the lack of sufficient prison mental health services. This report includes a set of recommendations to the President of the United States, the United States Congress, State and Federal officials who fund and administer corrections programs, and judges and parole boards to ensure the fair and equitable treatment of youth offenders sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.