The U.S. is one of the very few countries in the world that allows children under eighteen to be prosecuted as adults and sentenced to life without parole. In Colorado, between 1992 and 2005, 45 juveniles between fifteen and eighteen were sentenced to prison without the hope of ever being released. Last spring, the state's legislature eased its tough laws targeting juvenile offenders. The state passed a bill that made parole possible after 40 years in prison, but the measure did not apply retroactively to the 45 former juveniles now in Colorado's prison system. Producer Ofra Bikel visits five young men in Colorado sentenced to life without parole to examine their crimes and punishment, the laws that sanctioned their convictions, and the prospect of never being free again.
PBS is reminding us of our shortcomings.
Life in prison without parole is still much better than the death penalty, which the U.S. Supreme Court recently declared unconstitutional for juveniles. It leaves open the possibilities of a collateral attack on a conviction in the courts, commutation of a sentence by the Governor, or legislative amnesty.