Is it fair to punish people for their entire lives based on something they did as a child? Quantel Lotts, who is facing a life sentence for a murder he committed when he was 14 years old, doesn't think so. Eleven years ago, Lotts got into a scuffle with his stepbrother when he killed him with a hunting knife and was sentenced to a maximum-security prison with no chance for parole.
A year ago, the Supreme Court ruled in Graham v. Florida that sentencing juvenile offenders to life without the chance of parole violated the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment; however, the law applied only to crimes other than murder.
That means Lotts and the 70 other prisoners in the U.S. who are currently serving life sentences for murders they committed when they were 14 years or younger are out of luck. "I understand that I deserve some punishment," says Lotts. "But to be put here for the rest of my life with no chance, I don't think that's a fair sentence."
Now Lotts, and countless other inmates, are sending their cases to the Supreme Court, urging justices to extend last year's ruling to all 13- and 14-year-old offenders. Cases like Roper v. Simmons, which banned the death penalty for juvenile offenders, give hope that the Supreme Court may eventually change its mind about the life sentencing.
Every action comes with its consequences, but isn't living with the reality of killing your own brother a lifelong punishment itself? There is no reason these men should be expected to die in prison for something they did as children. How is life in prison any better than the death penalty for these young men? All we can hope is that this injustice can eventually be corrected and that these men are given the chance to have a small part of their lives back after serving their time.
Read more at the New York Times.
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