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Protecting the Bill of Rights in Utah since 1958

Only in America: 16-Year-Old Locked Up for the Rest of His Life

31 March 2014 Published in The ACLU of Utah Activist

blog-juwanwickware-500x280Juwan Wickware wasn't the shooter. But he and more than 2,500 others nationwide will enter prison as teenagers, grow into adults, and die – all behind bars.

This is not right. The sentence must fit the crime, and we cannot throw away kids' lives.

Here's Juwan's story: When he was 16, he and another young kid robbed a pizza deliveryman. Both kids were armed with guns. Tragically, his friend shot and killed the man. Although this was Juwan's first offense, and despite a documented learning disability, troubled home environment, and a psychological evaluation concluding that Juwan could be rehabilitated, the judge sentenced Juwan to life in prison with no possibility of parole (LWOP). The boy who pulled the trigger was acquitted because a witness could not identify him.

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Originally published on the national ACLU's Blog of Rights, by Steven M. Watt, Senior Staff Attorney, ACLU Human Rights Program & Allison Frankel, Criminal Law Reform Project, ACLU