Bishops’ Committee Joins Call To End Life Sentences Without Parole For Children

January 30, 2013 By Public Affairs Office

WASHINGTON—A committee ofthe U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has endorsed the principles of a national campaign to end the practice ofsentencing people under the age of 18 to life in prison without the possibilityof parole. The USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development agreedto endorse the Statement of Principles for the Fair Sentencing of Youth attheir December 2012 meeting.

"While there is no question thatviolent and dangerous youth need to be confined for their safety and that ofsociety, the USCCB does not support provisions that treat children as thoughthey are equal to adults in their moral and cognitive development," said BishopStephen E. Blaire of Stockton, California, chairman of the committee. "Lifesentences without parole eliminate the opportunity for rehabilitation or secondchances."

In their 2000 document,"Responsibility, Rehabilitation, and Restoration: A Catholic Perspective onCrime and Criminal Justice," the bishops wrote, "Placing children in adultjails is a sign of failure, not a solution."

More than 100 organizations haveendorsed the Statement of Principles of the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing ofYouth, including a diverse array of faith-based organizations such as theEvangelical Lutheran Church of America, the General Synod of the United Churchof Christ, the United Methodist Church, the Muslim Public Affairs Council andthe Jewish Council on Urban Affairs. Supporters also include groupsrepresenting law enforcement officials, victims' families, mental healthexperts, parents, teachers and child welfare advocates.

"We welcome the opportunity topartner with USCCB, a national leader defending the rights of our most vulnerable,"said Jody Kent Lavy, director of the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth."We support the Church's efforts topromote the greater good by ensuring that children are held accountable for theharm that they have caused in age-appropriate ways that uphold their humandignity and focus on rehabilitation and reintegration into society."

The federal government and 38 statesallow youth convicted of a crime to be sentenced to life without thepossibility of parole. Currently, over 2,500 youth are serving life sentenceswithout the possibility of parole. AfricanAmerican youth are sentenced to life without parole as children at a per capitarate that is 10 times that of white youth convicted of the same crimes.The United States is the only country that imposes this sentence upon children.

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Keywords: fair sentencing, youth, Catholic Church,U.S. bishops, minors, life sentences, parole, mandatory, courts, violence,crime, Bishop Stephen E. Blaire, USCCB, Committee on Domestic Justice and HumanDevelopment, "Responsibility, Rehabilitation, and Restoration: A CatholicPerspective on Crime and Criminal Justice"

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