Life Without Parole—At the Age of 15

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Kenneth Young during his interview. From '15 to Life: Kenneth's Story' Kenneth Young during his interview. He was 15 years old when he recieved four consecutive life sentences for armed robbery. From "15 to Life: Kenneth's Story." (Courtesy of HitPlay Productions/PBS)

The United States is the only country in the world that routinely sentences juveniles to life in prison. Kenneth Young was 15 when he received four consecutive life sentences for a series of armed robberies. He has spent more than a decade behind bars, a U.S. Supreme Court decision could set him free. Director Nadine Pequeneza talks about Young’s case, the subject of her documentary “15 to Life: Kenneth’s Story.” She’s joined by Mishi Faruqee, juvenile justice policy strategist at the ACLU. The documentary airs August 4 on PBS.



Mishi Faruqee and Nadine Pequeneza

Comments [5]

Stephen Somerstein from Brooklyn

Your guest was wrong. New York most certainly does have life without parole sentencing. And it has been imposed on young people. I have a client who is right now serving life without parole. He was 18 when he was sentenced and has been in for nearly 17 years. There appears to be no way out for him. He has lost every appeal and has been denied habeas corpus relief in federal court. Before trial he waas offered a plea bargain 0f 20 years to life, meaning he would have had the opportunity for parole board review after serving 20 years. He turned it down. I believe he did so because of the impaired judgment typically exhibited by teenagers. After trial the judge imposed the life without parole sentence. While it must be acknowledged my client had serious behavior problems at that time in his life, I believe the judge imposed the harsh sentence he did in some significant measure as punishment for my young client's exercise of his right to go to trial. My client's only hope is a grant of clemency by the governor which reduces his sentence from life without parole to one that allows review by a parole board at 20 or 25 years. Unhappily, this governor has never granted clemency to anyone. See attached article. So, we wait for the next governor and hope for the best.

Jul. 31 2014 01:27 PM

Thank goodness these cases are beginning to get some attention. I fear for my teenage sons, and even more so for their African American friends, as they navigate the city in search of their basketball and ultimate Frisbee games. The privatization of prisons is a great point, lk.

Jul. 31 2014 01:07 PM
Amy from Manhattan

This is ridiculous--what a waste of so many people's lives. How did it get this way? Did these practices/policies come out of the "superpredator" scare? (When was that, anyway?)

Jul. 31 2014 12:59 PM
lk from brooklyn

Perhaps the judge is getting a kick back from the prison if it is a private prison like that judge in Pennsylvania.
Privatizing prisons brings the prison lots of money. Talk about what it is costing tax payers for this one prisoner to spend all these years in prison. How much cheaper if the effort went in to rehabilitate.

Jul. 31 2014 12:52 PM
Wayne Johnson Ph.D. from bk

What percentage of these young men serving life are african-american?

Jul. 31 2014 12:48 PM

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