The ban, though, applies only to mandatory sentences—those that a judge is required by law to give to an offender for a particular crime, usually murder. The Court left the door open for judges to still sentence juveniles to life without parole after taking into account their particular circumstances.
There’s been a widespread movement on the state level toward banning that as well, though. Ten years ago, only five states prohibited life without parole for juveniles. Today, 25 states and the District of Columbia ban it outright (see map, below). But Arizona, where Rue is imprisoned, is one of several states pushing back against the trend.
Many criminal-justice reform advocates argue it’s time to do away with all life-without-parole sentences for juvenile offenders.
“It’s an inhumane, unthinkable thing we do,” says Heather Renwick, legal director of the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth, “that we throw kids into prison and say they are irredeemable and that we don’t believe that they deserve a second chance.”
But others, including some family members of victims murdered by teenagers, see things differently.
“Dangerous people need to be identified and separated safely, and, if necessary, permanently from society,” says Jennifer Bishop-Jenkins, co-founder of the National Organization of Victims of Juvenile Murderers. She says it doesn’t matter how old someone is.