Juwan 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.
Juwan is one of over 350 people serving this sentence in Michigan
alone—the second highest number among states in the U.S. Today, the ACLU
is representing thirty-two of these Michigan prisoners in a hearing
before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR),
D.C.-based tribunal charged with examining allegations of
human rights abuses committed by members of the Organization of American States, which includes the United States.