Robina Institute of Criminal Law and Criminal Justice

ABA Passes Resolution Recommending an End to Life-Without-Parole for Children, Initiated by UMN Robina Institute Executive Director, Kelly Mitchell

MINNEAPOLIS / ST. PAUL (02/09/2015) —At its mid-year meeting in Houston, Texas, today, the American Bar Association (ABA)approved a resolution calling for an end to the practice of sentencing children to life-in-prison-without-parole and urging “meaningful periodic opportunities for release.” Resolution 107C was initiated by Kelly Mitchell, Executive Director of the University of Minnesota Law School’s Robina Institute of Criminal Law and Criminal Justice and sponsored by the ABA’s Criminal Justice Section.

The United States stands alone in permitting sentences of life without parole for juveniles. It is the only country other than Somalia that has not yet ratified the Convention on Rights of the Child, which prohibits life without parole sentences for children. Passage of this resolution signals the ABA’s commitment to reforming U.S. juvenile sentencing laws and aligns with recent rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court affirming that children are “constitutionally different” from adults, and that because children have diminished culpability and greater prospects of reform, they should not be routinely subject to our nation’s harshest penalties.

“With the adoption of Resolution 107C, the American Bar Association has sent a clear message to the legal community and policymakers across the country that children should never be sentenced to die in prison,” said ABA President, William C. Hubbard. “As the world’s foremost leader and defender of human rights, the United States should ban life without parole sentences for children – a severe violation of human rights. The ABA applauds those states that have already taken steps to reform their laws and urges other states to pass similar reforms as soon as practicable.”

“For any one individual, if over time that person continues to pose a significant risk to public safety, a life sentence may be appropriate,” said Robina Institute Executive Director Kelly Mitchell. “What this resolution is saying is that the moment of sentencing is not the time to make the judgment that a person is forever irredeemable.”

The control and administration of the ABA is vested in the House of Delegates, which is the 560-member policy-making body of the association. The House of Delegates meets twice each year, at ABA Annual and Midyear Meetings. Action taken by the House of Delegates on specific issues becomes official ABA policy.

Read more about criminal justice issues being considered by the ABA here: http://www.americanbar.org/news/abanews/aba-news-archives/2015/01/aba_considers_policy.html