"In America, we recycle our trash and throw away our children."
Those words were spoken by a mother whose 16-year-old son is serving life in prison without possibility of parole. His sentence isn't unusual. America is the only nation on earth that sentences its children to die behind bars.
We have thousands of throw-away children wasting hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars in prisons stretching from coast to coast. In 2006, Colorado became the first state to reverse that trend, by allowing parole after 40 years. It is a modest beginning.
In 2007, Gov. Bill Ritter created the nation's first juvenile clemency board, which has been universally lauded. However, it is distressing that not a single juvenile has yet received a pardon or commutation. Still, by creating such a board, Ritter acknowledges that, from their brain development to their capacity for rehabilitation, children are different from adults. Theoretically, those who were convicted of crimes that occurred when they were 14, 15, 16 or 17 deserve a second look.
But political reality intrudes.
We all have different versions of right and wrong. It seems wrong that a kid gets sentenced to life for a hit-and-run that generally garners probation or a few years in prison for an adult. Or that a 38-year-old man receives 16 years in jail for setting his father on fire over a minor argument (the dad later died), while a 15-year-old who kills his molesters is put away for life. Yet other people looked at the same set of circumstances and had no trouble trying, convicting and incarcerating those cases.