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BBC World Service – The Documentary

Thursday, October 19 at 2:00 pm

Life After Life

Elizabeth Davies explores how thousands of Americans given life sentences as children now have a chance of freedom.

The United States is the only country to sentence children to full life terms in prison. In many states, until recently, under-18s convicted of certain crimes were automatically locked up for life without the possibility of parole. But the US Supreme Court has now banned those mandatory sentences – and the approximately two thousand Americans who were given them stand a chance of release.

Elizabeth Davies travels to the United States to meet some of those given life sentences as teenagers. How are they dealing with the prospect of freedom after believing they would spend their entire lives in prison? And how are those who’ve been released finding the outside world they have never experienced as adults?

The decision has not been universally welcomed. For many victims’ relatives the possible release of convicted murderers, however young they were when they committed their crime, is a major blow and an unwelcome unearthing of painful memories. And some in the law enforcement community question whether you can really know if someone has been truly rehabilitated – and whether, fundamentally, that should be the purpose of the American justice system.

To listen to the audio of “Life After Life” on BBC World Service – The Documentary online, please click HERE.