Prisoner Bars & Handcuffs

Children sentenced to life without parole seek justice before international tribunal

originally by: ACLU
published: 7 September 2012

By her thirteenth birthday, Barbara Hernandez had lived with an abusive, alcoholic father and been molested by her mother’s second husband.  At fifteen, Barbara dropped out of school and moved in with her boyfriend James, who beat her and coerced her into prostitution.

Barbara’s life with James had taught her that she had two choices: obey him or face physical abuse.  So when James instructed her to buy him a knife and lure a man into their home, Barbara obeyed.  While she was in another room, James stabbed the man to death.

Despite Barbara’s youth, troubled background, and the fact that she did not physically commit the crime, Barbara was tried as if she were an adult and received the harshest sentence possible in the State of Michigan, life without the possibility of parole.  She was just sixteen, and about to spend the rest of her life in prison.  In Barbara’s words, she was sentenced to a “long slow death.”

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