21:42 GMT16 June 2021
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    In December 2017, Kempis Songster was released from the Pennsylvania prison system after spending 30 years behind bars for the 1987 killing of Anjo Pryce. Songster was 15 years old when he received his sentence of life without the possibility of parole.

    Speaking with Sputnik Radio's Loud & Clear, Songster discussed his fight to end juvenile life without parole sentences (JLWOP) in the United States.

    ​"The world that I came out onto is nothing like the world that I left. In 1987 when I was arrested, there wasn't any such thing as cell phones and the internet and there were still phone booths on the corners," Songster told show hosts Brian Becker and John Kiriakou and Sputnik news analyst Nicole Roussell. "But now you see that almost everybody is plugged in and there's this new way of communicating and managing your affairs. It's just so fast paced and it's been a whirlwind in adjusting."

    "I thought I would be able to come out and pace myself and take my time and breathe my own air… and try to find the rhythm of the free world and tap into the pulse of society… but I've hit the ground running… it just seems like I've been drawn into this frantic pace of activity," he added.

    Jodi Arias (R) speaks to her attorney Jennifer Willmott (L) during Arias' sentencing hearing in Maricopa County Superior Courtroom in Phoenix, Arizona April 13, 2015
    © REUTERS / Mark Henle/The Arizona Republic/Pool

    Since his release, Songster has kept busy, doing interviews and continuing his advocacy work in the hopes of ending JLWOP sentences.

    "There's been a number of [US] Supreme Court cases that have addressed this and they've been narrowing the allowances of sentences," Roussell noted. "In 2005, it was the first time that the Supreme Court said you can't give the death penalty to a child, so before then children were executed whenever a jury decided that was the right thing to do."

    In 2012, the Supreme Court stated that mandatory sentences of life without the possibility of parole were unconstitutional for juvenile offenders. However, Roussell pointed out that the ruling did not state whether the decision applied to those already serving their sentences.

    Roughly 2,500 children in the US are serving JLWOP sentences, Becker said, despite the Land of the Free being a signatory to the Convention of the Rights of the Child, which states that the arrest, detention or imprisonment of a child must only be used as a last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time.

    This, Songster says, is a "very telling" fact.

    "The Convention of the Rights of the Child, which is probably the world's most universally ratified treaty on human rights, forbade the sentencing of children to death and life without parole… we're talking about almost every country in the world that signed, including the US, but yet still, no other country in the world but the US has children serving life without parole."

    "I just think that's very telling for the most advanced society in the world — on the civilization perspective," the advocate added. "What kind of justice system are we trying to identify with? What kind of society are we trying to leave behind for children?"

    Songster says that with his advocacy work he is trying to figure out a way to prevent children from landing behind bars by "understanding more the vulnerabilities of childhood," some of which include children being impulsive.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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    Tags:
    Juvenile Court, Life Without Parole, Prison, US Justice System, Kempis Songster
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