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Fri, Mar 2, 2012 4:18 PM EST

jj_The_Lives_of_Juvenile_Lifers-1.pngA new report published by The Sentencing Project, a national organization working for a more effective criminal justice system, found "extreme" racial disparities in the number of juveniles sentenced to life without parole for crimes committed before their 18th birthday.

The report, "The Lives of Juvenile Lifers," presents findings from the first-ever national survey of people who committed crimes as juveniles--some as young as 13--and were sentenced to life in prison. More than 2,500 people are currently serving these sentences in the United States.

"Most juveniles serving life without parole sentences experienced trauma and neglect long before they engaged in their crimes," stated Ashley Nellis, research analyst of The Sentencing Project and author of the report. "The findings from this survey do not excuse the crimes committed but they help explain them. With time, rehabilitation and maturity, some of these youth could one day safely re-enter society and contribute positively to their families and their communities."