The U.S. sends more juveniles to prison than any other country in the world. Over 500,000 young people are sent to detention centers every year, and in 2002 alone, 126,000 juveniles were sent to youth detention facilities. Youth detention centers in the U.S. are very often overcrowded and understaffed; the most memorable example being the Cheltenham center in Maryland which housed 100 youth in cottages with a maximum capacity of 24 people with only 3 or 4 supervisors. The juveniles in these places are subject to violence from both their peers and the staff; fights, stabbings and rapes are not uncommon. Two thirds of males and 3 fourths of females in the juvenile justice system meet the criteria for one or more psychiatric disorders. For 59% of Juvenile Life Without Parole-inmates, life without parole was their first-ever criminal conviction. Juveniles are 5 times more likely to be sexually assaulted in adult facilities than in juvenile facilities.
Even though all countries except the U.S. and Somalia have ratified the Convention of the Rights of the Child which forbids juvenile life without parole sentences, over 2,500 individuals in the U.S. are currently serving life without parole sentences for crimes they committed as juveniles. Of these individuals, black youth are 10 times more likely to receive life without parole sentences than white youth. Children as young as 11 have been sentenced to life in imprisonment without the possibility of parole.