15 to life
Eleven years ago Kenneth Young received four life sentences. He was 15 years old. The United States is the only country in the world that routinely condemns children to die in prison. This is the story of one of those children, now a young man, seeking a second chance in Florida – one of the most punitive states in the country. For over a decade Kenneth believed he would die behind bars, until in 2010 the US Supreme Court ruled that life without parole sentences for children who haven't killed was unconstitutional.
In Tampa, Florida, we follow Kenneth Young's legal battle for release. Recruited by his mother's crack dealer to rob hotels, Kenneth needs to prove that he is rehabilitated and that the judge who sentenced him to life was wrong to throw away the key. 15 TO LIFE weaves the unfolding story of Kenneth's resentencing with the story of his difficult childhood, and the circumstances that led to a 30-day crime spree that changed his life forever.
Of the more than 2,500 children sentenced to life in prison, Kenneth's story is both exceptional and universal. Like most children who receive death-in-prison sentences, Kenneth is African American, indigent and neglected. What makes his case extreme is the brutality of his punishment – four life sentences for armed robberies in which no one was injured. Kenneth's story is a powerful testament to a child's remarkable capacity for change, and a stinging indictment of a penal system that has condemned thousands of children to die in prison. It has the dramatic power of a trial narrative, and the unique perspective of the condemned.