When you’re sixteen or seventeen do you really think about what you’re doing and who you’re doing it with? Sometimes, sure. But not all the time. There’s science to show that teens don’t think like adults. Their brains aren’t fully developed. That means two things. First that they don’t have the same ability as an adult to consider the consequences of their actions, and second, that in time, when their brains do become fully developed, they can be rehabilitated.

“I definitely thought that, without a doubt, I’m like, I know that I didn’t kill anybody – I wouldn’t hurt anybody. So I’m like, ‘Oh yeah, I know I’m gonna get out of here, I’m gonna go home.’ But it didn’t happen like that.”

-Ashley Ervin

For these and many reasons, the US Supreme Court issued a series of decisions that teens can’t be sentenced to death and they can’t be given an automatic life sentence without the possibility of parole. But what does that mean? How long can a state send a teen to prison before they have a chance at parole?

If you break the law and are sent to prison as a teen, how long do we wait to give you another chance? This week on Life of the Law, reporter Brenda Salinas tells us Ashley Ervin’s story.



Kids Doing Life was reported by Brenda Salinas and edited by Jess Engebretson with sound design and production from Shani Aviram. 

We want to thank Rachael Cain, our summer intern, and Megan Flynn, Beth Schwartzapfel, and Terry Langford for their reporting and help with production. Production support came from Jonathan Hirsch and Kirsten Jusewicz-Haidle. Howard Gelman is our engineer.

Music in this episode is from Blue Dot Sessions. Banner photo credit to Daniel Kramer.

Full Transcript of Kids Doing Life




This episode of Life of the Law was funded in part by grants from the Open Society Foundations, the Law and Society Association, the Proteus Fund, the Ford Foundation, and the National Science Foundation.

Kids Doing Life was sponsored by FreshBooks.

© Copyright 2016 Life of the Law. All rights reserved.