Still, it’s encouraging to learn that none of Mullane’s subjects had violated parole by the time she completed her research. Her account manages to put human faces on people who are too often demonized by the media—and then forgotten. As its title suggests, Life After Murder makes a strong argument that a sane sentencing policy should address the reality that, long after even the most terrible sins of youth, people can change.

Sadly, the change isn’t always for the better. Some teen offenders become inured to prison life. Willie Bosket escaped from a youth facility and was sent to an adult prison. He committed other crimes during his brief periods of freedom, was sentenced as a habitual criminal, then was convicted of assaults on staff while housed in a maximum-security prison. He won’t be eligible for parole until 2062, when he’s 99 years old.

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Alan Prendergast is a staff writer for Westword and the author of The Poison Tree: A True Story of Family Violence and Revenge