The teenager sentenced to 241 years in prison

A man who committed a brutal robbery as a teenager in Missouri, firing a gun at two people, will be in prison until he dies. Is that fair?

Bobby Bostic wakes up at 4.45am, every day.

He washes his face, brushes his teeth, goes for breakfast around 5.30. He comes back, watches TV – usually CNN – prays, then starts reading.

The prison is violent. It was worse 20 years ago, but trouble still finds you. So Bostic keeps his head down: New York Times, St Louis Post-Dispatch, Entrepreneur magazine.

He loves autobiographies – if it’s not in the library, his family can order it – but he reads anything. His last book was The Innovators by Walter Isaacson.

Bostic keeps the TV on silent, with the subtitles on. If there’s breaking news, he turns up the volume. If not, he keeps reading.

After meals and outdoors time – 12 hours a week – he goes to bed at 10pm. The next day, he wakes up, washes his face, brushes his teeth, goes for breakfast.

Bostic was 16 when he committed the 17 crimes for which he was given consecutive sentences. Unless the court changes its mind, he will be in prison until January 2091, at least.


He is 39 now. By then, he will be 112.

Bobby Bostic is from St Louis, Missouri, in the American Midwest. He was one of four; his older brother and sister had a different dad. Growing up, his father wasn’t around.

“We didn’t have many male role models,” he says from prison in Jefferson City. “I was free to roam the streets.”

Bostic’s family was poor. He didn’t play in sports teams because they couldn’t afford the uniforms. Instead, he played American football on concrete. “No helmets,” he says.

Aged 10, he started smoking and drinking. He was on cannabis aged 12 and was smoking PCP – another illegal drug – aged 13. At the same time, he would steal cars, or ride in stolen ones.

“It was a status symbol,” he says. “That was our idea of wealth – a car that wasn’t even ours.”

It was a Tuesday in December 1995 that changed his life. Bostic, 16, was at a friend-of-a-friend’s house in another part of town; smoking weed, drinking gin, smoking PCP. Then a female friend went outside.

“She got talking to a dude from the neighbourhood,” he says. “He smacked her. She told him she would get us. He told her to go get us.”

Bostic and his friends went to confront the man. “And that’s why I had the gun,” he says.

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