Juvenile Life Without Parole: An Overview
Date:  08-03-2017

Will most of the 2,5000 individuals sentenced as juveniles to LWOP now have a chance at freedom?
From The Sentencip Project: Most of the approximately 2,500 individuals sentenced as juveniles to life without the possibility of parole now have a chance for release in the wake of recent Supreme Court decisions. The choice to allow teenagers to receive the harshest available sentence is not shared among all states. Twenty states and the District of Columbia have banned life sentences without the possibility of parole for juveniles; in a handful of other states, no one is serving the sentence.

Following the 2012 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Miller v. Alabama1) states and the federal government are required to consider the unique circumstances of each juvenile defendant in determining an individualized sentence.Montgomery v. Louisiana,2) a 2016 decision, ensures that the decision applies retroactively. For juveniles, a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole is unconstitutional.

Research on adolescent brain development confirms the commonsense understanding that children are different from adults in ways that are critical to identifying age appropriate criminal sentences. This understanding – Justice Kennedy called it what “any parent knows”3) – was central to four recent Supreme Court decisions excluding juveniles from the harshest sentencing practices. The most recent, Montgomery, emphasized that the use of life without parole (mandatorily or not) should only be reserved for those juveniles whose offenses reflected “irreparable corruption,”4) a ruling that Justice Scalia (in dissent) wrote may eventually “eliminat[e] life without parole for juvenile offenders.”5) Read more >>>