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12 Years After Ruling, States Allow Youth Life With No Parole Terms

For over 12 years, hundreds of people serving sentences of serving juvenile life without parole (JLWOP) have not received a second look at their sentences despite mandates from the Supreme Court limiting the practice and requiring new sentencing procedures for youth, says a new report from the Campaign For The Fair Sentencing of Youth. The organization says that 22 states still legally allow JLWOP and some states are increasing their incarcerated populations of children serving the sentence. Overall, the imposition of juvenile life without parole is not only becoming increasingly unusual but also more unequal. In the past 12 years, there has been a 85% decrease in the population of those serving these sentences, while the number of states banning JLWOP has increased.

Despite these changes, the percentage of Black children serving juvenile life without parole has risen significantly, from 60% historically to nearly 80% today. JLWOP sentences can be used as bargaining chips in plea deals, resulting in children receiving lengthy terms or de facto life sentences with minimal chance of parole. Declaring that youth is “a mitigating factor” that must be considered by sentencing judges, the high court ruled in Miller v. Alabama in 2012 that life without parole is disproportionate for the vast majority of youth. Four years later, the court held that Miller applied retroactively to the thousands of individuals previously sentenced to life without parole as children.


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A daily report co-sponsored by Arizona State University, Criminal Justice Journalists, and the National Criminal Justice Association

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