Juvenile Life Without Parole (JLWOP)
YSRP’s Work post-Montgomery v. Louisiana
January 25, 2016: the United States Supreme Court issues Montgomery v. Louisiana, guaranteeing resentencing for the 2,000+ men and women nationally who as children were sentenced to life in prison without parole (JLWOP), some of whom have been incarcerated for decades.
Philadelphia is, in essence, “ground zero” for JLWOP, the site of the strongest demonstrated need because
- Pennsylvania has sentenced 500+ children to die in prison under this now unconstitutional mandatory sentencing scheme and
- Of these approximately 500 juvenile lifers statewide, more than 300+ are from Philadelphia, constituting more than 10 percent of all cases in the United States—and the world (we are the only country that sentences kids to life without parole).
Our 3 critical, time-sensitive tasks post-Montgomery are to
- provide mitigation and reentry services for Philadelphia juvenile lifers not being represented by the Defender Association;
- create resources that can be used by attorneys, prison counselors, social workers, juvenile lifers and their families or support networks to help prepare their cases for resentencing and parole hearings and release and reentry; and
- serve as a central source of information on mitigation and reentry for attorneys representing juvenile lifers, including creating a citywide JLWOP Working Group.
JLWOP: The Team
In response to the Miller and Montgomery decisions, the Youth Sentencing & Reentry Project (YSRP) and the Atlantic Center for Capital Representation (ACCR) have partnered to coordinate mitigation services for private, pro bono and court appointed counsel representing individuals sentenced to life in prison without parole as juveniles* (“JLWOP”) on resentencing. In each case, YSRP provides its intensive service delivery model, including comprehensive mitigation and reentry planning, to juvenile lifer clients and their families. To do so effectively, we have recruited, trained and are supervising a cohort of volunteers, including graduate-level law and social work students, current and retired professionals and others. Each case is staffed by a team of 1-3 volunteers, who work under the supervision of experienced mitigation specialists at either YSRP or ACCR (see our “Team” page for more details on the supervisors). Before being assigned to a case, each volunteer must complete at least one full day of training, and volunteers are expected to attend supplementary trainings throughout their time working with YSRP. Additionally, volunteer teams meet regularly and receive continuous feedback from their supervisors. Supervisors also accompany volunteers on their initial client and family meetings, and provide instruction and support throughout the mitigation process.
Additionally, YSRP is delighted that John Pace joined the YSRP team in November of 2017 as our JLWOP Reentry Coordinator. At 17, John was sentenced, in a mandatory way, to life in prison without the possibility of parole. He served 31 years of that now-unconstitutional sentence. John is coordinating efforts to support former juvenile lifers returning home to Philadelphia, and connect juvenile lifers with opportunities on the outside.
If you are an attorney in need of a mitigation specialist for your case, please fill out this form and we will try to match you with someone.
*Note: YSRP does not use the term “juvenile(s)” as a noun (see more about language here), but in this context, the commonly used terminology is “juvenile lifers” and “juvenile life without parole.”
The Youth Sentencing & Reentry Project was featured on Fox29 News at 10pm with Joyce Evans on July 25, 2017, along with partner and leader Vincent (Sharif) Boyd of Philadelphia, in an impromptu interview looking at the reentry needs of juvenile lifers in Philadelphia. We are grateful to Joyce Evans and her team for shedding a spotlight on the realities of life for the more than 300 individuals who may be returning to Philadelphia who were sentenced, as children, to life in prison without the possibility of parole. YSRP Co-Directors Joanna Visser Adjoian and Lauren Fine appear in the segment with Sharif Boyd at YSRP’s office in Center City, Philadelphia.