Children Deserve Second Chances
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 approximately 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, retired professionals and others. Each case is staffed by a team of 2-5 student and/or other volunteers, who work under the supervision of experienced mitigation specialists at either YSRP or ACCR (see below 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 weekly and receive feedback at least weekly (if not daily) from their supervisors. Supervisors also accompany volunteers on all of their initial client and family meetings, and provide instruction and support throughout the mitigation process.