Read this powerful op-ed by Briannah Stoves, a Youth Leader in the Care, Not Control campaign.
PHILADELPHIA, PA (January 25, 2018) — On the 2-year anniversary of the Montgomery v. Louisiana U.S. Supreme Court decision, the Philadelphia-based Youth Sentencing & Reentry Project (YSRP) will launch the Pennsylvania JLWOP Reentry Navigator, a new online tool that will help juvenile lifers as they return to their communities to locate crucial services such as housing, employment, and education to aid in their reentry process. The Navigator was developed in collaboration with P’unk Avenue LLC.
The Montgomery v. Louisiana U.S. Supreme Court decision, handed down on January 25, 2016, invalidated mandatory life sentences without the possibility of parole for approximately 500 Pennsylvanians convicted of crimes committed when they were under the age of 18. These individuals are now awaiting resentencing and being released, some after spending decades in prison. More than 300 individuals received this now unconstitutional sentence in Philadelphia. “JLWOP” refers to “Juvenile Life Without Parole”: the now unconstitutional mandatory sentences these individuals received as children. “Juvenile lifers” refers to individuals who received these sentences as children.
YSRP consulted with juvenile lifers to create the Navigator; its 14 resource categories reflect their concerns, interests, and needs. It’s also designed for use by their loved ones, attorneys, and advocates. The Navigator offers information about 730 resources across each of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties.
There are three main ways to use the Navigator. First, users can complete an anonymous questionnaire that tailors reentry resource information to their needs and location. Second, users can browse resources by county and, third, they can search for specific services. For example, someone who needs housing can look for housing programs, as well as where to find furniture and help with rent or utilities.
The Navigator describes each resource’s services and programs, with up-to-date contact information and eligibility requirements or restrictions. It identifies 14 reentry resource categories: housing, behavioral health, physical health, food and clothing, education, employment and volunteer opportunities, government assistance/public benefits, faith-based services, identification documents, voter registration, senior services, life skills training, case management and transportation.
YSRP will continue to expand and update the Navigator in response to users’ needs.
Until recently, the United States was the only country in the world where children could receive mandatory life sentences without the possibility of parole. In Miller v. Alabama (2012), the Supreme Court held that this mandatory sentencing is unconstitutional. In Montgomery v. Louisiana (2016), the Court made the 2012 ruling retroactive, guaranteeing resentencing for over 2,000 juvenile lifers in the U.S.
In addition to creating the Navigator, YSRP and the Atlantic Center for Capital Representation (ACCR) have partnered to coordinate mitigation services for private, pro bono, and court-appointed counsel representing juvenile lifers on resentencing. In Philadelphia, YSRP also aids clients and their families with other reentry services with help from a team of trained, supervised volunteers including law and social work students, retired professionals, and others.