We live in the only country in the world where a child can be sentenced to be in prison until they die. What’s worse is that it’s not even rare—right now, more than 2,500 people who were sentenced as kids will spend the rest of their lives in prison.
Juwan is one of them. He was a 16-year-old kid when he was arrested after he saw a companion kill a pizza deliveryman. The shooter was never convicted, but because Juwan was present and had a gun, he was sentenced to spend the rest of his life behind bars.
Without the possibility of parole, Juwan may never have a second chance.
But in March, after massive public outcry from ACLU supporters and others, Attorney General Eric Holder endorsed proposals to limit life without parole sentences for non-violent drug offenders. Now is the time to ask him to do the same for children being sentenced.
Just one year before Juwan was sentenced, the Supreme Court decided that mandatory juvenile life without parole was unconstitutional cruel and unusual punishment.
The problem is the decision left gaping loopholes and didn’t ban the sentence outright, meaning that Juwan and other children became victims of poor timing and inadequate policy implementation. While six states have moved to ban the practice, this barbaric punishment is still perfectly legal in 44 states.
The DOJ has the power to close some of these loopholes at the federal level and set the standard for the states to follow. By providing policy guidelines for U.S. attorneys, the DOJ can ensure that judges are empowered to use discretion and give appropriate sentences based on unique circumstances.
After this March’s revelation, we know that Attorney General Holder is listening and open to making a change. If he hears from thousands of us who support criminal justice reform, we can push him to limit juvenile life without parole sentences.
Thanks for taking action today,