Sentenced to Life Without Parole As a Juvenile: ‘You Are My First Visitor in Over 40 Years’


D.D. | Age 17
When I came in I was 15. I was sentenced 90 years to life.
For more than a decade I have interviewed more than 1,000 kids in 35 states. What of these kids who were sentenced to long sentences and JLWOP, life sentences without parole? These kids become adults who become geriatric. These are the people I have interviewed for the past year.
Miller v. Alabama ruled that even in capital cases, juveniles cannot be given life without parole. Montgomery v. Louisiana made these cases retroactive.
In Florida when these people don’t get to go in front of a parole board, now renamed a “sentencing review board,” they have been given de facto life sentences. Other states find workarounds so they don’t have to comply.
In some cases where parole is granted, the men and women are improperly prepared plus required to pay administrative fees. Some states have “lifetime parole.” You can go to your grave making sure your parole officer knows where you are 24/7. It is difficult and may be close to impossible to comply for people who are already living on the margins of society.
These are their stories. I tried to focus on the commonality of poverty, failure of education, broken families. It is up to the reader to digest this and listen to these teens, now 40, 50, 60, 70 and even 80. When you have incarcerated a teenager since Eisenhower was in his first term … are we deterring others? Rehabilitating people? Or is this far beyond the concept of a punishment fitting a crime.
How do we address this? How do we repair this? There are more than 2,000 people — juveniles serving life without parole all over the country. These are some of their voices. These are their faces. …
For more information
Richard Ross


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