We are thrilled to share this final issue of our newsletter in 2014, which focuses on our National Convening and provides some updates on recent activity in the courts and legislatures. The Convening, which was held last month, brought together more than 100 advocates, litigators, formerly incarcerated youth, family members both of people serving life without parole for crimes committed as youth and those who died as a result of violence, policymakers, our national partners, and others under one roof to strategize and strengthen our movement.
The Convening marked the culmination of our fifth year as an organization, leading steady progress in the movement to end life-in-prison sentences for our children. Together, we celebrated our successes and reflected on all we have learned. We shared best practices, established new alliances, met with federal policymakers, and strategized about innovative approaches to reform as we move forward.
Significantly, just weeks after our gathering, on December 12th, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear arguments in Toca v. Lousiana, which will directly address the question of whether Miller v.Alabama–the 2012 U.S. Supreme Court decision that banned mandatory life-without-parole sentences for children–should apply retroactively. In the coming months, we will be working closely with partners across the nation to convince the Court that every individual automatically sentenced to life without parole as a child should receive a second chance, regardless of the date or location of his or her conviction.
Ultimately, of course, we want to ensure that all those sentenced to die in prison as children–whether through mandatory sentences or not–are given regular, meaningful chances to demonstrate whether they deserve release. Our goal is to continue to move our country away from these extreme sentencing practices that disproportionately impact poor children and children of color to a system that is rooted in fairness and focused on children’s capacity to grow and change. There is more work ahead to reach this goal, and momentum is on our side. Thank you for your support this year and we look forward to partnering with you in 2015!
Jody Kent Lavy