This week marks two years since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Miller v. Alabama that it is unconstitutional to impose mandatory life-without-parole sentences upon children.
The landmark ruling followed a series of recent decisions from the Court declaring children “constitutionally different” from adults and requiring our justice policies to account for these differences. In this case, the Court said that “those differences counsel against irrevocably sentencing them to a lifetime in prison.”
In the last two years since the Miller ruling, six states have banned life without parole for all children, five others have dramatically limited its use, and thousands of individuals told as children they would die in prison have been given hope of release. Still, many of these reforms do not go far enough. Some preserve discretionary JLWOP and others create de-facto life sentences.
While the majority of state supreme courts that have taken up the issue of Miller retroactivity have ruled in our favor, there are still thousands of people in prison serving unconstitutional sentences. The United States Supreme Court declined to consider this issue this term, but we are confident they will have to do so in the next few years in order to resolve the disparate interpretations of the Miller ruling.
Until then, we remain committed to ensuring those serving are not forgotten. We will continue to raise their voices, share the stories of those imprisoned as children who have turned their lives around, and build a robust movement calling for age-appropriate alternatives to death-in-prison sentences for children that ensure our young people are given an opportunity to demonstrate that they are far more than the worst thing they have ever done.
Jody Kent Lavy
Director & National Coordinator
June 25, 2014