Facts about the sentence
- The majority of sentences to life without parole for youth have been imposed in states where judges are obligated to impose it as a mandatory sentence, without consideration of any factors relating to a child’s age or life circumstances.
- More than 25% of people serving life without parole after being sentenced as children were convicted of felony murder or accomplice liability, meaning they were not the primary perpetrators of the crime, and may not have even been present at the time someone was killed.
- The majority of youth sentenced to life without parole are concentrated in just five states: California, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. (California’s Senate Bill 9, the Fair Sentencing of Youth Act, provides re-sentencing and parole opportunities to youth under 18 sentenced to life without parole. The bill was signed by Governor Brown in 2012 and applies retroactively to the nearly 300 “juvenile lifers” currently serving in California prisons.)
- Children sentence to life in prison without parole are often the most vulnerable members of our society. Nearly 80 percent of juvenile lifers reported witnessing violence in their homes; more than half (54.1%) witnessed weekly violence in their neighborhoods.
- African American youth are sentenced to life without parole as children at a per capita rate that is 10 times that of White youth.
- 80 percent of girls and nearly half of all children sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole have been physically abused.
- 77 percent of girls and 20 percent of all youth lifers said they have been sexually abused.