In September 2015, the Phillips Black Project, a non-profit public interest law practice dedicated to providing legal representation to individuals facing severe sentences, released a report titled: No Hope: Re-Examining Lifetime Sentences for Juvenile Offenders. The report examines the origins of life without parole sentences for juveniles (JLWOP), and reveals that there is a clear trend in America away from this practice.
Included in the research is a database of every juvenile currently serving a sentence of JLWOP, along with an examination of each state’s JLWOP policy. The report establishes two key findings:
1. JLWOP sentences are largely imposed by a handful of outlier counties and states, and
2. JLWOP is disproportionately imposed on persons of color.
Fifteen states do not use JLWOP, nine stated ended the process since the Miller decision, and six have abandoned it since June 2014. No state has expanded JLWOP since Miller, and two states with substantial pre-Miller JLWOP populations, California and Florida, have passed retroactive legislation that could provide every inmate there with a sentence less than LWOP.
Just five counties account for more than 20% of all JWLOP sentences. Philadelphia alone accounts for 9% of all JWLOP sentences.