Three hundred people from Philadelphia are serving life in prison without the possibility of parole sentences for crimes they committed when they were juveniles. When the U.S. Supreme Court banned mandatory life without parole for juveniles in 2012 in Miller v. Alabama, Pennsylvania decided not to apply the decision retroactively to those already serving juvenile life without parole (JLWOP) sentences. However, earlier this year in 2016, the Supreme Court decided in Montgomery v. Louisiana that the ban on mandatory JLWOP had to be applied retroactively. Prosecutors across the country now have to decide how to handle these cases.
Philadelphia County is preparing to hold hundreds of resentencing hearings to determine the fate of every person currently serving a JLWOP sentence.
The Fair Punishment Project’s new report, Juvenile Life Without Parole in Philadelphia: A Time for Hope?, produced in conjunction with Phillips Black, explores why Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams should take this opportunity to reexamine his approach to juvenile life without parole, and urges him to abandon Philadelphia County’s status as an “extreme outlier” on the issue.
The report also notes that the U.S. Supreme Court created a new substantive standard in Miller for assessing when juveniles can receive a life without parole sentence, finding that the sentence is only appropriate in extremely rare case where a juvenile is determined to be “irreparably corrupt.”
The report also provides insight into how some of the individuals sentenced as juveniles in Philadelphia have grown into insightful, introspective, and reformed men. It features Freddie Nole, who has won awards for his outstanding community service. He committed his crime at 17 and has since served 47 years in prison.
The Fair Punishment Project urges Seth Williams to take into account the new standard set by the U.S. Supreme Court as he reconsiders the sentences of the individuals serving JLWOP sentences. If he looks closely, he will see that many of the individuals serving life without parole sentences for crimes they committed as juveniles are not the same as the children that were locked up many years ago.