Over the weekend, Philadelphia County District Attorney Seth Williams announced a new policy on juvenile life without parole stating:
“It’s my goal to give all of these individuals some light at the end of the tunnel,” he said. “As long as I’m the D.A., we will not be asking for cases going forward for life without the possibility of parole for people under the age of 18 because of the same exact reasons articulated by the Supreme Court in Miller.”
Earlier this year, the Fair Punishment Project released a report titled Juvenile Life Without Parole in Philadelphia: A Time for Hope?, which called on District Attorney Williams to adopt a new approach for dealing with juveniles sentenced to life in prison without parole in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling in Montgomery v. Louisiana.
The report found that Philadelphia County is an extreme outlier in its use of the punishment and is responsible for the highest number of juvenile life without parole sentences in the country. By way of comparison, Philadelphia is home to just .5% of all Americans, but at least 9% of all juveniles sentenced to life without parole.
The Fair Punishment Project has released the following statement in response to District Attorney Williams’ announcement:
“We are heartened by District Attorney Williams willingness to shed Philadelphia’s status as an extreme outlier with regards to its use of juvenile life without parole, and we applaud his willingness to consider a new approach. We expect that Mr. Williams will act with diligence and haste to implement these changes. We will closely monitor the progress of reform and look forward to tracking and reporting on the changed conditions in Philadelphia.
There is growing national consensus against sentencing youth to life in prison without parole due to mounting scientific and legal research that shows that youth should be treated differently than adults. We welcome the day when Philadelphia can join the majority of states and jurisdictions that have abandoned this outdated practice.”