Teen Killers Are Not “Children”

The definition of the term “child” has evolved historically. Today, the term is used to describe pre-adolescent youth. The mental images that come to mind when we hear the word “child” do not adequately reflect the reality of juvenile criminals who get long term and life sentences, including life without parole (LWOP) sentences.

Those favoring ending life and long-term sentences for juvenile murderers (murderers who were under the age of 18 when they committed the crimes they are being sentenced for) often try to manipulate people into supporting their cause by promoting the idea that such murderers are “children” who need protection and support.

The types of juveniles who are given long-term and life in prison sentences are not children in terms of innocence or responsibility. They are young adults who were old enough to understand the impact of the crimes they committed on their victims but chose to commit them anyway. Nor can these offenders appropriately be called “children” in terms of age. The vast majority of juveniles sentenced to LWOP are older teens nearing legal adulthood.

In contrast, the term “children” generally refers to minors who have not yet hit adolescence (https://www.scotusblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/MontgomeryH.pdf page 29). The terms “juvenile” and “minor” are more accurate to use when referring to teens between the ages of 14 and 17. But people against life and long-term sentences for juvenile murderers call them “children” because that term is emotional and makes people more supportive of, sympathetic to, and protective of them, as people are naturally supportive of, sympathetic to, and protective of actual children. As NOVJM founder Jennifer Bishop-Jenkins puts it, the term creates a false sympathy for juvenile criminals such as the man who murdered her pregnant sister and her brother in law.

The term “child”–which is a buzzword when used to describe juvenile murderers– is also associated with innocence, vulnerability,  and other characteristics of children. It puts in mind the image of a child–a middle school-aged or younger person. The terms “juvenile” and “minor” don’t do all these things but instead paint a more accurate picture of the teen felons who get life sentences. By using the term “child” advocates of juvenile murderers emotionally manipulate and trick people into associating the teen murderers with innocence and other characteristics of children and into being supportive of, sympathetic to, and protective of those teens who have done evil things and who don’t deserve that support, protection, and sympathy and who otherwise wouldn’t get it. 

Advocates of juvenile murderers are exploiting the natural urge we have to protect and care for children. Many children have, in fact, been victims of juvenile criminals. As we explain in our SCOTUS brief in the Jones v. Mississippi case:

Katherine Cardenas was a two-year-old child when she was kidnapped, beaten, raped, and murdered by a 17-year-old juvenile. Antonio Angel Santiago was a one-year-old child when he was shot in the face and killed by a 17-year-old juvenile. Madyson Middleton was an 8-year-old child when she was beaten, raped, strangled, and dumped by a 15-year-old juvenile. Shavanna McCann was a five-year-old child when she was lured into a vacant apartment building, raped, and thrown from the 14th floor by a 17-year-old juvenile. These juvenile killers were old enough to understand the impact of the crimes they committed on children yet they chose to commit them anyway.

Advocates of juvenile murderers also manipulate people by using photographs of actual children as young as five to represent them. That is discussed in a separate entry (http://www.teenkillers.org/index.php/juvenile-lifers/the-propaganda-campaign/). Some examples are shown below.


The University of San Francisco School of Law used child models for their report on juvenile life sentences
child actor on front page of CFSY website
This photo was used by the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth (CFSY)
propaganda photo
This photo was used by the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) in one of their reports on juvenile life sentences.
This picture was used by the ACLU in their page on the Jones v. Mississippi case

Most teenagers would not think of themselves as being “children.” Try telling your 16 or 17-year-old son, daughter, niece, nephew, etc. that they are just a child who is not responsible for their actions. Show them the propaganda pictures displayed above, along with the other propaganda pictures on this page. Tell them that these young child models adequately reflect teens their age who commit violent crimes.

The term “child” is completely inaccurate to use when referring to the types of teens who get life sentences. When advocates of juvenile murderers use the term “child” to refer to a juvenile murderer they paint a picture of an innocent child far different from the reality of many teen felons. You picture something like a 12-year-old who made a mistake due to his young age, rather than a 17-year-old repeat violent offender weeks away from legal adulthood who brutally murdered someone and has no remorse or compassion. Examine the stories of any of the victims of juvenile murderers on our memorial pages. Research these cases and learn exactly what the offenders did to their victims. Does the word “child” paint an accurate image of them? How about 16-year-old Jose Eduardo “Lalo” Arredondo, who kidnapped two-year-old Katherine Cardenas (an actual child) and proceeded to rape her and then murdered her by beating her and strangling her to death (https://www.mysanantonio.com/news/local_news/article/Laredo-teen-receives-multiple-life-sentences-in-3459790.php). Was Arredondo a mere “child” while he was raping the two-year-old? Was he a “child” when he was beating her? How about when he strangled her? Most people will say that Arrendondo was not a child at the time of the crime and that the image the word “child” creates in our minds does not accurately portray him. But advocates of criminals like Arrendondo want us to view him that way, as a child who needs our support and protection and who is not responsible for his crime. 

The use of the word “child” makes these teenage murderers seem more innocent. Jennifer Bishop-Jenkins told me that what upsets her most about the use of the word “child” is that it creates a “misrepresentation as to the character, intent, and culpability, of the man who murdered my sister, her husband, and their baby.” A 17-year-old rapist and murderer or any other type of older juvenile who knowingly committed a serious crime and caused immense harm does not have innocence or any child-like characteristics and should not be associated with them. Nor should they be given protection, support, or sympathy. 

Calling teens who commit serious violent crimes “children” paints such a distorted picture and is so wildly inaccurate that it is ridiculous and absurd to do so. It is quite frankly asinine to call a 17-year-old six-foot 200-pound rapist-murderer with no remorse or mercy a “child” and to make people sympathetic to them and picture them as an innocent 10-year-old who made a mistake. It is absurd to call 17-year-old De’Marquise Elkins, who murdered one-year-old Antonio Santiago by shooting him in the face after his mother refused to let him rob her of her purse, a “child” and to associate the baby killer with innocence and other child qualities. It is absurd to use the word “child” to describe Laurence Lovette, one of the men who kidnapped and robbed 22-year-old UNC student body president Eve Carson and then murdered her by shooting her five times to prevent her from telling others about their crimes. It is absurd to call David Biro, who fatally shot Nancy Bishop-Langert, Richard Langert, and their unborn baby because he “wanted to see what it would feel like to shoot someone” a “child” and to make him appear like less of a monster than he really is. I could go on and on because there are so many criminals who committed such evil and vicious crimes when they were teens, even though they understood the consequences of their actions. And not one of them can be appropriately characterized as a mere “child” who not only bears less responsibility but who also deserves our compassion.

If advocates of ending long term and life sentences for juveniles have to resort to inaccurately portraying the criminals they are trying to free by using manipulative language, as well as propagandistic photographs of young children, then their arguments don’t have merit. Any time the members of a movement have to lie about who the movement is supporting and who it is trying to free from prison, it is safe to say that they are wrong. If ending life sentences for juveniles was a moral policy with good reasons behind it then advocates of juvenile murderers wouldn’t have to resort to lies to promote their goal. Defenders of teen criminals know that most people would not support ending juvenile life sentences if given an accurate image of juvenile life sentence recipients. That’s why they lie about those juvenile lifers. 

This brings me to my final point. Calling teenage murderers “children” and therefore manipulating people into supporting them and associating them with characteristics of actual children is not just factually inaccurate, it is also cruel and insensitive to the victims of their crimes. Imagine you were a family member of any of the victims of juvenile criminals who we list on our memorial pages. How would you feel about the criminals who inflicted that pain being painted as innocent children? 

In terms of responsibility and innocence, the teen murderers whose crimes warrant long term and life sentences are adults and should be treated as such. They are old and mature enough to understand the harmfulness of their actions as adults do and not as children would. These teens have been found by courts to be adults, and have been tried as adults. In fact, in previous times, 14 to 17-year-old offenders whose crimes result in adult prison sentences would not even be considered to be minors, as people were considered to be adults once they went through puberty. When advocates of juvenile murderers call these offenders “children” they are trying to take away the job of the courts, who, as explained above, have made findings that these killers should be given life in prison sentences (courts must consider mitigating factors and youth before imposing LWOP sentences on juveniles).

Bobby Williams, whose 17-year-old son Noah Williams was stabbed to death during a home invasion robbery in 2018 told me, “I think if they’re old enough to do awful horrible brutal crimes like that they’re not children.” As we write in our memorial for Danny Sledge “There was nothing child like in that crime scene or what had been delivered as so hard a blow as to break the handle off of a knife.  No child ended Danny’s life at age 43 years old.  No child fought with him to enter 27 stab wounds.  These murderers were not children in any shape or form; they were calculating, cold blooded murderers.” Treating teen criminals as children and calling them that takes away that responsibility. And taking away responsibility from a criminal is cruel to their victims. 

Examples Of Propaganda

Here are some examples of advocates of juvenile criminals using the term “children”, along with the term “kids” to describe them. These are just some of the examples of teen criminal advocates using this inaccurate and manipulative term. The offensive terminology is in bold. Also note that many of the organizations use the terms “child” or “children” in their names, even when their focus is on teenage criminals. For example, the Children & Family Justice Center, the Illinois Coalition for the Fair Sentencing of Children.

Propaganda By The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)

Example 1. Out of Step With the World: Juvenile Life Without Parole in the United States

Link

https://www.aclu.org/blog/criminal-law-reform/out-step-world-juvenile-life-without-parole-united-states

Quotes 

“In the United States, there are over 3,000 people serving life sentences without the possibility of parole for offenses committed when they were children

“Human rights law has long recognized that child offenders cannot be held fully culpable for their immature acts. Any punishment imposed on children for crimes they have committed must, therefore, reflect this and allow for their rehabilitation and eventual reintegration back into society. Life without parole sentences, in denying child offenders a second chance at living again in the outside world, are antithetical to this end. The United States should bring itself into line with the rest of the world, uphold these fundamental principles and abolish life without parole sentences for children.”

Example 2. END JUVENILE LIFE WITHOUT PAROLE

Link 

https://www.aclu.org/end-juvenile-life-without-parole

Quote

“In the United States each year, children as young as 13 are sentenced to spend the rest of their lives in prison without any opportunity for release. Approximately 2,570 children are sentenced to juvenile life without parole or “JLWOP” in the United States. Despite a global consensus that children cannot be held to the same standards of responsibility as adults and recognition that children are entitled to special protection and treatment, the United States allows children to be treated and punished as adults.”

Example 3. SECOND CHANCES: JUVENILES SERVING LIFE WITHOUT PAROLE IN MICHIGAN PRISONS

Link

https://www.aclu.org/second-chances-juveniles-serving-life-without-parole-michigan-prisons 

Quotes 

“Each year in the United States, children as young as thirteen are sentenced to die in prison. It’s called life without parole. It is estimated that thousands of children have been sentenced to life without the possibility of parole (LWOP) for crimes committed at an age when they are not considered responsible enough to live away from their parents, drive, make decisions related to their education or medical treatment, vote, leave school, or sign a contract. Children under the age of eighteen cannot legally use alcohol, serve on juries, or be drafted, because they are presumed not to have the capacity to handle adult responsibilities. These differences between childhood and adulthood are recognized throughout the world, and incorporated in international human rights documents.”

“Despite a global consensus that children cannot be held to the same standards of responsibility as adults, in the last twenty years the trend in the United States has been to punish children the same as adults. Children are increasingly excluded from the protection of juvenile courts based on the nature of the offense, without any consideration of their maturity, culpability, or current or future danger to society.”

“In particular, Michigan allows a child of any age to be tried as an adult, and excludes seventeen-year-olds from juvenile treatment altogether.”

“These children are then subject to adult punishment, incarcerated in adult prisons, and may be sentenced to life without parole. Despite their young age, these juveniles are expected to negotiate the legal system and understand the consequences of decisions that could result in a life without parole sentence, even though research suggests they are not capable of understanding what ‘forever’ means.”

“Since the 1980s, the number of children given life sentences without hope of release has increased dramatically and the cost of warehousing them for life is staggering to our communities and to our humanity. In Michigan alone, there are now more than three hundred individuals serving life without parole for offenses committed prior to their eighteenth birthday. Under current laws, none will be given a second chance.”

“Until now, little attention has been given to who these children are and how they have been treated by the criminal justice system. This report examines juvenile life without parole sentences imposed in Michigan for offenses committed by individuals under eighteen, as they compare to the nation and the world. The report outlines the nature and extent of these sentences, their inequities and their toll on society, and presents recommendations for a rational and humane response to juvenile crime.”

Example 4. California Gives Hope to Child Offenders Sentenced to Die in Prison

Link

https://www.aclu.org/blog/smart-justice/mass-incarceration/california-gives-hope-child-offenders-sentenced-die-prison/

Quotes 

“Yesterday, Governor Jerry Brown signed California’s Senate Bill 9, the Fair Sentencing for Youth Act, giving California youth sentenced to die in prison a second chance at life. There are 309 child offenders serving life-without-parole sentences in California for murders committed when they were younger than 18. The bill, known as SB 9, gives these individuals the chance to earn parole after serving at least 25 years in prison.  It allows juvenile offenders sentenced to life without parole to petition the sentencing court to review their cases after 15 years and reduce their sentence to 25 years-to-life if they show remorse and are taking steps toward rehabilitation.”

“The bill is a huge step forward, both for the 309 child offenders who now have a second chance at life, but also in bringing us closer to ending the draconian practice of locking children away for life. The United States is the only country in the world where children under 18 are imprisoned for the rest of their lives without any chance of parole. The imposition of life without parole on minor children is explicitly prohibited by the Convention on the Rights of the Child, a treaty which has been signed and ratified by every country in the world except the United States and Somalia. Despite this, California and 38 other states allow judges to sentence minors to die in prison.”

“More than 2,570 people convicted as children are serving life sentences without the possibility of parole in the U.S.—treated, in the words of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, as “throw away people.” Contrary to popular belief, the draconian sentence is often not reserved for children who commit the worst crimes…. In many cases where children were prosecuted with an adult for the same offense, the adult codefendant received a lower sentence than the child.”

“The ACLU is actively challenging this practice (JLWOP)  in Michigan, a state with 361 individuals serving life sentences without the possibility of parole for crimes they committed as children, with a federal class action lawsuit filed by the ACLU and an amicus brief in a separate case before the Michigan Court of Appeals. The ACLU has also challenged Michigan’s juvenile sentencing laws and policies before the Inter-American Commission, charging the United States with violating universally recognized human rights laws and standards for allowing Michigan to impose life without parole sentences on children.”

Examples 5. JONES V. MISSISSIPPI website page

Link

https://www.aclu.org/cases/jones-v-mississippi#:~:text=Supreme%20Court%20Case&text=Whether%20the%20Eighth%20Amendment%20requires,sentence%20of%20life%20without%20parole.&text=The%20ACLU%20opposes%20life%20without%20parole%20sentences%20for%20all%20children.

Quotes

“The ACLU filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Court case of Jones v. Mississippi on behalf of organizations from across the ideological spectrum united on the notion that sentencing children to die in prison runs counter to our constitutional traditions.”

“The ACLU opposes life without parole sentences for all children.”

Propaganda By The Baltimore Ethical Society

Example 1. “Sentencing Children to Die In Prison”

Link

Quote 

“These sentences (JLWOP) condemn a child to a lifetime in prison despite scientific evidence that adolescents are less culpable for their actions and more likely to be rehabilitated. The United States is the only country that sentences children under 18 to life in prison without parole and a growing number of states are revising their criminal laws to give children an opportunity to show they can grow and change.”

Propaganda By The Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth

Example 1. Website home page

Link

Quote 

The first sentence one reads when they visit the CFSY’s home page is “NO CHILD SHOULD SPEND LIFE IN PRISON.” 

Example 2. About The Issue page

Link

Quotes 

“The United States treats children, particularly youth of color, who come into conflict with the law in intensely cruel and inhuman ways, disregarding their human rights and differences from adults. This is evidenced most starkly by the fact that the United States is the only country that sentences children to die in prison by imposing life-without-parole sentences on individuals under age 18. Imposition of the sentence varies significantly based on geography, quality of legal representation, the child’s economic status, and race.”

“Adolescent development research has proven that children’s brains and characters are still forming. They do not have adult levels of judgment or ability to assess risks. They are also uniquely capable of rehabilitation, so should be held accountable in age-appropriate ways with a focus on rehabilitation and reintegration into society.”

“In the mid 1990s, criminologists predicted a violent juvenile crime wave, saying that ‘godless fatherless monsters’ would wreak havoc on our communities. They plastered photos of black teenagers in the media and dubbed them ‘superpredators.’ State legislatures reacted by passing tough on crime policies that made it possible to try children as adults at younger and younger ages. At the same time, an increase in mandatory minimums and truth in sentencing took hold. The confluence of these laws led to these extreme sentences for children, which have no equal elsewhere in the world.”

Example 3. What We Do page

Link

Quotes 

“The CFSY utilizes a multipronged approach to reform including serving as a hub and convener; engaging key stakeholders; educating target audiences; advocating for reforms; bolstering legal strategies to ban life-without-parole sentences for children; and developing a wide range of partnerships to provide access to resources and opportunities for returning individuals and their families to prosper. We know we are stronger when we are in partnership learning from one another.”

Advocacy 

“At the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth, we lead and support campaigns to ban life without parole and other extreme sentences for children. In partnership with those directly impacted by these policies, we build coalitions, educate key decision makers and influencers through the media and in-person meetings, negotiate with key stakeholders, and advance reforms that ensure youth receive second chances.”

Legal 

“We bolster legal strategies across the nation by bringing together defense attorneys and mitigators representing children challenging extreme sentences to strategize; develop targeted resources (such as guidelines, parole rules, bench cards, and model briefs; help implement new laws following state-level abolition of extreme sentences for children, educate parole boards and other system stakeholders, and rally members of the private bar to represent individuals deserving relief due to our reform efforts.”

Strategic partnerships 

“The CFSY has expanded its strategic focus to develop a national strategy aimed at supporting the human dignity and prosperity of people who were initially sentenced as children to life in prison and who are now returning to their communities.”

Example 4. Our Mission page

Link

https://www.fairsentencingofyouth.org/our-mission-strategy/

Quotes

At the very top the page says “ALL CHILDREN DESERVE A SECOND CHANCE”

“The Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth (CFSY) envisions the United States becoming a society that respects all children’s human rights and nurtures their capacity to become leaders, responding to any harm they cause in ways that are rooted in their dignity and unique potential for change. Together, we seek a response to the harm caused by children that is conscientious of childhood traumas, restorative and empowering to all parties, and equitable, especially with regard to race and ethnicity.”

“The United States treats children, particularly youth of color, who come into conflict with the law in intensely cruel and inhuman ways, disregarding their human rights and differences from adults. This is evidenced most starkly by the fact that the United States is the only country that sentences children to die in prison by imposing life-without-parole sentences on individuals under age 18.”

Mission: Catalyze the just and equitable treatment of children in the United States by demanding a ban on life without parole and other extreme sentences for children who cause harm; advancing alternative responses that focus on their unique characteristics as children, including their capacity for change; and creating opportunities for formerly incarcerated youth to thrive as adults and lead in their communities.”

Strategy: The CFSY utilizes a multipronged approach to reform that includes coalition-building; public education; advocacy; litigation to ban life-without-parole sentences for children…”

“Impact: Since the CFSY was launched, we have garnered broad bipartisan support for reform and helped instigate incredible momentum. The number of states that ban life without parole for children quadrupled in just five years, and the U.S. Supreme Court has stepped in three times to limit the sentence. Hundreds told as children they were worth nothing more than dying in prison have been freed and thousands have received new sentences short of life without parole, giving them hope of a second chance.”

“At CFSY, we’re always on the lookout for motivated individuals who share our unwavering passion for justice for all children.”

Propaganda By The Center For Law And Global Justice

Example 1. The Center For Law And Global Justice issued a report on JLWOP called “Sentencing children to die in prison.” The term “child” is used many times throughout the report. 

Link

https://www.usfca.edu/sites/default/files/law/2007jlwopreport.pdf

NOVJM also called out this report in a separate entry on their use of propagandistic photographs. 

Propaganda By The Children & Family Justice Center

Example 1. Fair Sentencing of Children

Link

http://www.law.northwestern.edu/legalclinic/cfjc/projects/advocacy/sentencing/

Quotes

“In response to the American legal system’s growing impulse throughout the 1990s and early 2000s to punish instead of rehabilitate youth, the CFJC helped form the Illinois Coalition for the Fair Sentencing of Children*. Created in 2006, the Coalition is a group of attorneys, academics, child advocates, and concerned citizens committed to ensuring the fair treatment of children in our juvenile and criminal justice systems.”

“The Coalition’s focus is the elimination of extreme sentences imposed on youth, including the sentence of juvenile life without parole (JLWOP), and encouragement of age-appropriate sentencing practices and court procedures that account for a child’s capacity for rehabilitation.”

“Five CFJC clients, who were once condemned to die in prison, have now been given a renewed chance at life outside prison. All five were serving life sentences for crimes that occurred when they were children.”

*The manipulative terminology is in the name of an organization they helped form.

Propaganda By The Children’s Defense Fund

http://cdf.childrensdefense.org/site/MessageViewer?em_id=41380.0

Example 1. THE STATE OF AMERICA’S CHILDREN*

Link

https://www.childrensdefense.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/2017-soac.pdf (pages 32-33)

Teen criminals are called “children” several times through this section of the report. 

*Because the report is about all kinds of issues facing juveniles, including actual children, such as poverty, using the term “children” in the title is not propagandistic. But referring to teen criminals as children, as is done in the Juvenile Justice section on pages 32-33, is propagandistic and offensive to victims, including actual children who were brutalized by older teens.

Propaganda By Child Rights International Network (CRIN)

Example 1. INHUMAN SENTENCING: LIFE IMPRISONMENT OF CHILDREN AROUND THE WORLD

Link

https://archive.crin.org/en/library/publications/inhuman-sentencing-life-imprisonment-children-around-world.html

Quotes

“Life imprisonment and lengthy prison sentences for child offenders are not the preserve of a diminishing few, they can be found in the criminal laws of the majority of States.”

“This report highlights the prevalence and plurality of laws permitting life imprisonment for children, addressing:

  • The legality of life imprisonment for children around the world;
  • How legal systems define life imprisonment;
  • The ages at which children can be subject to life imprisonment;
  • How many children are subjected to life imprisonment;
  • The maximum sentences for child offenders where life imprisonment has been abolished; and
  • The way that international, regional and national human rights mechanisms have addressed life imprisonment of children and the opportunities available to children’s rights activists to pursue abolition.”

Example 2. LIFE IMPRISONMENT OF CHILDREN IN THE AMERICAS

Link

https://archive.crin.org/en/home/campaigns/inhuman-sentencing/problem/life-imprisonment/life-imprisonment-children-americas.html

Quotes

The report uses the terms “child” and “children” many times. Some examples include the following.

“As part of CRIN’s inhuman sentencing campaign, we monitor life imprisonment of children around the world and track relevant legal reform. This page includes country profiles for the Americas detailing the legality of life imprisonment in each country, how life imprisonment is defined nationally and, where the information is available, how many children are serving life imprisonment.”

“Since 2012, mandatory sentences of life imprisonment without parole have been unconstitutional for persons under the age of 18.270 This does not prevent courts handing down sentences of life imprisonment for child offenders, but requires courts to have discretion as to whether to hand down such sentences.”

“Since the judgment of Miller v. Alabama in 2012, states have been reforming their laws to bring them into conformity with the judgment and follow-up litigation has been filed in many of the States where children are detained under life without parole sentences. Much of the dispute has centred on whether the ban on mandatory LWOP sentences should be applied to those who were sentenced prior to the Miller decision. Courts in Nebraska,272 Texas,273 Illinois274 and Iowa275 have all held that the the ban should be applied to all child offenders serving such sentences.”

Number of children serving life imprisonment” sub section

“In January 2013, California enacted a bill which will allow the 293 children sentenced to JLWOP in the State to be resentenced.286

Propaganda By The Colorado Juvenile Defender Coalition

Example 1. Principles Regarding the Prosecution and Sentencing of Children as Adults

Link

http://cjdc.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/Statement-of-Principles_11.1.11.pdf

Though this is about transfers of juvenile criminals to adult court, the CJDC supports the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth’s efforts to end JLWOP. Teen criminals are called “children” many times in this piece.

Propaganda By Cut 50

Example 1. Justice For Youth website page 

Link

Quote

SB 394 ends the barbaric practice of sentencing children to die in prison under Juvenile Life Without Parole, a method of cruel and unusual punishment which only exists in the United States.

Propaganda By The Defender Association of Philadelphia

Example 1. JUVENILE LIFE WITHOUT PAROLE website page. 

Link

https://phillydefenders.org/practice-units/juvenile-life/

Quotes

“Until recently, the United States was the only country in the world where children could receive mandatory life sentences without the possibility of parole.”

“On January 25, 2016, the United States Supreme Court decided Montgomery v. Louisiana, guaranteeing re-sentencing for the 2,000+ men and women nationally who as children were sentenced to life in prison without parole, some of whom have been incarcerated for decades.”

“The term ‘JLWOP’ refers to ‘Juvenile Life Without Parole’ – the now unconstitutional mandatory sentences these individuals received as children.”

“‘Juvenile lifers’” refers to individuals who received these sentences as children.”

Propaganda By The Equal Justice Initiative (EJI)

Example 1. Children in Adult Prison” page on the EJI’s website. 

Link

https://eji.org/issues/children-in-prison/

Quotes 

The following paragraph is from the “Death in Prison Sentence” section of this page. 

“EJI launched a litigation campaign in 2006 to challenge death-in-prison sentences imposed on children. Three years later, we argued in the Supreme Court that the Constitution forbids sentencing children to die in prison.”

Example 2. All Children Are Children: Challenging Abusive Punishment of Juveniles

Link

https://eji.org/reports/all-children-are-children/

Quotes

This EJI report uses the terms “child” and “children” several times. It also features propagandistic photographs of young children far younger than the youth sentenced to LWOP. We discuss the use of propagandistic photographs on this page. http://www.teenkillers.org/index.php/juvenile-lifers/the-propaganda-campaign/

The website page about the report also uses this manipulative term. 

“EJI’s work with children is focused on providing legal assistance to juveniles condemned to die in prison….”

“In the last several years, EJI has won several reforms that aid children caught in the American criminal justice system. As this report outlines, more work remains. EJI currently is seeking to…abolish life imprisonment without parole and other excessive sentences imposed on children.

I also like how they claim these offenders are “caught in the criminal justice system.” These offenders are not innocent people who were caught in the system for no reason. They got themselves into the CJS when they chose to commit serious violent crimes.  The victims are “caught up” in the system–they didn’t ask to lose their loved ones to violent criminals. But because of the choices of those juvenile murderers, they now have to navigate the system.

Example 3. Miller v. Alabama page of the EJI website. 

Link

https://eji.org/cases/miller-v-alabama/

Quote 

“EJI won a landmark ruling from the Supreme Court striking down mandatory death-in-prison sentences for children.”

Example 4.  “Arkansas Abolishes Death-in-Prison Sentences for Children”

Link

https://eji.org/news/arkansas-abolishes-juvenile-life-without-parole/

Quotes

“Arkansas joins a growing number of states that have passed legislation barring death-in-prison sentences for children after the Supreme Court banned mandatory life-without-parole sentences for juvenile offenders in Miller v. Alabama. Acknowledging that children are constitutionally different from adults when it comes to sentencing, the law’s adoption in a Southern state contributes to the increasing body of evidence that states recognize that death-in-prison sentences for children are not appropriate.”

“As the bill points out, Texas, Utah, South Dakota, Wyoming, Nevada, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Montana, Alaska, West Virginia, Colorado, Hawaii, Delaware, Connecticut, Vermont, Massachusetts, and the District of Columbia have eliminated the sentence of life without parole for children.”

Example 5. “California Abolishes Death in Prison Sentences for Children

Link

https://eji.org/news/california-abolishes-juvenile-life-without-parole/

Quote 

“California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law Senate Bill 394, which ends life imprisonment without parole sentences for children in that state. Approximately 300 people have been sentenced to die in California prisons for crimes committed when they were teenagers.”

Example 6. “Louisiana Is Latest State to Strike Down ‘Virtual Life’ Sentences for Children

Link

https://eji.org/news/louisiana-latest-state-to-bar-virtual-life-sentences-for-children/

Quote

“The Louisiana Supreme Court today held that sentencing a child to a term of years that is the functional equivalent of life imprisonment without parole is unconstitutional. It is the latest in a growing number of state court decisions applying United States Supreme Court precedent barring almost all death-in-prison sentences for children.” 

Example 7. “Ohio Supreme Court Strikes Down ‘Functional Life Sentences’ for Children

Link

https://eji.org/news/ohio-strikes-down-functional-life-sentences-for-children/

Quotes 

“The Ohio Supreme Court recently joined a growing consensus when it struck down the 112-year sentence imposed on 15-year-old Brandon Moore as the ‘functional equivalent’ of life imprisonment without parole, which cannot be imposed on children convicted of nonhomicide crimes.”

“In 2010, the United States Supreme Court decided in Graham v. Florida that it is unconstitutionally excessive to sentence a child to die in prison for a nonhomicide crime. Because children are especially capable of change, the Court ruled that sentences for juveniles must provide a ‘meaningful opportunity for release based on demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation.”

It is especially inappropriate to call Brandon Moore, the offender whose sentence was deemed unconstitutional by the Ohio Supreme Court, a child. Moore, along with several other criminals, kidnapped a 21-year-old Youngstown State University student at gunpoint. The assailants then brutally gang raped her. Here is some information on this “child”. 

 {¶ 7} “Moore and Bunch then directed M.K. to the trunk of her car. At this point, another man, Jamar Callier, exited the black car and went through M.K.’s belongings in the trunk. M.K. was told to pull her pants down and turn around. M.K. resisted, and in an attempt to avoid any further violence, told the attackers she was pregnant (she was not, in fact, pregnant). But they showed no mercy; Moore and Bunch pushed her against the car, and at least one of them anally raped her.

{¶ 8} “After the anal rape, Bunch threw M.K. to the ground, and he and Moore proceeded to vaginally and orally rape her. While one raped her vaginally, the other would force his penis into her mouth, and they would then switch places. Both were armed during the rapes.

{¶ 9} “The attack finally ended when Callier pushed Bunch off M.K. Bunch said that he wanted to kill M.K., but Callier would not let him, telling Bunch that he could not kill a pregnant woman. Moore put his gun into M.K.’s mouth and told her, “Since you were so good, I won’t kill you.” Moore warned her that they knew who she was; he threatened to harm her and her family if she told anyone what had happened.”

{¶ 11} In her testimony at trial, M.K. described the effect of the attack on
her life: “[T]hey killed a part of me. They killed a part of my [soul] that I can never get back.”

Read more about Moore here. https://www.supremecourt.ohio.gov/rod/docs/pdf/0/2016/2016-Ohio-8288.pdf

Example 8.“Oregon Abolishes Death-in-Prison Sentences for Children

Link

https://eji.org/news/oregon-abolishes-death-prison-sentences-children/

Quotes 

“Oregon lawmakers passed a bill yesterday that abolishes life-without-parole sentences for children and bars automatic adult prosecution of children.”

“Recognizing that the feared juvenile crime wave never materialized, and that developments in neuroscience compel different treatment of children charged with crimes, lawmakers restored judicial discretion to decide when children may be tried as adults for major crimes.”

Children convicted and sentenced to adult prison will now be eligible for parole after serving half their sentence, and the law creates a new mechanism for some juveniles to secure early release rather than be transferred to the adult prison system.”

Example 9. “Federal Court Orders Meaningful Review for Missouri Juveniles

Link

https://eji.org/news/federal-court-orders-meaningful-review-for-missouri-juveniles/

Quotes

“The court ordered Missouri’s parole board to implement new policies and practices that provide people who were children at the time of the offense with a meaningful opportunity to obtain release based on demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation.”

“In Miller v. Alabama, the United States Supreme Court struck down mandatory sentences of life imprisonment without parole for children under 18 at the time of the crime because children are different from adults.”

Example 10. “Virginia Abolishes Life Without Parole for Children

Link

https://eji.org/news/virginia-abolishes-life-without-parole-for-children/

Quotes

“The new law effectively abolishes life-without-parole sentences for children, in recognition of their greater capacity for rehabilitation.”

“Its signing by the governor makes Virginia the 23rd state to ban sentencing children to die in prison, according to the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth.”

“The bill will impact more than 700 people currently incarcerated in Virginia who were sentenced in adult court for crimes when they were children, according to a legislative analysis.”

Example 11. Wisconsin Supreme Court Grants EJI’s Request for Review of Death-In-Prison Sentence Imposed on 14-Year-Old Child

Omer Ninham is certainly not a “child” in terms of responsibility or innocence. He, along with several other juveniles, attacked 13-year-old Zong Vang and threw him over a parking ramp’s concrete wall. The drop was 45 feet. Note as well, that they use a picture where Ninham appears to be crying, trying to make him look vulnerable. The Wisconsin Supreme Court did look at this case and determined that Ninham’s sentence was not cruel or unusual given the nature of the crime.

Quotes

“The Wisconsin Supreme Court has decided to review the life imprisonment without parole sentence imposed on 14-year-old Omer Ninham, a Native American child who is the only person in Wisconsin sentenced to die in prison for an offense at age 14.”

“The Wisconsin Supreme Court will address whether Omer’s sentence is unconstitutional in light of United States Supreme Court precedent establishing that age has constitutional meaning in the sentencing of children and Wisconsin law establishing heightened protections for 14-year-old children.”

“In Graham v. Florida, the United States Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that children under age 18 at the time of the offense cannot be sentenced to life in prison without parole for most offenses. Children are categorically less culpable than adults because they are immature, vulnerable to negative peer influences, and have an innate capacity for change, the Court reasoned, those convicted of non-homicide offenses ‘should not be deprived of the opportunity to achieve maturity of judgment and self-recognition of human worth and potential.'”

“EJI argues that, because the characteristics that make children less culpable than adults apply with even greater force to young adolescents like Omer, it is cruel and unusual to sentence him to die in prison.”

“Omer Ninham is the child of alcoholic parents and, by age ten, was exposed to and permitted to drink alcohol daily – even in the classroom, where his teachers looked the other way.”

Example 12. Just Mercy by EJI founder Bryan Stevenson chapters eight and 14

Note that we are not criticizing Mr. Stevenson’s entire book nor are we criticizing his entire career or organization. Mr. Stevenson and the EJI have done great work in the past, such as freeing innocent people from prison.

But the EJI and Mr. Stevenson have been very insensitive to victims of juvenile murderers by using this type of deceptive and manipulative language. We respectfully ask that they, and all other advocates of juvenile murderers, refrain from this hurtful tactic.

Chapter eight of Just Mercy is about juveniles in the adult court system. Chapter 14 is about JLWOP. Juvenile criminals, including juvenile murderers, are referred to as “children” and “kids” numerous times through these chapters. Though there are too many examples to list, we will show just a couple.

Page 266. “Most of the juvenile lifer cases we handled involved clients who shared Evan’s confusion about their adolescent behavior. Many had matured into adults who were much more thoughtful and reflective; they were now capable of making responsible and appropriate decisions. Almost all of the cases involved condemned people marked by the tragic irony that they were nothing like the confused children who had committed a violent crime.” Portraying murderers as “confused children” is very insensitive and inaccurate. The Evan in this case is Evan Miller, who murdered Cole Cannon.

Page 267. “In preparing litigation on behalf of the children we were representing, it was clear that these shocking and senseless crimes couldn’t be evaluated honestly without understanding the lives these children had been forced to endure.” “Children” don’t commit the types of crimes that we acknowledge as “shocking and senseless.” And not all juvenile criminals had disadvantaged lives.

Pages 267-268. “Contemporary neurological, psychological, and sociological evidence has established that children are impaired by immature judgment, an underdeveloped capacity for self-regulation and responsibility, vulnerability to negative influences and outside pressures, and a lack of control over their own impulses and their environment.”

Page 268. “It seemed so odd to have to explain in a court of law something so fundamental about childhood, but the commitment to harsh punishments for children was so intense and reactionary that we had to articulate these basic facts.”

Page 269. “When the basic defects that burden all children are combined with the elements some poor children experience…”

Page 269. “We were able to make persuasive arguments about the differences between children and adults….”

Page 269. “Our litigation strategy was complicated b the fact that more than 2,500 children had been sentenced to life imprisonment without parole. We decided to focus on two subsets of kids to help the Court grant relief if it wasn’t ready to ban all life sentences without parole for juveniles.”

Page 270. “We asked courts to recognize that such a judgment (about juvenile criminals) cannot be rationally passed on children below a certain age because they are unfinished products…”

Page 270. “We emphasized the incongruity of not allowing children to smoke, drink, vote…while simultaneously treating some of the most at-risk, neglected, and impaired children the same way as full-grown adults in the criminal justice system.”

Page 272. “I told the Court that the United States is the only country in the world that imposes life imprisonment without parole sentences on children. I explained that condemning children violates international law, which bans these sentences for children. We showed the Court that these sentences are disproportionately imposed on children of color.”

Mr. Stevenson also uses the hurtful tactic of calling juvenile criminals “children” in the introduction. On page 15, he writes “For years, we’ve (the U.S.) been the only country in the world that condemns children to life imprisonment without parole; nearly three thousand juveniles have been sentenced to die in prison.”

Example 13. Court Strikes Down Excessive Sentences for Children

Link

https://eji.org/news/nevada-court-strikes-down-excessive-sentences-for-children/

Quotes

“Mr. Boston argued it violated the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Graham v. Florida, which prohibits sentencing a child to die in prison for an offense in which no one is killed.”

“The Nevada Supreme Court joins the highest courts of California and Florida, as well as other courts, in finding that Graham precludes aggregate sentences that fail to provide a meaningful opportunity for release for children convicted of nonhomicide offenses.”

Example 14. Juveniles Sentenced to Life in Prison Entitled to Relief

Link

https://eji.org/news/virginia-juveniles-sentenced-to-die-in-prison-win-relief/

Quotes

“In 2002, Dennis LeBlanc was sentenced to life in prison without parole for a nonhomicide offense that occurred when he was 16. Eight years later, the United States Supreme Court in Graham v. Florida barred life-without-parole sentences for children convicted of a nonhomicide crime, holding that they must be given a ‘meaningful opportunity to obtain release based on demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation.'”

“The federal court explained that Graham sets out three requirements. First, the child must have a “chance to later demonstrate that he is fit to rejoin society” and that “the bad acts he committed as a teenager are not representative of his true character,” which precludes denying parole based solely on the heinousness or depravity of the crime.”

” Virginia’s system actually treats children worse than adults, the court found, because juvenile offenders must serve a larger part of their sentence than adults do before they become eligible to apply for geriatric release.”

Example 15. New Jersey Supreme Court Requires Judges to Consider How Children Are Different

https://eji.org/news/new-jersey-supreme-court-affirms-that-youth-matters-in-sentencing/

“The New Jersey Supreme Court unanimously held that judges must consider how children are different, and how those differences weigh against condemning them to die in prison, before sentencing a child to decades in prison.”

“The constitutional mandate to take into account how children are different in sentencing, the court concluded, applies broadly …”

Example 16. EJI Wins Relief for 16-Year-Old Sentenced to 155 Years in Prison

Link

https://eji.org/news/eji-wins-relief-for-keighton-budder-sentenced-to-155-years/

Quote

“Keighton Budder was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole in Oklahoma in 2010, less than two weeks before the United States Supreme Court in Graham v. Florida barred life-without-parole sentences for children who did not commit homicide.”

Example 17. Oklahoma Court Restricts Life Without Parole Sentences for Children

Link

https://eji.org/news/oklahoma-court-reverses-chancey-luna-juvenile-life-without-parole-sentence/

Quotes

“In a decision vacating the life-without-parole sentence imposed on 16-year-old Chancey Luna, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals made clear that it is unconstitutional to sentence children to die in prison unless prosecutors prove the child can never be rehabilitated.”

“In Mr. Luna’s case, the jury had the option to impose life with or without the possibility of parole, but it did not consider his youth and the special characteristics of children or his chances for rehabilitation.”

Example 18. Pennsylvania Supreme Court Significantly Restricts Life Without Parole Sentences for Children

Link

https://eji.org/news/pennsylvania-supreme-court-significantly-restricts-life-without-parole-sentences-children-qu-eed-batts/

Quotes

“Prosecutors seeking life without parole for juveniles are now required to overcome a presumption against life without parole by proving beyond a reasonable doubt that a child’s rehabilitation is impossible, according to a recent Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling.”

“Last week, the Pennsylvania court vacated the life-without-parole sentence of Qu’eed Batts, who was sentenced to die in prison for an offense when he was only 14 years old. In his case, the court unanimously ruled that prosecutors seeking life-without-parole sentences for children must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a child could never be rehabilitated.”

“In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a historic ruling in Miller v. Alabama holding that mandatory life-without-parole sentences for all children 17 or younger convicted of homicide are unconstitutional, and that judges must consider a child’s “’diminished culpability and heightened capacity for change.’”

“Pennsylvania joins the growing consensus of state courts taking a realistic approach to constitutional sentences for children by requiring new sentences that provide a meaningful opportunity for release once the child has matured and rehabilitated.”

“The United States is the only country in the world where people are sentenced to die in prison for offenses committed as children. EJI believes that juvenile life-without-parole sentences are unconstitutional and is working to challenge death-in-prison sentences throughout the country.”

Example 19. North Dakota Abolishes Juvenile Life-Without-Parole Sentences

Link

https://eji.org/news/north-dakota-abolishes-juvenile-life-without-parole-sentences/

Quotes 

“This week, North Dakota joined 18 other states and the District of Columbia in banning death-in-prison sentences for children.”

House Bill No. 1195 passed the state legislature unanimously on April 7 and the governor signed it into law on Monday. Under the new law, individuals sentenced as children to lengthy prison terms are entitled to have their sentences reviewed by judges after they have served 20 years.”

“Nationwide, some 3000 children have been sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. Children as young as 13 have been tried as adults and sentenced to die in prison, typically without any consideration of their age or circumstances of the offense. EJI argued in the United States Supreme Court that death-in-prison sentences imposed on children are unconstitutional, and in 2010, the Court banned death-in-prison sentences for children convicted of non-homicide crimes because of “children’s diminished culpability, and heightened capacity for change.” In 2012, EJI returned to the Court and argued that sentencing children to die in prison for any crime is cruel and unusual punishment, because children’s unique immaturity, impulsiveness, vulnerability, and capacity for redemption and rehabilitation are not crime-specific. On June 25, 2012, the Court issued an historic [sic] ruling in Miller v. Alabama holding that mandatory life-without-parole sentences for all children 17 or younger convicted of homicide are unconstitutional.”

“Since the Supreme Court banned mandatory life-without-parole sentences for juvenile offenders in Miller, the number of states and jurisdictions that ban the practice has quadrupled.  Arkansas, Texas, UtahSouth DakotaWyomingNevada, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Montana, Alaska, West Virginia, Colorado, HawaiiDelawareConnecticutVermont, Massachusetts, and the District of Columbia have eliminated the sentence of life without parole for children.”

“North Dakota joined 18 other states and the District of Columbia in banning death-in-prison sentences for children.”

Propaganda By The Human Rights Watch (HRW)

Example 1. United States: Thousands of Children Sentenced to Life without Parole

Link

https://www.hrw.org/news/2005/10/11/united-states-thousands-children-sentenced-life-without-parole

Quotes 

“There are at least 2,225 child offenders serving life without parole sentences in U.S prisons for crimes committed before they were age 18, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International said in a new joint report published today.”

“While many of the child offenders are now adults, 16 percent were between 13 and 15 years old at the time they committed their crimes… Forty-two states currently have laws allowing children to receive life without parole sentences.”

“The 157-page report, The Rest of Their Lives: Life without Parole for Child Offenders in the United States, is the first national study examining the practice of trying children as adults and sentencing them to life in adult prisons without the possibility of parole.”

“In 1990, for example, 2,234 children were convicted of murder and 2.9 percent sentenced to life without parole. By 2000, the conviction rate had dropped by nearly 55 percent (1,006), yet the percentage of children receiving LWOP sentences rose by 216 percent (to nine percent).”

“Ten states set no minimum age for sentencing children to life without parole, and there are at least six children currently serving the sentence who were age 13 when they committed their crimes. Once convicted, these children are sent to adult prisons and must live among adult gangs, sexual predators and in harsh conditions.”

“There is no evidence it deters youth crime or is otherwise helpful in reducing juvenile crime rates. For example, Georgia rarely sentences children to life without parole but it has youth crime rates lower than Missouri, which imposes the sentence on child offenders far more frequently.”

“The United States is one of only a few countries in the world that permit children to be sentenced to LWOP. The Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified by every country in the world except the United States and Somalia, forbids this practice, and at least 132 countries have rejected the sentence altogether. Thirteen other countries have laws permitting the child LWOP sentence, but, outside of the United States, there are only about 12 young offenders currently serving life sentences with no possibility of parole.”

Example 2. The Rest of Their Lives: Life without Parole for Child Offenders in the United States

Link

https://www.hrw.org/reports/2005/us1005/

This report uses the terms “child” and “children” many times. Here are some quotes from the summary. 

Quotes

“Children can and do commit terrible crimes. When they do, they should be held accountable, but in a manner that reflects their special capacity for rehabilitation. However, in the United States the punishment is all too often no different from that given to adults.”

“In civil matters, state and federal laws recognize the immaturity and irresponsibility of children. For example, they typically establish eighteen as the minimum age to get married without parental consent, to vote, to sign contracts, or to serve on a jury. Yet in forty-two states and under federal law, the commission of a serious crime by children under eighteen—indeed in some states children as young as ten—transforms them instantly into adults for criminal justice purposes. Children who are too young to buy cigarettes legally, boys who may not have started to get facial hair, kids who still have stuffed animals on their beds, are tried as adults, and if convicted, receive adult prison sentences, including life without parole (LWOP).”

I like the image they try to create. I doubt that a 17-year-old rapist, mass murderer, terrorist etc. has stuffed animals in his bed.

“This report is the first ever national analysis of life without parole sentences for children. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have discovered that there are currently at least 2,225 people incarcerated in the United States who have been sentenced to spend the rest of their lives in prison for crimes they committed as children. In the United States, departments of corrections do not maintain publicly accessible and accurate statistics about child offenders incarcerated in adult prisons, and there is no national depository of these data. Therefore, we were able to collect data on individuals sentenced to life without parole for crimes they committed as children only by requesting that it be specially produced for us by each state’s corrections department.”

“The public may believe that children who receive life without parole sentences are ‘super-predators’ with long records of vicious crimes.”

“Our research shows significant differences among the states in the use of life without parole sentences for children. For example, Louisiana, and Michigan have rates that are three to seven-and-a-half times higher than the national average of 1.80 per 100,00 children nationwide. At the other end of the spectrum, New Jersey and Utah permit life without parole for children but have no child offenders currently serving the sentence. Alaska, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, New Mexico, New York, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia all prohibit the sentence for youth offenders. In May of 2005, Texas changed its law to allow individuals found guilty of a capital felony (including those below the age of eighteen) to be sentenced to life without parole. However, we could not definitively interpret this legislation, nor could we include data from Texas in this report, because the law went into effect on September 1, 2005, meaning it had not yet been applied or interpreted by the courts of Texas when this report went to press.”

“Before 1980, life without parole was rarely imposed on children. The number of child offenders who received the sentence each year began to increase in the late 1980s, reaching 50 in 1989. It peaked in 1996 at 152 and then began to drop off; in 2003, 54 child offenders entered prison with the sentence. But states have by no means abandoned the use of life without parole for child offenders: the estimated rate at which the sentence is imposed on children nationwide remains at least three times higher today than it was fifteen years ago.”

Propaganda By The Juvenile Law Center

Example 1. JUVENILE LIFE WITHOUT PAROLE (JLWOP) section of website

Link

https://jlc.org/issues/juvenile-life-without-parole

Quotes

“Sentencing children to die in prison is condemned by international law. For children or adults, a sentence of life without parole is cruel, inhumane, and denies the individual’s humanity. For children, the sentence also defies law and research confirming that youth are different than adults and must be treated differently by our justice system.”

Propaganda By The Louisiana Youth Justice Coalition

Example 1. JUVENILE LIFE WITHOUT PAROLE website page. 

Link

http://www.laccr.org/youth-justice/?jjpl_program=4317

Quotes

“The United States is the only country in the world that routinely sentences children to die in prison – and Louisiana has condemned more young people to this fate, per capita, than any other state.”

Children are fundamentally different than adults. According to research, they are less able to make responsible decisions, and their characters are less fixed – meaning they will almost certainly change as they age. Even children who have committed serious crimes can and do grow out of the behaviors that led them into the justice system.”

“As a result of these findings, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that sentencing children to life without parole is unconstitutional in all but the rarest of cases.”

“Louisiana, however, continues to deny children an opportunity for a second chance.  While lawmakers have restricted the practice to some degree, prosecutors still seek death-in-prison sentences for kids at an alarming rate.”

“LCCR and its predecessor, the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana, have fought for years to change the laws, policies, and attitudes that result in extreme adult sentences for children. We advocate at the state legislature, educate decision-makers, and track data to determine if Louisiana is complying with the law.  Through a contract with the Louisiana Public Defender Board, we also represent the majority of children in the state who have been sentenced to or are facing life without parole.”

Propaganda By The Marshall Project

Example 1. This Agency Tried to Fix the Race Gap in Juvenile Justice. Then Came Trump 

Link 

https://www.themarshallproject.org/2018/09/19/this-agency-tried-to-fix-the-race-gap-in-juvenile-justice-then-came-trump

Quote

“For two decades, the number of children behind bars in the U.S. has been on the decline—but the racial disparity has been dramatically worsening, with black youth several times more likely than their white counterparts to be incarcerated.”

Propaganda By The NAACP

Example 1. Juvenile Life Without Parole

Link

Quotes

“LDF also found that once a child is convicted as an adult of capital murder, judges have no choice but to impose a sentence of life without parole.  Judges cannot consider the individual aspects of a child’s background that may have contributed to his crimes, nor can they take into account the child’s capacity for rehabilitation.”

“In light of these and other troubling findings, LDF calls for a series of reforms including the complete elimination of life without parole sentences for all children.  LDF believes that a sentence of life without any possibility of parole fails to recognize the capacity for rehabilitation inherent in all children.”

Propaganda By The National Center for Youth Law

Example 1. LOCKED AWAY FOREVER THE CASE AGAINST JUVENILE LIFE WITHOUT PAROLE

Link 

Quotes

“There are more than 2,000 child offenders serving life without parole (LWOP) sentences in United States prisons for crimes committed before the age of 18.

1 The United States is one of only a few countries in the world that permits children who commit crimes to be sentenced to prison forever, without any possibility of release.2”

Example 2.

Quotes

“The United States is one of the only countries in the world that allows child offenders to be sent to prison for the rest of their lives without any hope of release or redemption.”

“NCYL Senior Attorney Pat Arthur is working with Human Rights Watch, private law firms, and a number of other organizations to end the practice of sentencing child offenders to life without parole.”

“The advocates in this coalition take heart in the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551 (2005) because it acknowledges fundamental differences between adults and children that make egregiously harsh sentencing disproportionate and unnecessary.”

Propaganda By The National Juvenile Justice Network

Example 1. Fighting to End Juvenile Life Without Parole powerpoint

Link

https://www.njjn.org/uploads/webinars/JLWOP_webinar.pdf

This presentation uses the terms “child” and “children” many times. 

Propaganda By The Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights

Example 1. Juvenile Life Without Parole page

Link

https://www.laccr.org/what-we-do/transforming-juvenile-justice/ending-extreme-sentences-for-youth/

Quotes

“The United States is the only country in the world that routinely sentences children to die in prison – and Louisiana has condemned more young people to this fate, per capita, than any other state.”

“Children are fundamentally different than adults. According to research, they are less able to make responsible decisions, and their characters are less fixed – meaning they will almost certainly change as they age. Even children who have committed serious crimes can and do grow out of the behaviors that led them into the justice system.”

“As a result of these findings, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that sentencing children to life without parole is unconstitutional in all but the rarest of cases.”

“Louisiana, however, continues to deny children an opportunity for a second chance.  While lawmakers have restricted the practice to some degree, prosecutors still seek death-in-prison sentences for kids at an alarming rate.”

“LCCR and its predecessor, the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana, have fought for years to change the laws, policies, and attitudes that result in extreme adult sentences for children. We advocate at the state legislature, educate decision-makers, and track data to determine if Louisiana is complying with the law.  Through a contract with the Louisiana Public Defender Board, we also represent the majority of children in the state who have been sentenced to or are facing life without parole.”

Propaganda By The Southern Poverty Law Center

Example 1. A POSITIVE STEP: BANNING LIFE WITHOUT PAROLE SENTENCES FOR KIDS

Link

https://www.splcenter.org/news/2012/06/26/positive-step-banning-life-without-parole-sentences-kids

Quotes

“It took an opinion from the United States Supreme Court, but this week our nation officially recognized the obvious – children are fundamentally different from adults and our criminal justice system should not lock them up and throw away the key.”

“For many, the pathway to prison begins in childhood. And too often, vulnerable children are held to the same standards and punished in the same way as adults.”

“Every day in America, 7,500 children on average are incarcerated in adult jails. While some states give prosecutors wide discretion to decide when a child should be treated as an adult, research shows that human brain development is not complete until we reach our twenties.”

“As a result, children do not have the same abilities as adults to make responsible decisions in complex situations or to understand the long-term consequences of their actions. But most important, children are by definition capable of change, and they should be given an opportunity to do so.”

“Americans recognize that children are works in progress, but this belief isn’t always evident in our judicial system. The court’s opinion addresses the disconnect between what we know about children and a judicial practice that has cut their futures short.”

“At the Southern Poverty Law Center, we encounter children who have made terrible mistakes at a young age.”

“We cannot give up on children when we never gave them the tools to change their lives.”

Propaganda By Voices for Children in Nebraska

Example 1. Treating kids like kids

Link

Quotes 

“Last week, the first bill dealing with the reform of our juvenile justice system crossed the Legislative finish line with a vote of 38-1. LB 44, which repeals mandatory life without parole for children and youth, now only awaits the Governor’s signature before it becomes law.”

“First, our state will have complied with the minimum requirements of the Supreme Court’s Miller v. Alabama decision last June. The court told states that they couldn’t pretend children weren’t children when imposing the most severe penalty on the books.”

“Second, the bill still allows children to be sentenced to life without parole and sets a fairly high minimum sentence of 40 years for all cases.  Children sentenced under this law will still face a much tougher penalty than adults who commit other types of serious, violent crimes.”

“LB 44’s passage is an important step towards treating our kids like kids, and we should celebrate this very hard-fought victory.  The bill also leaves much, much more work to do. It’s our hope the Legislature will keep looking for ways to make sure our court system remembers children are children no matter the circumstances.”

Example 2. Searching for Justice

Link

Quotes

“This past June, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Miller v. Alabama that the mandatory sentencing of children and youth to life without parole is cruel and unusual punishment, because it ignores the very fact that children are children. Youth are both less culpable for their actions and more capable of change. In a just society, we can’t ignore that children are different from adults.”

“Nebraska is one of 29 states that must replace its current sentencing scheme because of the courts’ decision. And it hasn’t been easy. Last week, the Nebraska Unicameral spent over 8 hours debating how to deal with children and youth who commit very serious crimes – crimes that result in the death of another person. Nebraska is searching for a just solution – one that acknowledges the severity of the crime and pain of the victims; one that also remembers that children are children and condemning them to death in prison is costly for them and for our society as a whole. After all, when children commit serious crimes, it is often society that has failed them. Many of our current juvenile lifers were subject to years of abuse, poverty, unsafe neighborhoods, and struggles with substance abuse.”

Example 3. By-the-numbers: Juvenile life without parole

Link

Quotes 

“Currently in Nebraska, judges are required to sentence youth who commit murder to life without parole, and cannot consider any relating factors such as the child’s age or life circumstances.  LB 44, which advanced to Select File today, would allow judges to consider the child’s circumstances when imposing a sentence.”

“There are 27 prisoners in Nebraska who have been subjected to the state’s mandatory life without possibility of parole.  These people committed their crime as children, and will die in prison.”

The Lives of Juvenile Lifers has conducted some research into who the children are that committed crimes that resulted in a life without parole sentence.  These children are disproportionately disadvantaged, and struggled with education, and are frequently subjected to abuse.”

Example 4. Ending juvenile life without parole – Support LB 44

Link

Ending juvenile life without parole–Support LB 44

Even children who commit serious crimes are still children. We should respond to youth crime in a thoughtful and effective way that preserves community safety, contributes to Nebraska’s future prosperity, and gives children the protection they need.”

“On average, taxpayers spend approximately $2 million to incarcerate a child for life. Costs for aging inmates in particular place a huge burden on state budgets.[3] Conversely, a productive, college-educated adult contributes over $1 million to society.[4] Longer sentences do not act as a deterrent for youth, given their developmental differences.”

“Our responsibility to protect children requires us to hold them accountable in a way that gives them the opportunity for rehabilitation, redemption, and hope for a second chance at life. We urge you to reject AM 874 and advance LB 44.”

Propaganda By The Youth Law Center

Example 1. Home page

Link

Quote

“YSRP works to keep children out of adult jails and prisons, and to bring home people who were sentenced as children to life in prison without the possibility of parole (“Juvenile Lifers“).

Example 2. Our Mission page

Link

Quotes 

“YSRP believes that a child is far more than what a criminal docket or piece of paper says he or she is.”

“We are inspired by the belief that no person is all good or all bad, and that no child should be defined by the worst thing he or she has ever done.”

Example 3. JUVENILE LIFE WITHOUT PAROLE web page

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Quotes 

[T]he United States Supreme Court issues Montgomery v. Louisiana, guaranteeing resentencing for the 2,000+ men and women nationally who as children were sentenced to life in prison without parole (JLWOP), some of whom have been incarcerated for decades.”

“Pennsylvania has sentenced 500+ children to die in prison under this now unconstitutional mandatory sentencing scheme…”

Propaganda By The Youth Sentencing & Reentry Project

Example 1. Home page

Link

Quotes

YSRP works to keep children out of adult jails and prisons, and to bring home people who were sentenced as children to life in prison without the possibility of parole (“Juvenile Lifers“).

Reentry Planning
As close to a child’s arrest as possible, and prior to Juvenile Lifer resentencing hearings, YSRP creates individualized reentry plans that connect youth or Juvenile Lifers with critical supports and services in housing, employment, education and health and mental health care

Example 2. JUVENILE LIFE WITHOUT PAROLE (JLWOP)

Link

Quotes

January 25, 2016: the United States Supreme Court issues Montgomery v. Louisiana, guaranteeing resentencing for the 2,000+ men and women nationally who as children were sentenced to life in prison without parole (JLWOP), some of whom have been incarcerated for decades.”

“Pennsylvania has sentenced 500+ children to die in prison under this now unconstitutional mandatory sentencing scheme…”

“We are grateful to Joyce Evans and her team for shedding a spotlight on the realities of life for the more than 300 individuals who may be returning to Philadelphia who were sentenced, as children, to life in prison without the possibility of parole.”

Written by an NOVJM member.