Creating Meaningful Opportunities for Release
The Supreme Court ruled in Miller v. Alabama that mandatory life sentences without a possibility of parole are unconstitutional for offenses committed before the age of 18. The Court recognized adolescents’ “diminished culpability and heightened capacity for change”. Under this ruling states were obligated to create a meaningful opportunity for release for those already sentenced to life without parole.
In California, NCYL has helped to develop, pass and implement legislation to create opportunities for release. We provide technical assistance to those incarcerated and their families to take advantage of these new opportunities. In addition, NCYL is working to develop parole policies and procedures that honor the spirit and intent of Miller, namely, those that account for youths’ reduced culpability and increased capacity for rehabilitation.
NCYL is working nationally and in California to ban juvenile life without parole. Until 2012, the United States and Somalia were the only countries to sentence children to life in prison without parole. Thousands of youth are still serving this sentence, some of them for non-homicide offenses. As the public increasingly recognizes the inhumanity of treating adolescents as adults in the application of criminal laws and penalties, the campaign to eliminate youth sentences of life without parole has gained momentum.