National Center for Youth Law

Press Releases

National Coalition to Ban Life Without Parole for Youth Offenders

In 42 states and under federal law, youths under 18 can be and are sentenced to prison for life without parole. 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.As part of this initiative, NCYL and other advocacy organizations are working to eliminate life without the possibility of parole as a sentencing option in California and Washington State for youth who commit a crime while under the age of 18.

NCYL is also part of an effort to create a national coalition for coordinating advocacy to ban this sentencing around the country. 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.

Pat Arthur is co-chair of the Juvenile Justice Subcommittee of the Children’s Rights Litigation Committee of the American Bar Association (ABA). In that capacity, she plans to work in coordination with the Juvenile Justice Committee of the Criminal Justice Section of the ABA to educate members and the public about the practice of sentencing juveniles to life without parole and to develop recommendations regarding it. In working with the subcommittee, Pat also hopes to establish model standards for improving juvenile offenders’ access to the courts.