Illinois Coalition for Fair Sentencing of Children 2018

    Project: Research project

    Project Details

    Description

    Overview
    The CFJC is one of a handful of organizations in Illinois that combines individual representation and policy reform, at the local, statewide, and national level on behalf of youth in conflict with the law. The Coalition, in turn, is the only group in Illinois focused on advancing sentencing reform through litigation, advocacy, coalition building, and policy reform for youth sentenced to extreme sentences in Illinois. The Coalition is effective because it is able to leverage its legal expertise with its connections to policy makers, state and county agencies, grassroots organizations, and impacted individuals to advocate for change in courts and in the legislature. The Coalition is also part of a national network of organizations battling the imposition of life and other lengthy sentences on youth. As a result, the Coalition occupies a unique space in the patchwork of Illinois criminal justice and juvenile justice groups.

    Challenges to address:
    Over the past ten years, the United States Supreme Court has ushered in a new era in juvenile justice. A series of landmark decisions—Roper v. Simmons, Graham v. Florida, J.D.B. v. North Carolina, Miller v. Alabama, and Montgomery v. Louisiana—has fundamentally reshaped the interactions children have with, and their permissible outcomes in, our criminal justice system. The Court placed categorical limits on the type and severity of punishment that may be imposed on those under the age of 18 and declared that criminal procedure laws that fail to account in any way for a defendant’s youthfulness are flawed. By grounding these decisions in scientific advancements regarding adolescent development and behavior, as well as a common-sense trust in what we see with our eyes and know in our hearts about how children think and make decisions, the Court has made constitutionally manifest the simple, yet profound truth: youth matters. The Coalition has taken direct action in implementing this paradigm shift in Illinois, and its goals are to: (1) ensure that the 100 Illinois JLWOP prisoners (approximately 80 mandatory/20 discretionary) receive counsel and resentencing hearings as required and engage—through impact litigation and amicus strategy—in the ongoing litigation efforts to fully realize the implications of these recent youth-specific Supreme Court decisions; (2) continue to build and expand the Coalition by reaching out to diverse and unlikely allies including recently released and formerly incarcerated individuals, former judges and prosecutors, victims, and professional organizations; (3) draw upon international human rights principles and restorative justice practices, support policy and litigation efforts to create meaningful review of sentences and challenge “building block” issues including de facto life, mandatory minimums, and transfer; and (4) enhance the Coalition’s communications and public education strategy to support the Coalition’s litigation and legislative efforts. The Coalition is requesting funding in order to effectively meet these objectives in a thoughtful and strategic way in this ongoing critical time of change. The Coalition’s work fits squarely within The Libra Foundation’s Social Justice Area of Interest.

    Results we seek:
    The Coalition is focused on abolishing life without parole sentences for juveniles as the symbolic extreme of society’s impulse to punish rather than rehabilitate youth. In the United States, thousands of youth – overwhelmingly youth of color, who have been marginalized and left without access to basic human needs such as education, heal
    StatusActive
    Effective start/end date1/1/1912/31/20

    Funding

    • Libra Foundation (AGMT 1/16/19)

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