VPF - IL Coalition for the Fair Sentencing of Children (JWLOP)

    Project: Research project

    Project Details

    Description

    For more than 20 years, the Children and Family Justice Center (“CFJC”) has used legal representation, pedagogy, policy work and administrative advocacy to protect the rights of youth, as well as to address structural inequities facing under-represented youth. The CFJC helped to found and staff the Illinois Coalition for Fair Sentencing of Children (the “Coalition”) in 2006 in response to the legal system’s impulse to punish instead of rehabilitate youth. The Coalition is a body of attorneys, academics, child advocates, faith and community organizations, and concerned citizens committed to ensuring the fair treatment of children in our juvenile and criminal justice systems. Currently, the Coalition seeks to end the practice of sentencing children to prison for the rest of their lives without hope of release (JLWOP). However, because of the strong foundation it has built and the diverse array of voices which it represents, the Coalition is also poised to effect policy changes that address other lengthy sentences imposed on youth.

    The last few years have been both hopeful and difficult for advocates working to end extreme sentences for children in Illinois and across the country. Following the landmark victory in Miller v. Alabama in June 2012, which ended mandatory JLWOP sentences, states began wrestling with the question of how to properly apply that decision. Two-and-a-half years later, Miller’s holding and full effect have yet to be realized. The Coalition’s work has been critical to Illinois’ ability to fully and meaningfully implement Miller—not only for youth and adults serving JLWOP, but also for young people facing lengthy sentences that do not account for their individual circumstances and their immense potential for rehabilitation. A grant from the Vital Projects Fund will help ensure that the CFJC, through its work with the Coalition, will be able to seize the opportunities presented by Miller and a changing landscape surrounding criminal justice reform efforts. As discussed further below, such a grant will help support Miller resentencing hearings and strategic litigation, policy reform, communication with prisoners and their families, public education, and outreach to new and existing partners.
    Support of Litigation Efforts:
    State and federal courts across the country are divided with regard to the issue of Miller’s retroactivity—that is, whether it will apply to those currently serving life without parole sentences or their equivalent for crimes that occurred when they were under the age of 18. In Illinois, the Coalition’s aggressive amicus and litigation support strategy was instrumental to the Illinois Supreme Court’s decision, in People v. Addolfo Davis, holding that Miller is retroactive. The Coalition’s litigation committee worked closely with Davis’ attorneys in reviewing their pleadings and assisting with argument preparation, as well as in coordinating the amicus briefing. In December of 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court denied certiorari, and Illinois trial courts are beginning the process of moving cases towards resentencing.
    The Coalition serves as a coordinator and resource for attorneys representing individuals serving JLWOP in Illinois and is the only organization in the state playing that role. The Coalition has been able to recruit attorneys to represent 75 out of 100 individuals serving JLWOP sentences. The Coalition supports JLWOP prisoners and their attorneys by holding meetings and trainings, providing updates via a list serve, providing research on emerging legal issues, and by generating sample pl
    StatusFinished
    Effective start/end date3/2/158/31/16

    Funding

    • Vital Projects Fund, Inc. (Ltr.4/7/15)

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