Click here to read excellent National studies of Juvenile lifer done by The Sentencing Project


Life in prison without the possibility of parole gives no chance for fulfillment outside

prison walls, no chance for reconciliation with society, no hope. Maturity can lead to

that considered reflection which is the foundation for remorse, renewal, and

rehabilitation. A young person who knows that he or she has no chance to leave

prison before life’s end has little incentive to become a responsible individual.

Graham v. Florida, 2010

The United States stands alone worldwide in imposing sentences of life

without parole on juveniles.1 The U.S. achieved this unique position by

slowly and steadily dismantling founding principles of the juvenile justice

system. Today a record number of people are serving juvenile life without parole

(JLWOP) sentences in the U.S. for crimes committed before their 18th birthday.

Sentences of life without parole are often erroneously believed to translate to a

handful of years in prison followed by inevitable release. The reality is that a life

without parole sentence means that the individual will die in prison.

This report provides a new perspective on the population of individuals serving life

sentences without parole for crimes committed in their youth. It represents the

findings of a comprehensive investigation into this population that includes a firstever

national survey of juvenile lifers. Through this effort we obtained in-depth

information from these individuals about their life experiences prior to their

conviction, as well as descriptions of their lives while incarcerated. The findings are

sobering, and should become an element of policy discussion regarding this extreme


The sentencing project/research and advocacy for reform

For further information:

The Sentencing Project

1705 DeSales St., NW

8th Floor

Washington, D.C. 20036

(202) 628-0871

This report was written by Ashley Nellis, Ph.D., Research Analyst at

The Sentencing Project. Extensive research assistance was

provided by Katherine Zafft and Cody Mason. The Sentencing

Project is immensely grateful to the survey respondents who

provided thoughtful and thorough responses to our questions and

who made this report possible.

Established in 1986, The Sentencing Project works for a fair and

effective U.S. criminal justice system by promoting reforms in

sentencing policy, addressing unjust racial disparities and practices,

and advocating for alternatives to incarceration.

The work of The Sentencing Project is supported by many individua

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