The Equal Justice Initiative recently filed challenges in several states to sentences to life imprisonment without possibility of parole imposed on children for offenses at age thirteen or fourteen. In spite of a major loss of funding, EJI lawyers have filed cases in Mississippi, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Delaware in the past several weeks.
The latest filings are part of EJI’s nationwide litigation campaign to challenge death-in-prison sentences imposed on young teens. EJI lost most of the funding for this project when the JEHT Foundation closed earlier this year. As part of this national project, EJI represents over a dozen people serving these sentences in nearly a dozen states.
While courts have been resistant to recognizing that children should not be incarcerated with adults or sentenced to death in prison, EJI’s litigation and public education efforts have contributed to a growing awareness about the serious questions raised by life imprisonment without parole sentencing for children.
EJI’s ground-breaking publication, Cruel and Unusual: Sentencing 13- and 14-Year-Old Children to Die in Prison continues to be the authoritative source of data cited by courts, decisionmakers, and media, such as in today’s CNN report.
The United States is the only country in the world where people are sentenced to die in prison for offenses committed as children. Only nineteen states nationwide have imposed this sentence on children age fourteen or younger at the time of the offense, and its use has declined dramatically over the past decade.
EJI believes that condemning children to die in prison is cruel and unusual punishment that violates the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution.