University of Southern California

Juvenile Life Without Parole

Advocating on behalf of juveniles

Until recently, California was one of 5 states imposing nearly 70% of death-in-prison sentences for children.

The United States is the only country in the world to sentence youth to life in prison with no opportunity for parole. According to a recent report by the University of San Francisco Center for Law and Global Justice, 2,387 juveniles nationwide are in prison for life. In California, 237 juveniles are currently serving life without parole sentences. Some were as young as 14 when they were convicted. The Human Rights Watch estimates that almost half of all juvenile offenders serving life sentences without parole in California did not actually commit murder themselves — instead, many provided support to murderers or helped them during the commission of their crime.

The Post-Conviction Justice Project advocates for legal reforms in California to ensure the fair sentencing of juvenile offenders and has lobbied for the passage of SB-9, a bill that would provide juveniles sentenced to life without parole an opportunity for review and re-sentencing after many years of incarceration. Under this Act, minors sentenced to life without parole could petition a court to review their cases after serving between 10 and 25 years in prison.

Juvenile justice resources

To read the text of the SB-9 bill, click here: SB-9 as Amended 5-27-11.

To read Human Rights Watch’s report on Juvenile Lifers, click here.

To read the Fair Sentencing for Youth’s report on Juvenile Lifers, click here.

Watch Victim Family Members Speak in Support of SB9


People v. Caballero, a 2012 California Supreme Court Case (It is cruel and unusual in violation of the Eight Amendment to sentence a juvenile offender to 110 years to life for nonhomicide crimes because there is no “meaningful opportunity to obtain release based on demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation”)

Miller v. Alabama, a 2012 US Supreme Court case (The Eighth Amendment prohibits a sentencing scheme that requires life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for juvenile homicide offenders)

Graham v. Florida, a 2010 US Supreme Court case (The Eight Amendment prohibits sentencing a juvenile to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for non-homicide crimes)

Roper v. Simmons, a 2005 US Supreme Court case (The Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments prohibit imposition of the death penalty on offenders who were juveniles when their crimes were committed)

Designed by PCJP in Los Angeles, California
©2019 The Post-Conviction Justice Project