Juvenile life without parole (JWLOP) is a criminal sentence of life imprisonment with no possibility of parole, given to a person for acts done before that person reached 18 years of age. In other words, a child is sentenced to spend the remained of his or her life behind bars, with no hope of ever being released. We at ACY believe this is an extreme and unconscionable sentence to give a child, no matter how heinous the crime. Even when a child commits murder, an appropriate sentence could be as severe as life WITH the possibility of parole. To foreclose event the chance of parole is to say that a child is irredeemable and exiled forever.
Contemporary brain science teaches us that an adolescent brain is still developing. This means that a child’s culpability for criminal acts is less than an adult’s who commits the same acts, and deserving of a lesser sentence than would be given and adult. This does not mean a child bears no responsibility at all; only that we ought not reach immediately for the most severe penalty that exists. Moreover, a brain still in development can mature and change, which is exactly why the possibility of parole needs to be preserved. JLWOP presumes that a child will never change. Indeed, perhaps some young offenders will not, but others may.
For these reasons, we work to abolish juvenile life without parole from Maryland’s statue books.