Science and the Supreme Court agree – children are different and must be treated as such by the courts.
In 2013, the Supreme Court ruled that it is a violation of the Eighth Amendment to impose an automatic sentence of life without the possibility of parole upon juvenile offenders.
In 2016, the Court clarified that this ruling applies retroactively – meaning all offenders previously given juvenile life without parole (JLWOP) sentences are entitled to a new sentence with the possibility of release.
Children are different and should be treated differently, not just by courts, but by parole boards as well.
The Supreme Court did more than mandate that all juvenile offenders be afforded a real opportunity at release. The Court also established important criteria for determining whether a juvenile offender should be released on parole, including the lack of maturity at the time of the offense and susceptibility to negative and outsider pressures.
The same considerations should apply to parole proceedings for youthful offenders. In other words, the protections and concerns that apply at sentencing hearings should apply when parole boards are determining whether to release a youthful offender from prison.
In Missouri, we are fighting for the state’s Department of Corrections to implement juvenile-specific parole standards and procedures, including individualized, youth-based assessments focused on maturity and rehabilitation. We have filed lawsuit on behalf of Eric Gray, a juvenile offender who was denied his constitutionally mandated right to a fair parole hearing. We have also filed suit on behalf of a class of individuals who were sentenced to die behind bars as children and who now have a chance to be released from prison on parole.
Petition filed with the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of Joey Chandler, a Mississippi youthful offender who has been a model prisoner for over 15 years, yet has been repeatedly denied a meaningful opportunity at parole.
Class certification granted for Brown v. Precythe, a federal class action lawsuit in Missouri challenging the Parole Board’s demonstrated abuse of power, disregard for due process and failure to comply with state and federal law when it comes to youthful offenders previously given mandatory life without parole sentences. Trial set for November.
Gray v. Missouri Department of Corrections
The MacArthur Justice Center has filed a lawsuit on behalf of Eric Gray challenging the Missouri Department of Corrections’ (MDOC) parole system violation of the constitutional rights of youthful offenders. Citing a series of recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings, the suit argues that inmates who were sentenced for crimes committed as children, like Mr. Gray,...
Brown v. Precythe
The MacArthur Justice Center is pursuing a federal class action challenging the Missouri Parole Board’s demonstrated abuse of power, disregard for due process and failure to comply with state and federal law when it comes to youthful offenders previously given mandatory life without parole sentences.
Chandler v. State of Mississippi
If any juvenile offender can demonstrate rehabilitation, it is Joey Chandler. His disciplinary record over more than a decade of his incarceration has been virtually spotless. He has availed himself of the educational programming available in prison, including drug counseling, anger management counseling, completion of a GED and college-level coursework in Bible studies, construction-related skills...
In the news
Federal judge orders overhaul of Missouri’s treatment of juvenilesSt. Louis American August 8, 2019
After murdering as minors, some Missouri prison inmates could be paroled under new court orderSt. Louis Post-Dispatch August 8, 2019
Federal Court Issues Order to Overhaul Missouri Parole Board’s Unconstitutional Treatment of Youthful OffendersPress Release
Federal Court Rules Missouri Parole Board Ignores U.S. Supreme Court Rulings Protecting the Rights of Youth Given Mandatory Life SentencesPress Release