District of Columbia Abolishes Life Without Parole for Children

The Comprehensive Youth Justice Amendment Act, which was sponsored by Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie, is now in effect after passing the D.C. Council unanimously on November 1st, 2016 and passing a 60-day period of Congressional review. At least 100 people serving extreme sentences for crimes committed as children will now have the opportunity for sentencing review as a result of this legislation. 

The District of Columbia joins Arkansas in banning life-in-prison-sentences for children this year. Eighteen states and the District of Columbia now ban the sentence. The bill also ensures that every youth currently serving sentences longer than 20 years will receive the opportunity for review by either a judge or the parole board. In addition, this bill contains important provisions to reduce over-incarceration of youth, improve conditions for youth in the juvenile justice system, and promote restorative justice practices.

“The bill is incredibly important because it recognizes that young people must fundamentally be treated differently from adults – that they have a capacity to change and be rehabilitated. In that vein, adults who committed crimes much earlier in their lives as youth should have an opportunity for judicial review of their sentences after a certain period of time,” said Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie.

The CFSY worked closely with Councilmember McDuffie, partners at Free Minds Book Club & Writing Workshop, the Campaign for Youth Justice, D.C. Lawyers for Youth, and other advocates to provide education and information about the need for reform. In addition, Incarcerated Children’s Advocacy Network (ICAN) members Andre Williams and Eddie Ellis provided testimony to the Council. Their personal stories powerfully illustrated that children have a unique capacity for change and should never be discarded for life.

For more information on the bill and its application, including resources for if you or your loved one is eligible for review, please see the document linked below:

More Information about the D.C. Comprehensive Youth Justice Act

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