Ralph Brazel, Jr.

At 17, Ralph Brazel was given three life-without-parole sentences. Mr. Brazel was found guilty of being part of a drug operation led by adults, including older members of his own family. Nationwide, youth who are sentenced to life without parole often acted alongside adults, who are frequently given less harsh sentences. “It didn’t hit me until maybe a year or so later. I was just sitting down watching TV one day and I thought, I have life in prison. It was beyond belief.” In 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Graham v. Florida that it is unconstitutional to impose life without parole on a child for a non-homicide offense. Mr. Brazel became eligible for parole and was released in 2013, weeks before his 40th birthday. Since his release, Mr. Brazel has become an advocate for sentencing reform. He speaks frequently to educate youth and others about life without parole for children.