The Problem: The United States treats children, particularly youth of color, who come into conflict with the law in intensely cruel and inhuman ways, disregarding their human rights and differences from adults. This is evidenced most starkly by the fact that the United States is the only country that sentences children to die in prison by imposing life-without-parole sentences on individuals under age 18.
Mission: Catalyze the just and equitable treatment of children in the United States by demanding a ban on life without parole and other extreme sentences for children who cause harm; advancing alternative responses that focus on their unique characteristics as children, including their capacity for change; and creating opportunities for formerly incarcerated youth to thrive as adults and lead in their communities.
Strategy: The CFSY utilizes a multipronged approach to reform that includes coalition-building; public education; advocacy; litigation to ban life-without-parole sentences for children (often known as “JLWOP,” or juvenile life without parole) and other extreme sentences; and partnership development to provide access to resources and opportunities for returning individuals and their families to prosper.
Impact: Since the CFSY was launched, we have garnered broad bipartisan support for reform and helped instigate incredible momentum. The number of states that ban life without parole for children quadrupled in just five years, and the U.S. Supreme Court has stepped in three times to limit the sentence. Hundreds told as children they were worth nothing more than dying in prison have been freed and thousands have received new sentences short of life without parole, giving them hope of a second chance.