As we shared with you in late January, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 6-3 in Montgomery v. Louisiana that its 2012 decision in Miller v. Alabama, barring mandatory life without parole sentences for youth, applies retroactively. The decision guarantees that over 2,000 people nationally, over 500 people from Pennsylvania, and over 300 people from Philadelphia will get resentenced.
This decision means a great deal of opportunity, but also great challenges as many individuals serving juvenile life sentences have been incarcerated for decades, with only recent access to programs by virtue of their status as lifers. Mitigation and reentry planning will be critical to the success of implementing Montgomery here in Philadelphia and the surrounding counties.
YSRP, in partnership with the Atlantic Center for Capital Representation, has begun recruiting, training and assigning mitigation specialists to work on cases of people who were previously sentenced to die in prison for incidents that occurred when they were children. In keeping with our core belief that reintegration must begin with sentencing, reentry planing and support will be part of all mitigation efforts. This is incredibly exciting, and important work. But it is also incredibly resource-intensive.
We need your support now more than ever. Please consider signing up to be a sustainer (even $5/month helps), or making a donation and helping make sure that the promise of Montgomery is fulfilled, and that we can help ensure justice and fairness for so many individuals and families who have been waiting for it for far too long.
Lauren Fine and Joanna Visser Adjoian
YSRP Co-Directors and Co-Founders
PS - Please watch the new video linked in the photo above that shows the way your gift helps make a difference in Philadelphia, and consider sharing it with your family, friends and colleagues.
Case Snapshot: Thriving in the Juvenile Justice System
One of YSRP's clients, Larry*, was facing up to decades in an adult prison. In part thanks to YSRP's involvement in the case, Larry pled to a placement in the juvenile justice system instead, where his record will be expungable once he completes his sentence. Since arriving at a juvenile justice placement outside of Philadelphia, he has been named as a "Unit Executive," an honor shared with only a handful of young people who are given higher levels of responsibility and trust, and who are relied on by staff to positively influence their peers. Larry keeps getting assigned new roommates who are not adjusting well -- the staff at his placement rely on Larry to guide and mentor them, and help them adjust. Larry has a perfect disciplinary record and continues earning privileges based on his behavior. He is proof that, when given age-appropriate structure and support, young people can thrive.
*Please note: YSRP does not use clients' real names out of respect for their privacy.
YSRP at Temple Law: Justice Lab Client
YSRP is a client for the inaugural semester of Temple Law School's new clinic, Justice Lab (read more here). Justice Lab represents client organizations (including community groups, nonprofit organizations, and governmental agencies) in a range of systemic advocacy matters. This semester, Justice Lab is working with YSRP to develop strategies and solutions to end the burdensome imposition of particular costs on parents of children in the juvenile justice system. YSRP is excited to be working with Justice Lab's fantastic student team and faculty. Stay tuned for additional developments as our work together progresses!
Policy Impact on Capitol Hill
YSRP applauds Senators Casey (PA) and Whitehouse (RI) for taking a stand on the issue of fees assessed to parents whose children come into contact with the justice system. YSRP shared insight on this issue with the Senators' offices, which led to their sending of a letter to the Justice Department, demanding more information on the practice.
“These fees represent a substantial burden for families and it’s important the Department of Justice closely examine this practice,” Senator Casey said. “DOJ needs to look closely at how these fees are assessed to make sure that the system is fair and consistent with the main goal of our juvenile justice system: rehabilitating young people who have made mistake.”
Thank You to our Newest Funders!
YSRP is humbled to join the incredible list of organizations and causes that each of these foundations support.
The Andrus Family Fund, based in New York City, seeks to foster just and sustainable change in the United States. They do this by supporting organizations that advance social justice and improve outcomes for vulnerable youth.
The Stanley R. Wolfe Foundation is dedicated to the areas of civil rights, urban renewal and Jewish life.
The Philadelphia Bar Foundationis dedicated to promoting access to justice for all people in the community, particularly those struggling with poverty, abuse and discrimination. The Bar Foundation is the embodiment of the Philadelphia legal community's commitment to this fundamental principle.
Intern Spotlight: Future social worker
trains with YSRP!
YSRP has had the pleasure of working with Rachel Leffel through the University of Pennsylvania's School of Social Policy & Practice (SP2). As a graduate social work intern, Rachel is dedicated to working with youth in the criminal justice system and supporting the efforts of YSRP. Through SP2's Field placement, Rachel has spent three days a week with YSRP since September 2015, and has supported the launch of the Youth Advocacy Project, provided critical work in our individual cases, and has worked on a number of organizational capacity-building projects.
Rachel has experience working with youth in residential facilities in Chicago and working with men incarcerated in the Philadelphia Prison System. Rachel received her undergraduate degree from Northwestern University in 2011 and will complete her master's degree in social work at the University of Pennsylvania in May 2016.
Rachel has been a tremendous member of the YSRP team, and we thank her for her hard work and dedication!
A Special Thank You:
Mark's Bookkeeping Services (MBS)
Mark's Bookkeeping Services (MBS) has provided pro bono bookkeeping services to YSRP since we launched as a nonprofit organization. We are very grateful to the firm for their generosity and support.
MBS is New York City's largest independent bookkeeping firm. MBS has taken countless businesses to the next level over the last 16 years with their team of experienced bookkeepers. Whether you are a business or a nonprofit organization, MBS will customize a bookkeeping solution that works for you. They provide CFO services, financial reporting & analysis, accounting preparation for the tax season, and e-commerce solutions. Mark's Bookkeeping Services has the credibility and reliability you can trust as a business owner. For a free consultation, give them a call at 212-243-5757, email them at email@example.com, or visit them online www.marksbookkeeping.com.
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You, too, can help improve life outcomes for court-involved youth.