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Malcolm Jenkins' Criminal Justice Season

This week, the Pro Bowl safety highlights the work of the Philly-based Youth Sentencing & Reentry Project

As we enter the holiday season, I thought these next few weeks would be a good time to introduce you to many of the non-profit organizations dedicated to criminal justice reform and community support that I’ve had the good fortune to meet and work with.

This week, we focus on The Youth Sentencing & Reentry Project (YSRP), which provides comprehensive support to kids prosecuted in the adult criminal justice system, including individuals who were sentenced to life without parole as children (“juvenile lifers“). 

On October 24th, along with my teammates Chris Long and Torrey Smith, I went to the state Capitol to advocate for Clean Slate legislation. While there, we also had the opportunity to meet with 10 individuals who were formerly sentenced to life without parole when they were children.

The United States is the only country in the world that sentences children to life in prison without the possibility of parole—a sentence to die in prison.  Pennsylvania leads the nation with 25 percent of all juvenile lifers. Philadelphia is home to more than 300 juvenile lifers, so, accompanied by YSRP,  we were humbled to meet with 10 individuals who were given the rare opportunity to have their sentences pardoned.

The Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth has made significant progress over recent years, including recent actions by the U.S. Supreme Court to limit this practice and a quadrupling in the number of states that ban life without parole sentences for children. But Pennsylvania still needs to come on board. YSRP’s goal is to raise awareness about our state’s inhumane practice of sentencing children to die in prison.

According to the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth, there is significant research that shows that a child’s neurological and decision-making capacity is the not the same as an adult. In fact, teens have a neurological proclivity for risk-taking, making them more susceptible to peer pressure and contributing to their failure to recognize long-term consequences. At the same time, children’s personalities will grow into adulthood, and research shows that maturation and rehabilitation is not only likely, but expected.

What stood out to me in meeting with those 10 former juvenile lifers was their remorse, relief and hope. They had a true appreciation for the second chance they were being given as adults to become contributing members of society, and they were grateful to the attorneys and individuals who believed in them to fight for their release. To be clear, those individuals knew that the crimes they committed were wrong, but often the punishment of life without parole didn’t fit the crime of robbery or serving as an accomplice, nor should they have been tried as an adult.  

Actually, Chris, Torrey and I originally had the opportunity to meet with these former juvenile lifers during our Listen & Learn tour with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie before we met up again in Harrisburg, and were impressed by their dedication and commitment. 

According to the YSRP, in Pennsylvania, kids as young as 10 years old can be prosecuted as adults, meaning that they face time in adult jails and prisons. This has harmful consequences for their health, emotional well-being, and future. It also often means being sent far away from their families and other supporters. Being charged as an adult also makes a child 34 percent more likely to end up back in the system upon release. We need to stop this cycle.

YSRP helps lawyers with low-income clients get their cases transferred from the adult to the juvenile justice system, and they connect youth, juvenile lifers and their families with existing community resources and programs so they have access to education, healthcare, stable housing and job placement. They also train lawyers, judges and other advocates to increase the level of representation provided to youth facing adult jails and prisons. They also advance policy reform. They are committed to making Philadelphia and Pennsylvania a better place.

Led by attorneys Lauren Fine and Joanna Visser Adjoian, YSRP understands that a child, and a juvenile lifer, is more than what a criminal docket or piece of paper says he or she is. There is so much more to the story—where they came from, their family life, their strengths and their struggles. And YSRP helps tell that story in courts in an effort to get kids’ cases transferred to the juvenile justice system, which is far better equipped to address their needs in education, emotional and physical healthcare, and social development—and in an effort to ensure fair and appropriate resentencing for individuals who were sentenced to life without parole as children.

YSRP is a non-profit organization that relies solely on grants and donations.  If you would like to contribute to YSRP this holiday season, you can make a donation here.

Philadelphia

Eagles

vs

Dallas

Cowboys

Homicides per 1,000 residents

0.18

Cowboys

Homicides per 1,000 residents

0.10

Violent crime per 1,000 residents

10.3

Cowboys

Violent crime per 1,000 residents

7

Marijuana decriminalization

Yes

Eagles

Marijuana decriminalization

No

Police involved shootings

23

Cowboys

Police involved shootings

13

People in jail per 100,000 residents

448

Cowboys

People in jail per 100,000 residents

391

% police of color /
% population of color

43.2/55

Eagles

% police of color /
% population of color

46.2/70.6

People incarcerated pre-trial per 100,000 residents

134

Eagles

People incarcerated pre-trial per 100,000 residents

251

# juveniles sentenced to life without parole

307

Cowboys

# juveniles sentenced to life without parole

3

Upcoming Games:

 

Jan. 13 4:35 PM Atlanta

For more information on this data, see the Criminal Justice Season Explained page.

 

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