Facts about JLWOP:

Children are Different

  • The parts of the brain connected to judgment, impulse control and decision-making abilities are undeveloped in juveniles. The human brain is not fully mature until the age of 25.
  • Psychology confirms what every parent has experienced: teenagers act more irrationally and immaturely than adults.
  • LWOP sentences for children are at odds with the laws that protect them. They cannot vote, sign a contract, join the military, or serve on the juries that judge them.

The Costs

  • Michigan spends close to $35,000 per year per prison inmate. With an average life expectancy of 75 years, the cost of incarcerating a youth sentenced to life without parole can exceed $1.7 million per inmate.
  • Michigan’s prison system consumes 20% of the state’s annual budget.
  • Michigan is one of only four states that spend more on corrections than on higher education.

Racial Disparity

  • 69% of people serving JLWOP are African-American. Only 15% of the under-eighteen population of Michigan is African American.
  • In the juvenile justice system, minority youth are more likely to be arrested, detained, committed to residential placements, and waived to the adult criminal justice system than their white peers who commit similar and same crimes.

Plea Bargains

  • Nearly everyone charged with murder faces a life with out parole sentence. Those who plead guilty get an average minimum of 18.2 years. Those who don’t, including teens as young as 14, are sentenced to die in prison.
  • The difference between the young people sentenced die in prison  and those who will be eligible parole after 18 years is that they didn’t accept a plea offer.

Human Rights

  • The U.S. is the only country in the world that sentences children to die behind bars for crimes they committed before they were old enough to vote.
  • Michigan ranks second in the country for life without parole sentences with over 360 inmates sentenced to die in prison for crimes they committed while they were children.
  • Young people sentenced to JLWOP are often held in adult prisons and jails are at much greater risk of harm, and many of them endure horrific abuse.

Supreme Court

  • The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly recognized that the culpability of children cannot be equated with that of adults, even when they commit the same crime.
  • The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2010 that juveniles serving life without parole for non-homicide offenses is unconstitutional (Graham v. Florida)

Public Opinion

  • A 2007 national poll by Zogby found that 3 out of 4 adults believe that juveniles should be retained in the juvenile justice system and not be tried as adults.
  • Most people don’t know what “life in prison without parole” means. Once people understand the sentence, their support for the abolition of LWOP sentences for juveniles increases dramatically.


  • Many of those serving juvenile life without parole sentences in Michigan, fell through the educational safety net.

Results from 2008 survey of currently serving life without parole sentences in Michigan for crimes they committed before their 18th birthday:

  • 70% were not regularly attending school at the time of their crime.
  • 83% were suspended at least once while they were attending school
  • 64% of respondents were expelled from school
  • 60% of minority respondents were expelled at some point in comparison to 37% of white respondents