Stevenson testifies before Congress on life sentences for juveniles

On September 11, Professor Bryan Stevenson testified before the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security in support of the Juvenile Justice Accountability and Improvement Act, legislation that would require that children sentenced to life in prison are given a meaningful opportunity for parole.

"Tragically, these children received no effective or long-term services," says Stevenson, "even where their cries for help were early, frequent, and unmistakable." Stevenson, who teaches the Equal Justice and Capital Defender Clinic and serves as executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), argued that "death in prison" sentences for juveniles were cruel and unusual punishment violating both the Eighth Amendment and international law.

Citing findings that the adolescent mind is not yet fully developed neurologically in areas that bear on decision-making and impulse control, Stevenson said that "the denial of all hope to a child whose brain—much less his character or personality—is not yet developed cannot be reconciled with society’s commitment to help, guide, and nurture our children."