In Miller v. Alabama (2012), the Supreme Court held that it is unconstitutional for children to receive mandatory life sentences without the possibility of parole. In Montgomery v. Louisiana (2016), the Court made Miller retroactive, thereby guaranteeing resentencing for over 2,000 juvenile lifers throughout the country, including over 500 in Pennsylvania. The Youth Sentencing & Reentry Project (YSRP) created the Pennsylvania JLWOP Reentry Navigator to provide a source of tailored reentry resources for juvenile lifers in Pennsylvania as they navigate the resentencing and reentry process.
Although YSRP does not use the term “juvenile(s)” as a noun, “juvenile lifers” and “JLWOP” are commonly used terminology to refer to individuals who were sentenced to life in prison without parole as children (for crimes committed under the age of 18).
The Navigator is intended for use by juvenile lifers and their loved ones, attorneys, and advocates supporting their return home.
The Navigator can be used in three main ways. First, individuals can anonymously complete a questionnaire to obtain a list of resources in their county based on their individual needs. Second, individuals can browse resources by county to learn about the organizations and government agencies that provide support in their area. Third, individuals can browse resources based on the type of services or support they would like to receive. For instance, if an individual is only interested in housing, she can limit her search to obtain results about housing programs and organizations that provide assistance with accessing housing, furniture, or paying rent and utilities.
There are 14 categories of reentry resources: housing, behavioral health, physical health, food and clothing, education, employment and volunteer opportunities, government assistance/public benefits, faith-based services, identification documents, voter registration, senior services, life skills training, case management, and transportation.
YSRP began researching and collecting resources for the Navigator in the fall of 2016, through a process coordinated and staffed largely by graduate student volunteers. The Navigator provides detailed descriptions of each resource to ensure that individuals can obtain relevant information about available programs and services in a single place. Each resource on the Navigator has been “vetted" through phone calls, e-mail correspondence, or internet research. Through the vetting process, YSRP gathered information about eligibility requirements (for example, to determine whether programs require participants to provide proof of income or have a high school diploma), programs details, and up-to-date contact information. In addition, the vetting process ensured that the services are available to individuals with histories of incarceration, and in particular individuals who were sentenced to life in prison without parole as children.
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