The Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth (CFSY) envisions the United States becoming a society that respects all children’s human rights and nurtures their capacity to become leaders, responding to any harm they cause in ways that are rooted in their dignity and unique potential for change. Together, we seek a response to the harm caused by children that is conscientious of childhood traumas, restorative and empowering to all parties, and equitable, especially with regard to race and ethnicity.
OUR MISSION & STRATEGY
The Problem: The United States treats children, particularly youth of color, who come into conflict with the law in intensely cruel and inhuman ways, disregarding their human rights and differences from adults. This is evidenced most starkly by the fact that the United States is the only country that sentences children to die in prison by imposing life-without-parole sentences on individuals under age 18.
Mission: Catalyze the just and equitable treatment of children in the United States by demanding a ban on life without parole and other extreme sentences for children who cause harm; advancing alternative responses that focus on their unique characteristics as children, including their capacity for change; and creating opportunities for formerly incarcerated youth to thrive as adults and lead in their communities.
Strategy: The CFSY utilizes a multipronged approach to reform that includes coalition-building, public education, advocacy, and litigation to ban life-without-parole sentences for children (often known as “JLWOP,” or juvenile life without parole) and other extreme sentences.
Impact: Since the CFSY was launched, we have garnered broad bipartisan support for reform and helped instigate incredible momentum. The number of states that ban life without parole for children quadrupled in just five years, and the U.S. Supreme Court has stepped in three times to limit the sentence. Hundreds told as children they were worth nothing more than dying in prison have been freed and thousands have received new sentences short of life without parole, given them hope of a second chance.
Statement of Principles
We believe that young people convicted of serious crimes should be held accountable for the harm they have caused in a way that reflects their capacity to grow and change.
We believe in fair sentencing for youth that reflects our human rights, values, and moral beliefs, and the fundamental difference between youth and adults.
We know that research has proven that youth are still developing both physically and emotionally and their brains, not just their bodies, are not yet fully mature.
Because of these differences, youth have greater potential to become rehabilitated.
We believe that youth under the age of 18 should never be sentenced to prison for the rest of their lives without hope of release.
We believe that a just alternative to life in prison without parole is to provide careful reviews to determine whether individuals convicted of crimes as youth continue to pose a threat to the community.
We believe youth should have the opportunity to demonstrate that they are capable of making responsible decisions and do not pose a threat to society.
We believe alternatives to life without parole sentencing appropriately reflect the harm that has been done, as well as the special needs and rights of youth, and focuses on rehabilitation and reintegration into society.
We know that victims and survivors of serious crimes committed by youth endure significant hardship and trauma.
We believe victims and survivors deserve to be provided with supportive services, and should be notified about sentencing reviews related to their cases.
We believe in restorative practices that promote healing for the victims, as well as the young people who have been convicted of crimes.
We believe sentencing minors to life terms sends an unequivocal message to young people that they are beyond redemption.
We believe that society should not be in the practice of discarding young people convicted of crimes for life.
We believe society should provide motivations and opportunities for healing, rehabilitation, and the potential for them to one day return to our communities as productive members of society.
At CFSY, we’re always on the lookout for motivated individuals who share our unwavering passion for justice for all children. Our team features curious thinkers and challenge solvers who work hard and enjoy doing so. If you want to make a difference and change lives, we want to hear from you. Are you ready to join an inspired team? Explore current careers opportunities.