Jody Kent Lavy, the executive director of the The Campaign for Fair Sentencing of Youth, an Art for Justice grantee devoted to reforming America’s juvenile justice system, is quoted extensively in a Huffington Post article following the clemency of Cyntoia Brown. Jody lent her voice to the conversation around mass incarceration and addressed the injustices involved in juvenile sentencing:
“[These] people across the country were told as children they would die in prison,” said Jody Kent Lavy, the executive director of the The Campaign for Fair Sentencing of Youth. “And the vast majority of them have no celebrity advocates.”
The U.S. is the only country in the world that condemns children to serve life without parole in prison. These extreme sentences peaked in the ’90s, according to Lavy, because of the “superpredator” mentality peddled by criminologists that painted black youth as “godless, fatherless monsters” who could not be rehabilitated.”
And while some states have made progress in the past few years by banning Juvenile Life Without Parole (JLWOP), at least half still allow judges to use the sentence, which disproportionately affects children of color. In Tennessee, where Brown was convicted, young homicide offenders can still be committed to life without parole or life with the possibility of parole after 51 years. Despite multiple Supreme Court rulings that limit the use of JLWOP, there is no law that bans it on a federal level.
“This is a stain on our record,” said Lavy. “It reflects poorly on us as a nation and on the value we place on our children.”