1st Edition

Sentencing Youth to Life in Prison Justice Denied

By Kathi Milliken-Boyd, James Windell Copyright 2022
    166 Pages
    by Routledge

    166 Pages
    by Routledge

    This book analyzes the impact of the U.S. Supreme Court rulings deeming juvenile life without parole (LWOP) sentences to be cruel and unusual punishment. These Court decisions brought about controversy and resistance in the criminal justice field, while at the same time providing hope for those 2,300 people who never thought they had a chance to experience life as an adult outside prison. By looking in depth at the lives of some of the individuals serving life terms, and understanding both the prosecutors who oppose review and resentencing of juvenile lifers and those who are sincerely following the Supreme Court’s guidelines, this book provides a comprehensive understanding of the issues – as well as the people – involved in the sentencing (and potential resentencing) of juveniles to life without the possibility of parole.

    The authors provide unique, perceptive and straightforward profiles on some of the prisoners who were ultimately sentenced to LWOP after being involved in criminal offenses committed before their 18th birthdays. The book poignantly features the experiences of young people who did not commit a murder yet were still sentenced to life terms, but also delves into the perspectives of the families of victims of juvenile offenders, prosecutors on both sides of the issue, psychologists who have interviewed many of the juvenile lifers and advocates for change in the way juveniles are treated by the criminal justice system. 

    The decisions in Miller v. Alabama and Montgomery v. Louisiana clearly demonstrated that the Court’s view of juveniles evolved over decades to reflect advances in our understanding of the unique characteristics of youth and their involvement in juvenile crimes. This book takes the position that the sentence of life without the possibility of parole for youth is wasteful of both human lives and scarce public resources. The authors write about the human concerns on both sides of the question, and, ultimately, allow readers to make their own decisions about how society should best handle juvenile offenders. This engaging ethnographic treatment will appeal to students and scholars of criminology, corrections, juvenile justice, and delinquency; practitioners working in social policy; and all those interested in a criminal justice system capable of positive outcomes for involved youth. 


    Part I. Children Getting Life

    Chapter 1. Condemning Children to Die in Prison

    Part II. Kathi’s Story about Kevin Boyd

    Chapter 2. Is Adult Prison the Only Answer?

    Chapter 3. How Did We Get Here?

    Chapter 4. Kevin Boyd Is Sentenced

    Part III. Which Juveniles Receive Life Sentences?

    Chapter 5. Assessing Juvenile Lifers

    Chapter 6. Who Gets Sentenced to Life Without Parole?

    Chapter 7. The Supreme Court Gets Involved

    Part IV. The Voices of the Victims

    Chapter 8. Justice for Victims

    Chapter 9. Victims and Restorative Justice

    Part V. The Prosecuting Attorneys

    Chapter 10. Resistance to Understanding and Compassion

    Chapter 11. Miller and the Prosecutors

    Part VI. Juveniles in Prison

    Chapter 12. The Rarest of the Rare: Who Deserves Life Without Parole?

    Chapter 13. What Happens to Juveniles in Adult Prisons?

    Part VII. Why Do We Treat Vulnerable Youth So Harshly?

    Chapter 14. Why Do We Treat Kids So Badly?

    Part VIII. Justice Reform

    Chapter 15. Where Do We Go from Here?



    Kathi Milliken-Boyd is a licensed social worker and former juvenile justice specialist for the State of Michigan. She was the first female youth specialist at W.J. Maxey Boys Training School in Whittemore Lake, Michigan, where she worked with violent youth. She worked for the Michigan Department of Social Services and frequently evaluated youth who were being waived into the adult criminal system.

    James Windell is a former juvenile court psychologist, who teaches criminal justice at Oakland University and Wayne State University and is an author. He frequently writes about the criminal justice system and this is his 38th book.

    "Sentencing Youth to Life in Prison: Justice Denied is an excellent survey of juvenile crimes, sentencing, restorative justice, and the Supreme Court decisions of Graham v. Florida, Miller v. Alabama, and Montgomery v. Louisiana and their progeny. The authors very clearly reflect the impact of the 8th Amendment and the importance of the Michigan Constitution's on the evolving standards of decency in our justice system. Having served on a committee to bring about the proper implementation of Miller v. Alabama, I know these authors have reviewed our efforts. I highly recommend Sentencing Youth to Life in Prison: Justice Denied to all who have an interest in preserving justice in our criminal system."

    Honorable Fred M. Mester, U.S. Attorney, Circuit Court Judge (retired); Ombudsman for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan

    "Sentencing Youth to Life in Prison is a heart-wrenching and analytic look into the United States' youth justice system. Told through the stories of those most impacted by the juvenile justice system and juvenile life without parole, backed by science and research, this book is a must-read for anyone interested in justice system reform."

    Gabrielle French, Policy Associate, Michigan Center for Youth Justice

    "Those interested in in-depth analysis and discussion of the moral and clinical deficits of public responses to juvenile delinquency, criminality and incorrigibility will find this book valuable. The thorough and careful punctuation of topics with relevant and current examples of the effect of sentencing children to life imprisonment make a compelling case for exploration."

    Abu Mboka, Ph.D., Professor of Criminal Justice, California State University, Stanislaus, Author: Criminal Justice Assessment & Classifications of Prisoners, Probationers & Parolees

    "Milliken-Boyd and Windell's book provides an essential indictment of America's harshest punishment for young people – life imprisonment. The authors carefully explain the history of life sentences imposed on youth focusing on states that use the sentence most. They then combine this in a unique way with profiles of individuals sentenced to life. The narrative and quantitative research provided in their book makes a strong case for abolishing life sentences for youth."

    Ashley Nellis, Ph.D., Senior Research Analyst, The Sentencing Project, Campaign to End Life Imprisonment