Q&A: JLWOP in Indiana

Youth Justice | 09/01/2021

A.J. Lucky
Stand Indiana organizer

Last legislative session, SEA 368 was strongly supported by the Indiana Coalition for Youth Justice (comprised of over 50 organizations, including Stand Indiana). The passage of this bill made three key changes to a youth justice system that advocates say disproportionately impacts children of color and often prioritizes incarceration over reform and supportive services.

While the bill’s original form included the removal of sentencing children to juvenile life without parole (JLWOP), this language was stripped from the bill before it passed.

As we begin to develop our youth justice legislative agenda for the year, we thought it was important to answer two key questions we’ve received about JLWOP in Indiana.

Is JLWOP legal everywhere?

The United States is the only country in the world that sentences children to life without parole. In recent years, the United States Supreme Court has written decisions reducing the number of children who receive this sentence, holding that except in cases where the juvenile demonstrates “irreparable corruption,” the practice qualifies as “cruel and unusual punishment.” Applying this logic, a majority of states have abolished the practice entirely, but Indiana hasn’t.

Why should juvenile life sentences without the possibility of parole be abolished in Indiana?

  1. A child’s lack of cognitive development makes them less culpable for their actions.
  2. Life without parole is a harsher punishment for a child, as the child has more life left to live.
  3. Studies show that children are significantly more capable of rehabilitation than adults.


If you believe sentencing a child to life without parole is wrong, please join the youth justice movement today. You’ll receive email updates about JLWOP, raising the minimum age for juvenile detention, and eliminating fees and costs that are strapping children and families with debt and keeping youth under continual court oversight.


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