October is National Youth Justice Action Month


April Scales, who was sentenced to life without parole at age 15 and granted clemency by Governor Cooper through the Juvenile Sentence Review Board process last year, spoke with our JustScience Lab students this month.

President Biden has proclaimed October Youth Justice Action Month, designed to raise awareness and educate the public about the impact of the justice system on children.

In 2021, Governor Cooper established the Juvenile Sentence Review Board, which provides a process for people sentenced to JLWOP to petition for clemency. Since then, six people in North Carolina have been granted clemency, including April Scales and Anthony Willis, who have both generously shared their experiences with Duke students numerous times since their release. Learn more about April and Anthony in the New Thinking podcast.

At the Center, our Just Sentencing Project works on reducing extreme sentencing, including Juvenile Life Without Parole (JLWOP). In 2020, Just Sentencing Project Director Ben Finholt, along with Faculty Director Brandon Garrett, Karima Modjadidi, and Kristen M. Renberg, published “Juvenile Life Without Parole in North Carolina,” which examined 94 instances of JLWOP, exploring trends over time, racial demographics, propensity by county, and more. In addition, the article recommended alternatives to JLWOP, including other models from other states, which have periodic review of lengthy sentences for juveniles.

three people on a panel in front of a screen that says "Mental Health and Incarceration"

Anthony Willis (Center), originally sentenced to JLWOP, spoke at an August panel at Duke Law School on Mental Health and Incarceration co-sponsored by the Wilson Center.