Children in Prison Project

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In 1997, the Children’s Advocacy Clinic created the Children in Prison Project in response to the wave of Florida children being swept into the adult criminal system. In 1995 alone, Florida placed 7,000 children into the adult criminal system. The primary goal of the Children in Prison Project is to ban the practice of placing children in adult prison. The Project focuses on children who received life sentences and other extreme sentences.

The Project has two dimensions: 1) individual representation of children in prison, and 2) law reform.  The Project provides legal representation to individual children in adult prison with their particular post-conviction cases.  Students represent children in prison in resentencing, clemency, judicial reviews, and in post-conviction motions and appeals. Two of the Project's clients who received a life sentence are now back in the community because of the zealous advocacy of FSU Law students.

The second dimension concentrates on systematically changing laws that impose life sentences on juveniles. For instance, the Children in Prison Project collected data from all 50 states and drafted an empirical report finding it “unusual” under the Eighth Amendment for a state to place a child in prison for life without parole for a non-murder crime. Based directly on the Children in Prison Project’s report, the United States Supreme Court in Graham v. Florida found the practice of imposing life without parole sentences for children who commit non-murder crimes unconstitutional. Based on Graham and subsequent U.S. Supreme Court cases, thousands of children have been released or had their sentences reduced.

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