This book examines how attorneys enable a meaningful opportunity for release for individuals sentenced to life as juveniles. The work provides a detailed overview of how legal representation facilitates opportunities for release for juveniles sentenced to life:“juvenile lifers”. It contributes to the broader literature on the importance of legal representation in the criminal legal system by investigating the role of an attorney in the parole process. Drawing on interviews with lawyers and qualitative content analyses of attorney participation in parole recordings from one state, the study illustrates how attorney assistance provides an important due process protection in the highly discretionary context of parole. The analysis of attorney representation is situated in the history of how they became prominent in the criminal legal system, and how their assistance has been viewed as vital in the parole process. Prior criminological and legal research relates the impact a lawyer can have by preparing a juvenile lifer candidate to present a suitable narrative for release, one that relates their diminished criminal culpability and rehabilitative efforts to prepare for life beyond prison. The work will be relevant to students, academics, and policy makers, particularly for state parole boards, public defender agencies, and legislatures. While the analysis is based on the experience of one state, the findings are generalizable to other states and countries that similarly conduct parole board hearings for not just their juvenile populations but also adults.

Chapters in edited volumes

2019: Discretionary Release Practices for Juveniles Facing Life- A Review of State Parole and Resentencing Procedures (with Simon Singer)

This chapter reviews discretionary release practices impacting juveniles sentenced to adult maximums of life. First, we relate how late 20th century automatic waiver and determinate sentencing policies led to a rapid rise in the juvenile lifer population. A segment of the juvenile lifer population was sentenced to life without the possibility (LWOP). We review the US Supreme Court’s decision to ban automatic LWOP sentences for juveniles, and the Court’s mandate to provide a meaningful review. We further relate the Court’s recognition of adolescence to state parole board discretionary release practices. Next, we survey the number of juvenile lifers in the country, and state efforts to provide juvenile lifers the opportunity for release on parole. Finally, we conclude with a recommendation for state parole boards to formally recognize the adolescence of juveniles sentenced as adults, and to enhance the possibility of a meaningful review.

2022: Contemporizing the social organization of parole: A critical assessment (with Simon Singer)

In most states for most kinds of sentenced individuals, parole boards decide the ultimate amount of time served. Parole exists as an agency within a larger system of criminal justice. Its early 19 th century roots were embedded in the same rehabilitative ideal that led to the penitentiary as place to do penitence, and the juvenile court as the center of a state’s juvenile justice system. But with late 20 th century critiques of the rehabilitative idea, parole came out of favor and state discretionary release practices less focused on its initial rehabilitative objectives. We evaluate the practice of discretionary release decisions by highlighting the case of juvenile lifers. We draw on organizational theory to relate how a state’s discretionary release practices are tightly coupled to the severity of the offense. We illustrate the decision-making by detailing expectations for a parole candidate’s expression of remorse, responsibility, and redemption (the 3Rs). For a segment of juvenile lifers, parole boards act less as an autonomous decision-making unit and more on reproducing prior judicial sentencing decisions.

2023: Aging in Prison- Understanding Elderly Incarcerated Populations (with Beatriz Amalfi Wronski and Michael Vaughn)

Although the number of incarcerated individuals has been slowly declining, the consequences of policies enacted to fight the “War on Drugs” and the “War on Crime” of the 1980s and 1990s have not abated. Crucially, “tough on crime” policies have expanded the country’s correctional population, especially evidenced in the incarceration rate of individuals over 55 years of age, which has grown by 400% in the past three decades. In this chapter, we provide an overview of the composition of the incarcerated elderly population, as well as how this population interacts with and experiences the prison environment. Next, we draw on the risk, needs, and responsivity principles, to briefly discuss how the elderly has emerged as a distinct population in state prisons, and how their presence presents significant challenges related to health, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, program involvement, and their low risk to reoffend. The chapter concludes that elderly incarcerated individuals are a low-risk, high-need population that would benefit from targeted rehabilitative and reentry options, including early release.

2024: Understanding the Physical Prison: The Emergence and Evolution of Prison Design

In early colonial America, prisons were mostly used to house those awaiting trial. At that time, sentences reflected the public’s view of those who committed crimes as evil, requiring corporal punishment or exile from the community. As society modernized, so did the purpose of criminal sentences. In the late 1800s, correctional facilities were designed to promote deterrence, incapacitation, retribution, and rehabilitation of individuals convicted of crimes. In this chapter, we explore the differences and impact of architectural choices from the solitary confinement cells of the Eastern State prison to the warehousing of individuals in prisons in order to extract their labor, and finally to the shared – and often overcrowded – halls of modern facilities. We emphasize how the physical conditions of confinement (i.e., constant sensory stimulation, extreme temperatures, access to recreation) can impact mental and physical health, opportunities for misconduct, victimization, social interaction, and access to rehabilitative programs. To reflect on the physical conditions of imprisonment, our co-author will draw on his first-hand experiences to support research on the principle of normalization which argues for architectural changes in the current prison system.