Philadelphia Juvenile Lifer Program Lowers Rearrests, Saves $9.5M

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A recent report on Philadelphia’s Juvenile Lifer Resentencing program reveals a rearrest rate of only 3.4 percent since the program began in 2017, compared to a national rearrest average of 30 percent of those juveniles convicted of homicide within two years of their release after completing sentence.

“In terms of risk to public safety, juvenile lifers can be considered low-impact releases,” concluded the report, titled “Resentencing of Juvenile Lifers: The Philadelphia Experience,” conducted at Montclair State University.

Of the 269 “lifers” included in the analysis, the average age at the time of the offense was 16. The average age at the time of resentencing was 45 years old.

“Release of Philadelphia’s juvenile lifers, to date, will result in an estimated minimum $9.5 million savings in correctional costs for Pennsylvania,” said the report.

As of December 2019, six out of 174 released individuals had been rearrested. Of those, charges against four were dismissed. The other two resulted in convictions, one for a technical violation and the other for robbery.

“The remaining 168 individuals have been living in the community for an average of 21 months without any known law enforcement contacts,” according to the Montclair report.

Of the juvenile lifers analyzed, 49 percent were first-time offenders. Sixty-two percent were convicted of first-degree murder and 38 percent of 2nd degree.

In June 2012, the Supreme Court ruled that mandatory life without parole sentences were unconstitutional for individuals who were under 18 at the time of arrest. At that time, Philadelphia had the largest number of juveniles sentenced without parole in the nation.

The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office began resentencing juvenile lifers in 2017.

Pennsylvania has resentenced 88 percent of its juvenile lifers compared to 52 percent in Michigan and 22 percent in Louisiana. “The three states in combination account for 2/3rd of all juvenile lifers in the United States.”

The full report can be read here.

This summary was prepared by Nancy Bilyeau, deputy editor of The Crime Report

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