Youth Sentencing Project
Request For Assistance
Hear Their Stories
Life without the possibility of parole is, short of execution, the harshest imaginable punishment permitted by law in America. Thousands of people in Texas prisons are serving fundamental death sentences under outdated sentencing laws. Hear their stories, in their own words.
The Lone Star Justice Alliance’s Youth Sentencing Project promotes the use of developmental science throughout the juvenile legal system. The heart of the Project’s work is our direct representation of children and their families in cases that address systemic failures.
The Lone Star Justice Alliance is the leading advocate in Texas in the fight to end harsh sentences for children in the legal system. We directly represent children in their challenges, provide litigation support and technical assistance to other defenders, and professional training to support the ongoing implementation of these decisions at the state level. We do all of this while fighting for racial justice for children and their families.
ABOUT THE PROJECT
Through our Youth Sentencing Project, we provide direct strategic litigation on behalf of youth who were tried in the adult criminal legal system and given extremely long prison sentences, particularly those sentenced to life without parole.
Youth should be held accountable for their wrongdoing in developmentally appropriate ways that consider their age, individual characteristics, and specific circumstances of their cases.
Our staff litigators take the lead on a limited number of cases every year, selecting those that have the potential to influence system-wide change. Last year, LSJA was involved in 13 cases challenging the transfer of youth (either as lead counsel or in a technical support role) and won 12 of these cases.
- Direct Representation. Representing individual youth in cases that have the potential to set legal precedents. LSJA cases are designed to impact a broad population or correct failures that are impacting vulnerable youth.
- Strategic Litigation. Engaging in class action lawsuits when necessary to impact entire classes of youth after identifying barriers in the system that impede fair application of the law.
Client Support Services
- Mental Health Support. Monitoring the mental and physical wellbeing of our clients through consistent communication and visitation.
- Advocacy Before Incarcerating Agencies. Directly engage with the systems that provide services to incarcerated children, including the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Texas Department of Juvenile Justice, and other state and county agencies, to assure minimum standards of care are provided to all incarcerated children.
- Book Drives. Collecting book donations and collaborating with local partners to distribute free books to inmates in prison units across the state. LSJA also provides our individual clients with packages of their favorite books throughout the year.
Defender Training and Support
- Raising the Standard of Defense Delivery. Setting the standard of excellence in the defense of children and providing support to juvenile defenders, so that they too can raise the overall quality of juvenile defense in the state.
- Expanding the pipeline of juvenile defenders. Developing and implementing a robust intern training program for social workers and law students to assist in juvenile sentencing case review growing the pipeline of experienced attorneys and social workers in this field.
- Increasing the use of trained mitigation investigators. Continuing our efforts to create a rigorous mitigation investigations unit specializing in youth developmental behavior.
Featured JSP Work
Request Pro Bono Assistance
LSJA is currently accepting applications for pro legal services for any youth who are detained in the Texas Juvenile Justice Department or awaiting transfer to the Texas Juvenile Justice Department.
Volunteer to Represent Youth
Looking to give some pro bono hours for a good cause? If you agree to take a pro bono case, you will be trained and receive free continuing legal education credit.
Receive Client and Family Support
LSJA provides support to families and formerly incarcerated youth. Reach out here to provide books, connect with others, and join our peer support groups.
In The News
Learn more about our efforts to support children and emerging adults in Texas.
Melissa Lucio Granted Stay of Execution by Texas Court of Criminal Appeals
On April 25, 2022, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals issued a stay of execution for Melissa Lucio and ordered the 138th Judicial District Court of Cameron Country to consider new evidence of her innocence in the death of her daughter, Mariah.
Advocacy Groups Call on Supreme Court to Summarily Reverse Texas Death-Penalty Decision that Flouted Earlier Court Guidance
Organizations advocating for the rights of abused children and those with mental illness and for fair process are urging the U.S. Supreme Court to, for a second time, summarily reverse a Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (TCCA) decision that upheld the death sentence imposed on Terence Andrus (pictured) despite defense counsel’s failure to investigate and present a “tidal wave” of available mitigating evidence in the penalty phase of his capital trial.
Opinion: Youth deserve second chances, not the death penalty
Billy was just 18 years old when he broke into Carl Cole’s home and killed him during the course of a robbery in 1993 in Cason, Texas. He had no history of violence whatsoever, yet he was sentenced to death.