Frequently Asked Questions

Why do you call it “The Redemption Project”?

The word “redemption” is complicated. Its Latin root, “redimo” means to “release” or “atone for.” In theology, it refers the forgiveness of sin and also has Biblical ties to slavery. Those ties to slavery and the idea of “redeeming” (buying) someone from bondage is not the meaning we’re after, but we have to live with that connection with the name. What we mean is closer to Martin Luther King’s idea of “redemptive love,” the process of loving someone unconditionally as a fellow human.

It’s easier to love someone if you know them and this project is an attempt to help people, regardless of where they place themselves on the political spectrum or their views on criminal justice, to get to know men and women impacted by these sentences.

These men and women who have caused great harm need to be punished. None of us would disagree with that. But our society in turn must also look at the punishment it has sanctioned – in this case incarcerating children for life – and decide if it is just. Many, including Supreme Court justices, have decided it is not, at least not without an examination of each case individually. We now have a chance to reexamine mandatory sentences – to redeem ourselves and in the process become a more humane society. So redemption goes both ways.

Do you think juvenile lifers should all receive a “Get Out of Jail Free Card”?
No, our mission is to tell stories with the hope that these stories might help spur the reconsideration of mandatory sentences that were handed down without deliberation or context. The Supreme Court decided in Miller v. Alabama that their mandatory nature was cruel and unusual. Courts ought to at least consider all of the factors that led to the crime, according to the opinion in Miller v. Alabama. Moving forward that will be how sentences are decided.

But for many serving those sentences whose appeals have long run out, Miller provides no relief. We focus on those cases.

Aren’t you just “cherry picking” cases, finding the best of those incarcerated and representing them as a representation of all child lifers?

The men and women who we profile on the site are unusual in many ways, but they are not atypical. There are hundreds more like them all over the country, men and women who are not remotely the same person they were 20, 30 or even 40 years ago when they were sentenced as teens.

Most were sentenced without consideration of their individual circumstances (as a mandatory sentence requires). Their remorse was irrelevant as was the extent of their involvement in a murder. We hope the stories presented on the site fill in that context.