Who Funds the Juvenile Offender Advocates?

Anyone who spends time looking over the hundreds of pages on this website will begin to get a sense of what we victims’ families have become all too aware of in recent years – that there are stunning amounts of money being spent to advocate for and assist the offenders who killed our loved ones.

We understand that people who believe in causes will use their money to advocate for those causes. That, in and of itself, is not a bad thing. But we have been forced to witness grave injustices, lies, and cruel disregard for what victims’ families go through by some juvenile justice reform advocates with the money they have been spending. Read over our whole website, and judge for yourself.

There is no way to count exactly how much is being spent by advocates of juvenile criminals to fight against juvenile life without parole and other serious prison sentences given to extremely violent offenders who were under the age of 18 at the time of their crimes, and to assist their legal cases. We have information that is like icebergs – we see what sticks above the water, but have a hard time estimating what lies beneath.

We know and have seen first hand, the millions of dollars that juvenile justice reform advocates are spending on our loved ones’ killers. To get a sense of it, just google “Juvenile Life Without Parole” and peruse the size of this national advocacy effort.

Advocates of our loved ones’ murderers spend this money on staff (there are hundreds of people working full and part-time nationally right now just to end the juvenile life sentence), on legal assistance (teams of lawyers for every one of these offenders), on public relations (they have a polished, professional, well-funded media presence; they put out tons of glossy advocacy publications), and on the massive advocacy infrastructure they have developed in recent years.

We know that Human Rights Watch was recently given a hundred million dollars by George Soros, and that HRW has been ramping up their massive national staffing and leadership against the life sentences given to our loved ones’ killers. We know that the ACLU has received millions from Peter Lewis (of Progressive Insurance fame) and they have used much of it to staff efforts in many states, such as Michigan, to free our loved ones’ killers. Some of the money has been used to promote lies being told by the offenders themselves, trying to minimize their roles in the crimes.

[ED NOTE: The story hyper-linked just above here is one of many where the ACLU promoted LIES by the killer that were disproven in court and repudiated later by the killer herself, that she was not directly involved in the crime – she, in fact, stabbed the victim dozens of times with her own hands. But not surprisingly she later tried to lie to get out of her prison sentence. The ACLU helped her to do so. And they spent a lot of money to promote her lies. No apologies to the victim’s family.]

We know many states have several full and part time staff working to help a handful of teen killers in that state that earned life sentences for their crimes. Full-time employees whose only job is to work to free killers from prison. (One state with about a hundred “juvenile lifers” has had five full time staff working for their freedom for several years!)

And we know that those staffers and advocates nationally (despite years of outreach from us) have made a conscious decision NOT to help or even keep informed any of our NOVJM victim family members. We asked these advocates to embrace us as the stakeholders in the issue that we are, but they chose to treat us as political opponents. They will not even send us the emails that they send to their donors and fundraisers.  They won’t tell us what offenders’ cases they are working to overturn, or where they are filing legislation that could change and even endanger our lives.

They have been asked, repeatedly, and have refused, repeatedly. (There is a lot to be said on this point, but is best discussed in person. Email [email protected] for specifics.)

We know that hundreds of millions of dollars have flowed to support advocacy against long term and serious criminal prison time for teens who kill. We know that not a dime has gone to help victims’ families (other than to promote about a dozen victims’ family members nationally who support their agenda). We know victims’ family members who suffer horribly because of the crimes of these offenders.

Beyond the obvious horrible nature of these crimes, the trauma suffered by so many over the choices of a few, the ruined lives on all sides of these murders, we remain stunned at the further injustice of the financial aspect of this equation.

Hundreds of millions for the killers.

Words like “bizarre” and “cruel” seem inadequate to address our feelings about the fact that so much money goes to help our loved ones’ murderers, especially while these advocates are choosing to refuse to even talk to the victims’ families.

We are often asked . . .who is paying for this massive campaign to free our loved ones’ killers?

There are several groups working nationally on reducing the prison sentences of teen killers. We do not judge or question their intentions. We are all free in this nation to advocate for what we believe. We provide this information as a service to victims who have been asking.

Who are the members of the National Coalition for the Fair Sentencing of “Youth” and other state-based groups? Who is funding this effort to free teen murderers sentenced to life?

Stories like this one about the MacArthur Foundation indicate the staggering amounts of money they spend to help juvenile murderers. Note NO MONEY for victims or even for PREVENTION efforts. Just legal defense and advocacy against life sentences.

These organizations listed below, from their own public websites, all want to end JLWOP and some are putting up substantial monies to do so. Our own estimates based on staff working full time on the issue, published advocacy reports, donations we know of, and fellowships and grants we have been told about, show that there have been many millions of dollars spent nationally, perhaps over ten million dollars,  to help provide early release to convicted killers who were under age 18 at the time of their crimes.

A Wealthy Few With A Larger Agenda

Three major individual funders: George Soros, Open Society Institute; and Peter Lewis, Progressive Insurance; and John Sperling, of the University of Phoenix (we invite you to google them) are leading funders of the national effort to generally reduce prison sentences. There is extensive documentation of their work available on the internet. Some receiving their funding have said that the larger campaign is to end ALL life sentences, and that they are just beginning with what they have called the “low hanging fruit” of this work to free the violent teens who murdered our loved ones. The larger goal includes providing early release to all convicted murderers sentenced to life without parole, including adults.

These billionaires and others associated with them have a more utopian view with regards to the need for prisons. While we too wish we lived in a world where prisons were not necessary, as murder victims’ families we must be the voices of reality here – we do NOT live in that world, sadly.

And we have been told by those receiving their funding that much of the reason that there IS a movement today to free teen killers is because of the funding made available by these foundations.

Smaller and local prison reform and human rights groups in desperate need of new funding streams have taken on working against juvenile life without parole prison sentences because of the significant funding sources made available to them if they take up this “cause”.

Who Else Funds This Work?

Other funders include:

  • The Joyce Foundation
  • JEHT (now bankrupt), and other foundations
  • DLA Piper, other law firms, and the American Bar Association
  • Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International and other human rights organizations
  • The ACLU
  • American Psychological Association
  • various religious groups
  • Offender family members and friends
  • CURE, the John Howard Association and other prison reformers

There are no comparable organizations funding the needs of crime victims. None.

Bryan Stevenson and Equal Justice Initiative

This prominent and articulate human rights attorney has led the fight taking the cases of juvenile killers to appeal, and to the Supreme Court. In addition to the same funding sources listed elsewhere on this page, he and his organization Equal Justice Initiative got $1.12 Million at the 2012 TED conference to continue their advocacy.

While we agree with and support some of Mr. Stevenson and EJI’s good work for needed reforms in the criminal justice system, we will point out that his call at the TED Conference was for correcting injustices. How is it not an injustice to take millions of dollars to advocate for convicted murderers to be set free without the most basic decency of informing and supporting the victims’ families whose lives you intend to up-end?

EJI has never even made a single phone call, much less offered financial support to the victims’ families in these cases, some of whom lost a family breadwinner at the hands of their clients – not a single offer to inform, consult, or support us as they seek to undo the convictions in our loved ones’ murder cases.


The lead coalition offender advocate organization opposing life sentences for teen killers nationally is the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth. They have multiple paid full-time staff and have had substantial funding for several years. Their staff is listed here.

Other Coalition Partners, listed on their websites:

Children’s Advocacy Clinic, Children in Prison Project, Florida State University College of Law

Children’s Law Center, Massachusetts

Citizens for Juvenile Justice, Massachusetts

Columbia Legal Services, on behalf of clients, Seattle, Washington

DLA Piper, LLP

Children & Family Justice Center, Northwestern University School of Law

Family and Friends of Inmates, Omaha, Nebraska

Long‐Term Prisoner Policy Project, John Howard Association of Illinois

Human Rights Advocates, California

Human Rights Watch

Individual parents, relatives, or friends of youth serving JLWOP sentences throughout the United States

Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana

Juvenile Law Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Human Rights Programs, University of San Francisco School of Law

NAACP, Legal Defense Fund, New York

National Center for Youth Law, Oakland, California

National Juvenile Justice Network, Washington, D.C.

Penal Reform International, Washington, D.C.

Pendulum Foundation, Colorado

The Sentencing Project, Washington, D.C.

Kings Crossing Foundation, Colorado

Youth Advocacy Project, Massachusetts Committee for Public Counsel Services

Youth Justice Coalition, Los Angeles (led by youth, including many serving LWOP and other life sentences


From their website:

Before, their supporters were:

ACLU Nebraska
American Civil Liberties Union
Amnesty International
Campaign for Youth Justice
Center for Children’s Law and Policy
Centro Pedro Claver, Inc.
Children’s Action Alliance
Children & Family Justice Center
Children’s Law Center of Massachusetts, Inc.
Christ & St. Ambrose Episcopal Church, Philadelphia, PA
Coalition for Juvenile Justice
Colorado Juvenile Defender  Coalition
Council of Juvenile Correctional Administrators
Equal Justice Initiative
Faith Communities for Families and Children
Friends & Families of Inmates, Omaha, Nebraska
Georgetown Center for Juvenile Justice Reform
Human Rights Watch
Just Detention International
Justice Policy Institute
Juvenile Justice Coalition of Ohio
Juvenile Justice Initiative of Illinois
Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana
Michigan Council on Crime and Delinquency
Midwest Juvenile Defender Center
Mississippi Youth Justice Project
NAMI Colorado
National African American Drug Policy Coalition, Inc.
National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
National Center for Youth Law
National Juvenile Defender Center
National Juvenile Justice Network
Office of Restorative Justice, Archdiocese of Los Angeles
Partnership for Safety & Justice
Penal Reform International
The Defender Association of Philadelphia
The Pendulum Foundation (funded by offender’s family in Colorado)
The Sentencing Project
United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society
Voices for Children in Nebraska
Wisconsin Council on Children and Families
Youth Justice Coalition

As of 2020 official supporters of CFSY include:

Fiscal Sponsorship by the U.S. Human Rights Fund

The website for the U.S. Human Rights Fund and Public Interest Projects lists the following foundations as funders that support, among other things, work against life sentences for teen killers:

The Atlantic Philanthropies

Butler Family Fund

Ford Foundation

General Service Foundation

The Libra Foundation 

Mertz Gilmore Foundation

Open Society Institute

The Overbrook Foundation

Shaler Adams Foundation

Starry Night Fund at the Tides Foundation 

Links to Websites of Groups Advocating Against Life Sentences for Teen Killers

bullet ACLU                
bullet American Bar Association                
bullet Colorado – Compassion in Sentencing
bullet Equal Justice Initiative
bullet The Pendulum Foundation – Colorado
bullet The Iowa Coalition to Oppose JLWOP
bullet Illinois Coalition for the “Fair Sentencing of Children”
bullet Human Rights Watch
bullet California Human Rights Watch
bullet Amnesty International                
bullet J.A.I.L. – Juveniles Against Incarceration for Life (Michigan)
bullet Justice for Juveniles
bullet Michigan’s “Second Chances”
bullet NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund
bullet National Alliance Against Racism and Political Repression NAARPR                
bullet National Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth
bullet Nebraska and ACLU “Second Chances”
bullet Nebraska Coalition for the Fair Sentencing of Youth
bullet Child Rights Information Network
bullet National Coalition to Ban Life Without Parole for
Youth Offenders

bullet Justice for Juveniles                
bullet The Other Death Penalty Project 

Finally, we have called, written, emailed, and spoken in person with advocates of juvenile criminals in many states and in Washington D.C. We have repeatedly asked them to keep us informed of their efforts. Victims’ families have expressed pain and frustration about the lack of response. We repeat that call.