Life, Death, Life Again: Children Sentenced to Die in Prison

The United States is the only country in the world that sentences children to die in prison. As a result of a series of landmark Supreme Court decisions, thousands of those who were condemned to die in prison for crimes committed as children are now eligible for resentencing.

Elizabeth Weill-Greenberg has created a verbatim play featuring those who were sentenced to die in prison for harm caused as children, and the grandson of a murder victim who forgave and reconciled with the girl who killed his grandmother. The play also features the pioneering attorney in the juvenile justice field, Marsha Levick, co-founder of the Juvenile Law Center. Marsha’s monologue asks the questions that are at the heart of the play: What is the purpose of our justice system? What does justice look like?

This project seeks to create a conversation that focuses on the humanity of those who cause harm and their possibility for redemption, the nature of reconciliation and radical forgiveness, and our civic responsibility to all parties of a crime. The panel discussion that occurs after each performance with leading experts on extreme sentencing and youth, connects the individual stories featured in the play to public policies that have created a retributive justice system. Importantly, the post-play conversation among audience members and experts also emphasizes ways to affect systemic change to create a justice system grounded in rehabilitation, compassion, and our collective humanity.

Life, Death, Life Again was developed with support from the New Jersey Council for the Humanities. The project’s scholar-in-residence is Joshua Rovner, Senior Advocacy Associate at The Sentencing Project.

The play is currently touring and available for performance in communities in the New Jersey/New York/Pennsylvania region, and nationally with special arrangement. For more information, please contact us.

PRESS AND MEDIA

WHYY: “‘By hearing the voices of children impacted by this policy, as well as those who have reconciled with the young person who caused harm, we can begin to imagine a justice system rooted in restoration and possibility, not destruction and hopelessness,’ said New Jersey Assemblywoman Verlina Reynolds Jackson.” (https://whyy.org/articles/passage-theatre-presents-play-telling-stories-of-minors-sentenced-to-die-in-prison/)

Asbury Park Press: "‘We need to ask ourselves, what is the purpose of our justice system and what does justice look like? If we elevate retribution or revenge above all else, if we believe that all we are really looking for is an eye for an eye approach to justice, we will sacrifice any real opportunity for rehabilitation,’ said Marsha Levick, co-founder of the Juvenile Law Center, based in Philadelphia.” (https://www.app.com/story/entertainment/2018/04/10/should-kids-sentenced-die-prison-new-play-shares-their-stories/488851002/)

Star Ledger: "‘In contrast to a deeply inhumane criminal justice system, this play shows the innate humanity in all of us,’ says Rev. Charles Boyer of Woodbury's Bethel AME Church.” (http://www.nj.com/entertainment/index.ssf/2018/04/colab_arts_documentary_play_children_sentenced_to.html)

Truthout: “[Weill-Greenberg] spent three years interviewing people like Joe who had committed violent crimes as children and were then sentenced to die behind bars. She also interviewed victims of violent crimes, like Pelke, who were not seeking retribution. The result? A documentary play entitled Life, Death, Life Again: Children Sentenced to Die in Prison.” (http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/44311-beyond-exonerating-the-innocent-using-storytelling-to-humanize-youth-sentenced-to-die-in-prison?platform=hootsuite)

New Jersey Stage: “We are thrilled to bring this important conversation about punishment, redemption, and forgiveness to Monmouth University,” said Johanna Foster, Director of the Sociology Program at Monmouth University. (https://www.newjerseystage.com/articles/2018/11/06/life-death-life-again-children-sentenced-to-die-in-prison-to-be-performed-at-monmouth-university/)

Discover Jersey Arts produced a video feature about the play and performance on December 5 at Monmouth University (http://features.jerseyarts.com/content/index.php/featured/2018/11/10396/)