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Life After Miller

 | Published on 8/14/2019

Life After Miller – A Success Story

Thanks to our friends at the Children and Family Justice Center, Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law Bluhm Legal Clinic, for this reminder of how important Miller-Graham resentencing hearings are for youth, the attorneys who represent them, and their communities:

“The Chicago Tribune’s recent page one story - “How a Southwest Side bungalow became a refuge from violent street life” - is the story of life inside a supportive housing program managed by Mustafa Hawthorne, a former CFJC client now helping other men adjust to life outside prison walls.

When Mustafa was released from Stateville prison in 2017, he participated in the Green Re-Entry Program at the Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN, and now he’s a manager helping keep others on track to success and serving as a mentor. As he explained to The Tribune: “This is a safe house. The house is designed to give them time to breathe.”

As a 16-year-old, Mustafa was condemned to die in prison, but he was given new hope when the Supreme Court ruled in Miller v. Alabama that life without parole sentences for juveniles are unconstitutional. That’s when CFJC’s Alison Flaum and a team of students went to work to try to win his freedom. Mustafa, who was born “Steven,” was one of many CFJC clients to be resentenced under the Miller decision.

“We took the single moment in time that was the crime in this case and pulled the camera back to reveal details about what led up to it - including Steve’s life and circumstances,” Ali said. “We also added to the picture a great deal of information about all that had happened in the decades since the crime - the person that Steve had become. Finally, we discussed what he wanted to do in the future, if given the chance, which is exactly what he’s doing now – using his own experiences and struggles to help young people.”

He was released after serving 33 years in prison, and Ali emphasized the resentencing effort was truly a team effort. In addition to Ali, he was represented by Jordan Blumenthal, along with CFJC students Kaitlyn Quigley (JD ’13), Julie Lee (JD ’13), Andrew Meerkins (JD ’13), Emily McWilliams (JD ’14), Brett Werenski (JD ’14), Marquel Reddish (JD ’15), Alex Caritis (JD ’15), Margot Ettleson (JD ’16) and Carrie Hammer (JD ’17).

Shobha Mahadev and Scott Main continue to direct the Illinois Coalition for the Fair Sentencing of Children, which supports other attorneys representing youth serving life without parole as well as policy and law reform regarding extreme sentencing of children. Scott and Shobha, along with CFJC students, also continue to provide direct representation, research expertise and amicus support, in both trial and appellate courts, designed to encourage courts to reconsider lengthy youth sentences and to recognize the categorically diminished culpability of youth in many different contexts.”