Jody Kent Lavy

Executive Director, Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth

Jody Kent Lavy is Executive Director of the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth (CFSY), a national non-profit that leads efforts to replace extreme sentences for children with fair and age-appropriate alternatives, with a focus on abolishing life without parole sentences for youth under age eighteen. Jody was hired to launch the CFSY in 2009. Under her leadership, the CFSY has grown to a staff of 12 and leads a multi-pronged approach to reform that involves advocacy, litigation, public education and coalition-building. Jody has coordinated the national advocacy campaign leading up to and following three U.S Supreme Court rulings that limit the use of life without parole for children. The Court ruled in 2010 that it is unconstitutional to impose such sentences in non-homicide crimes. In 2012’s Miller v. Alabama, the Court ruled that mandatory life-without-parole sentences for children are a violation of the 8th Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. Montgomery v. Louisiana, which the Supreme Court decided in January 2016, held that Miller must apply retroactively, providing relief opportunities for those sentenced before the Miller decision. Under her leadership, the CFSY has coordinated and implemented successful legislative efforts across the country. The number of states that ban life-without-parole sentences for children has more than tripled in the last four years. The CFSY has launched a first-of-its-kind national initiative called the Incarcerated Children’s Advocacy Network (ICAN). ICAN is a network of individuals who were convicted of murder as children, have since become productive members of society, and are devoted to advocating for those still imprisoned and serving extreme sentences for mistakes they made as children. Significantly, the CFSY has also built a diverse and robust national coalition supporting age-appropriate alternatives to life-without-parole for children that includes conservative and liberal policymakers, faith leaders, medical professionals, prosecutors, judges, child welfare advocates, and human rights organizations. Jody previously served as the public policy coordinator at the ACLU National Prison Project (NPP) where she was involved in media relations and advocacy on prison issues in the states and on Capitol Hill. She spearheaded a coalition to reform the Prison Litigation Reform Act, which limits prisoners’ ability to bring legal challenges in federal court. Prior to joining the NPP, she spent three years monitoring conditions of confinement in the Los Angeles County jail—the largest jail in the free world-- for the ACLU of Southern California, as the Jails Project Coordinator. Her career in juvenile and criminal justice advocacy was inspired by her experience as a Jesuit Volunteer where she worked with children in the Los Angeles County juvenile halls. Jody earned an undergraduate degree at Boston College. She received a Master in Public Management from the University of Maryland School of Public Policy. She is married and the mother of three children. A native of the Boston area, Jody is a devoted Red Sox fan.