Fourteen to Forty: Creating Something Out of Nothing
Jeremiah Bourgeois is a journalist, legal scholar, formerly incarcerated person and matriculating law student. In 1992, at age 14, he became one of the youngest children in the United States to receive a mandatory sentence of life without the possibility of parole and the second youngest person to receive this sentence in the history of the State of Washington. Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Miller v. Alabama (2012)—in which the Court declared that imposing mandatory sentences of life without parole on juveniles violates the constitutional prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment—Jeremiah was re-sentenced to an indeterminate term of twenty-five years to life, which made him eligible for parole. While imprisoned, Jeremiah committed himself to higher education, notwithstanding his initial sentence that meant he would die behind bars. Through independent means, he earned a bachelor’s degree in legal studies and criminology, graduating magna cum laude. He also utilized his education to tutor prisoners working to earn their GEDs and became an advisor to the University Beyond Bars, a non-profit that enables prisoners to obtain a college education at Washington State Reformatory. In 2019, his legal commentary critiquing the parole board’s practices resulted in a hearing in the Washington State Senate. Before being freed, the Washington State Court of Appeals adopted his legal analysis in a landmark decision that ended the unlawful confinement of prisoners. Jeremiah has committed himself to highlighting injustice. He uses his writing and his voice to advocate for those that he left behind in prison. Upon graduating from Gonzaga University School of Law in 2022, he will use his law degree to help those he left behind in prison.