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Gonzaga University School of Law
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 resentenced to an indeterminate term of twenty-five years to life, which made him eligible for parole.
Jeremiah’s story, which has been featured on Kids Behind Bars: Life or Parole, illustrates how he committed himself to higher education notwithstanding a 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 in the Washington Department of Corrections.
Jeremiah began writing about what he experienced and witnessed within the prison system, first on the Minutes Before Six blog, then in media outlets such as Truthout.org, and eventually as a regular contributor to The Crime Report, a multimedia criminal justice news and resource site based out of John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Jeremiah also began publishing articles and commentaries in law journals such as the American Journal of Criminal Law. He is the only prisoner to obtain membership to Scribes—The American Society of Legal Writers. In 2018, Jeremiah’s 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 which ended the unlawful confinement of prisoners serving sentences for crimes committed when they were children.
Since being freed, Jeremiah has committed himself to highlighting injustice and fighting for reform through Beyond the Blindfold of Justice, a legal advocacy project he created in collaboration with the Renton-based nonprofit Freedom Project. Jeremiah is also a member of the Knights of Columbus, a fraternal organization empowering Catholic men to live their faith at home, in their parish, at work and in their community. He continues to use his writing and his voice to advocate for those who have fallen victim to mass incarceration, highlight the difficulty of reentry, and illuminate the personal challenges he had adjusting to society.