The Institute (CSI) is an independent research organization established in St. Louis by the principal attorneys of Phillips Black to partner with preeminent researchers and academic institutions in carrying out scientifically rigorous studies of our law’s most severe punishment.  

The Institute’s initial undertaking is in partnership with the Saint Louis University School of Law and Professor Raymond Paternoster of the University of Maryland to conduct an empirical study of the operation of the capital-sentencing statute in Missouri since Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S. 153 (1976), ushered in the modern death penalty. The core data set for this study are thousands of pages of trial-court reports submitted, pursuant to statute, to the Missouri Supreme Court over the past decades and considered to make up the richest data set of its kind in the history of empirical capital punishment studies. Missouri’s Judicial Records Committee has also promulgated the full cooperation of the judiciary in the collection of intentional homicides records and data for this research from the 115 county-level jurisdictions comprising the state. Since the spring of 2015, volunteer lawyers supplied by the London-based charity, Amicus, have initiated the extensive county-by-county data collection process for this ambitious study. 


Phillips Black is at the forefront of compiling and analyzing the transformation of juvenile life without parole sentencing (JLWOP) resulting from the seminal Eighth Amendment decisions of Graham v. Florida, 560 U.S. 48 (2010), and Miller v. Alabama, 132 S. Ct. 2455 (2012). Phillips Black is a leading producer of JLWOP legal scholarship examining the rapid changes across the country, identifying the jurisdictions that have already abandoned or are decidedly moving away from this sentence, and explicating the law and actual practices in counties and states that continue to countenance sentencing individuals to die in prison for crimes they committed before reaching age eighteen.


In recent years, Phillips Black has produced two studies covering this area.

Juvenile Life Without Parole After Miller

No Hope: Re-examining Lifetime Sentences for Juvenile Offenders

The first provides a comprehensive accounting of each U.S. jurisdiction’s response to Miller.  It catalogues the judicial and legislative responses in all fifty states, and serves as a resource to practitioners litigating JLWOP cases.

The second, released on September 22, 2015, analyzes JLWOP in practice. Drawing on a data set from each state’s department of corrections, the report establishes that JLWOP arose in the midst of hysteria over the race-based myth of a coming wave of the Superpredator, a pseudo-scientific theory propagated in articles such as My Black Crime Problem, And Ours.  Superpredator youth never arrived, but, as we report, the overwhelming majority of JLWOP sentences are premised on that myth and are disproportionately imposed on non-whites.