Elizabeth Calvin headshot

Elizabeth Calvin

Senior Advocate, Children's Rights Division
Follow FairSentencing

Elizabeth Calvin is the senior advocate in the Children’s Rights Division and an attorney with experience in youth justice, foster care, and education rights. At Human Rights Watch she focuses on children, youth, and young adults who face being harmed by juvenile and criminal systems. Her work includes policy and legal advocacy, research and writing on human rights violations, and strategic action for change. She relies on the leadership of people directly impacted by human rights violations to determine the direction of her work.

Since 2012, her leadership in coalition-based efforts in California led to 20 significant laws being passed, many with first-in-the-nation strategies to reduce incarceration and promote the potential of young people. As a result of these changes in law, California youth are much less likely to be prosecuted as adults and prosecutors no longer have authority to file children’s cases directly in adult court; children under age 16 who commit crimes can never be tried in adult court and instead must be provided the treatment and educational opportunities available in the youth system; youth under age 18 facing police interrogation are not alone; the use of life in prison without parole (LWOP) sentences for people under age 18 has effectively ended; young people have more educational and other opportunities in prison; young people under age 26 have special opportunities and protections and the possibility of an earlier parole date if sentenced to prison; the youth justice system is shifting from being corrections-based to one that is focused on health; California youth prisons will soon be permanently shuttered and youth who are incarcerated will remain close to family and community; the state’s first-ever office of youth justice and ombudsperson has been established; and a comprehensive “Youth Bill of Rights” protects young people who are locked up. She additionally works to end any use of LWOP sentences, is a sponsor of the National LWOP Leadership Council, and promotes the leadership of people formerly sentenced to LWOP. These efforts have changed the lives of thousands of young people, families, and communities in California and beyond.

Elizabeth is the author of Human Rights Watch reports on youth sentenced to life without parole, foster care and homelessness, and the effects of prosecuting of children under 16 as adults. She works in partnership with youth activists, faith groups, family members of youth who are incarcerated, survivors of crime, people in prison, and advocates.


Articles Authored

Why I joined Human Rights Watch

Reports Authored