Friday, 29 April 2011

Detroit hit man takes the 5th but is willing to let lawyer talk about 4 fatal shootings

DETROIT — A Detroit hit man who pleaded guilty to eight murders is willing to let his former lawyer testify about his role in four other fatal shootings, an extraordinary waiver that could possibly help free a young man from prison, attorneys said Wednesday.
Vincent Smothers, transported 130 miles from a prison in western Michigan, invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and refused to testify.
But his lawyer said Smothers has agreed to waive attorney-client privilege and allow his former attorney, Gabi Silver, to disclose their conversations about the fatal 2007 shootings of four people at a Detroit drug den.
"He has no problem" with it, James Howarth told a judge.
Davontae Sanford, who was 14 at the time of the killings, pleaded guilty to murder three years ago and is in prison until at least 2046. But he's trying to wipe out the conviction, claiming he simply was trying to please adults and lied to police when he confessed.
There is no dispute that Smothers, 30, told police about his own role in the so-called Runyon Street murders when he was arrested in 2008 and confessed to a string of killings in Detroit. But he's never been charged in that case, and prosecutors haven't explained why.
Smothers was sentenced to at least 52 years in prison for eight drug-related slayings as a killer-for-hire.
"He doesn't want an innocent person to go down," Howarth told The Associated Press outside a courtroom Wednesday. "He has a legitimate desire not to have somebody go to prison for a crime they didn't commit."
But Smothers won't testify about Runyon Street because he probably would have to name accomplices and doesn't want to be labeled a "snitch" in prison, Howarth said.
Smothers could be forced to testify if granted immunity, but the Wayne County prosecutor's office isn't offering it. Meanwhile, Sanford's attorney wants to put Silver on the witness stand. She was Smothers' lawyer for more than two years and negotiated his plea deal and sentence in 2010.
Silver would testify that "Mr. Sanford has no connection to Mr. Smothers," Kim McGinnis said in court. "This would be the most probative (evidence) that we can present that Mr. Smothers doesn't know Mr. Sanford."
Silver was ready to testify Wednesday, but Wayne County Circuit Judge Brian Sullivan said he needed more time to consider it.
"I'm not comfortable with it," Silver told the AP. "I took an oath not to reveal a client's secrets. But I've been subpoenaed, and if (Smothers) waives privilege, I'm going to do it."
Prosecutors have refused to back away from Sanford's guilty plea. They acknowledge that Smothers may have had a role in the Runyon Street murders but still insist that Sanford, now 18, was present.
 Daily Journal - Detroit hit man takes the 5th but is willing to let lawyer talk about 4 fatal shootings via

NC NOW | Brandy Bynum, MPA/Director of Policy and Outreach | UNC-TV

Brandy Bynum, MPA/Director of Policy and Outreach, Action for Children North Carolina--Ms. Bynum discusses efforts to raise the age of juveniles being prosecuted as adults. North Carolina is one of only two states that continue to prosecute all 16 and 17-year-olds as adults in the criminal justice system, with no exceptions.

Support Davontae Sanford w/ a letter of encouragement!

Amidst the confusion and media black out surrounding the case of Davontae Sanford we must never lose sight of the child caught in the middle. Whilst we wait in anticipation of news from a forth coming court date Davontae waits for the day he can finally go home. We must never forget that he is a child, with learning difficulties, I ask you to open your heart and send him a letter or card, let him know the world/society has not forgotten his fight, and that even though he can not see his supporters they are very much by his side during this ordeal.
The day we become immune to the incarceration and life sentences of children is indeed the day the world finally tuned cold, maybe hell has frozen over, I say ignite the freedom fighting fire and shout in a very loud voice - No more kids behind bars
 Davontae Sanford-684070 Michigan Reformatory Correctional Facility l342 West Main St. Ionia, MI 48846

Ex-prisoner made his own success

There's no shortage of talent in prison. That was a part of the message that convicted-felon-turned-award-winning-writer R. Dwayne Betts gave to juveniles and men at Young Correctional Institution on Tuesday afternoon.
"Part of my story is to suggest that we do get to write our own lives," he said to a group of at least 50 inmates, 12 of whom were juveniles at the prison. His talk was broadcast at all Department of Correction facilities. Betts, originally from Suitland, Md., just outside Washington, was arrested at 16 for a carjacking. He spent more than eight years in prison.
After being released he went on to graduate from Prince George's Community College and the University of Maryland. His memoir, "A Question of Freedom," was released in 2009 and details his life in prison, how he dealt with an absentee father and his quest to put his life back together after being released. It won the 2010 NAACP Image Award for literature debut. His second book, "Shahid Reads His Own Palm," a book of poetry, won the Beatrice Hawley Award.
Chief Judge for Family Court Chandlee Johnson Kuhn initially reached out to Betts.
"Two years ago I went to a conference and I read Mr. Betts' book and at two o'clock in the morning I couldn't sleep," Kuhn said.
She said she couldn't sleep because a young man the same age as Betts was brought to her courtroom and stayed in Family Court, where Betts didn't get a chance to be tried because of Virginia law.
"I know that if he were in my court, he would have stayed there," she said.
Kuhn said she wrote Betts a letter, and they corresponded. She eventually asked him to come speak to youth in Delaware. Today he will head to the Glen Mills Schools in Pennsylvania to speak to troubled youth there.
Betts said he didn't initially set out to return to prisons to speak, but when he does visit, he doesn't like that the majority of the faces he sees are black boys.
For the same reason, he continues to encourage young inmates while speaking about his experiences.
"I never had a conversation with a black man over 30 until I had handcuffs on me," he said.
In prison, people never came to speak to him or other inmates. He never learned about credit, getting employment or navigating the real world once released, so he prepared himself by reading a plethora of books while locked up.
Guards at his prison thought he was trying to commit suicide when he taught himself how to tie a necktie with a belt.
"For them it was more believable that I would want to commit suicide than teach myself how to tie a tie," he said.
But Betts was preparing himself for life after jail, he said.
"Get some skills that speak higher than your felonies and your crimes," he encouraged the inmates.
Contact Ira Porter at 324-2890 or
Writer reminds Delaware inmates of their potential

Teen charged as adult faces big changes

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) - Now that a judge has declared the teen accused of shooting a schoolmate in March will be tried as an adult, he is facing very different circumstances.
If convicted as a juvenile, Michael Phelps, 15, could have been staying at the Pendleton Juvenile Correctional Facility in Madison County, one of five state facilities that incarcerated juveniles can be assigned to in Indiana.
It is a high-security facility for males. The atmosphere is relaxed. The kids go to school full time, work on their high school diplomas, and receive counseling. The goal is to get the kids rehabilitated and released.

"A lot of the kids who come into the juvenile system, eight out of 10 aren’t going to commit an adult crime and will go on to be a good citizen" said Mike Dempsey, executive director of Indiana's Division of Youth Services.
But Phelps, who police said shot Chance Jackson, also 15, on March 25 at Martinsville West Middle School, will now live in a different world as his court hearings continue. He faces the possibility of joining the 50 or fewer juveniles convicted as adults currently held by the Indiana Department of Corrections.
Life for these kids is far different from what those in a juvenile facility experience. They are sent to the Youth Offender Program at the DOC’s Wabash Valley Correctional Facility , where they are segregated from the adult population until they turn 18. Then they are placed with the adults.

The DOC said currently 28,618 people are incarcerated in Indiana. Less than 2 percent – 613 - are juveniles. Less than 0.5 percent – 50 or fewer – are juveniles convicted as adults. National statistics show nearly 7,500 youths are locked up in adult jails on any given day
Statistics also show that kids who serve time in adult prison systems are 34% more likely to be rearrested for violent or other crime, when compared to kids who serve time in juvenile facilities.

But there’s no going back for Phelps now. While 36 states provide judges with the option to suspend an adult sentence in favor of a placement in the juvenile system, Indiana does not.
"Once you’re waived to adult court, you’re not coming back," Dempsey said.
Teen charged as adult faces big changes

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Are We Giving Every Kid a Chance?

Mediator Matthew House, the Teen Rights Guy, says the only relevant question in juvenile justice is whether we are giving every single juvenile delinquent the chance to thrive in a way their parents never cared to let them do.

Teen Rights Guy Goes Off on Cops

The outspoken and opinionated Mediator Matthew House, the Teen Rights Guy, reams out police and sheriff's departments in North Carolina for fighting against bills to keep more out of adult court.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Considering the Eighth Amendment and Juveniles

Considering the Eighth Amendment and Juveniles

US judges jail kids for kickbacks

The scandal of private prison companies paying Pennsylvania judges to fill up their jails with children.

L.A. Locks Up Fewer Kids!!

The outspoken and opinionated Mediator Matthew House, the Teen Rights Guy, discusses how the population of all three juvenile detention centers in Los Angeles County are down 35% in the last three years.

Give Kids a Voice in Court!

The outspoken and opinionated Mediator Matthew House, the Teen Rights Guy, is glad for a class-action lawsuit in Marietta, Georgia to address alleged abuse at a juvenile detention center there.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011


Considering the Eighth Amendment and Juveniles

Considering the Eighth Amendment and Juveniles

May tomorrow be Davontae's day of change 04/27/2011

 Every day can’t be a good day.
But within each day—those
long twenty-four hours—there
are a few minutes or even
seconds when something good
or special happens.
Those moments are as powerful
as the frail flame of a candle
that can light an entire dark room.

May tomorrow be Davontae's day of change 04/27/2011

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Nearly 500 teens serving life terms in Pa. prisons

Pennsylvania leads the nation in teen lifers -- prisoners serving life without parole for crimes they committed as minors -- and last week legislators met to examine the issue for the first time.
In a courtroom in Pittsburgh, 18-year-old twins Devon and Jovon Knox faced exactly that fate -- life without parole -- for killing 18-year-old Jehru Donaldson in a botched car-jacking in July 2007, when they were 17.
They join the 444 teen lifers currently held in Pennsylvania prisons, which is about a fifth of the nation's total and 110 more than runner-up Louisiana, according to a May 2008 report by Human Rights Watch.
Sen. Stewart Greenleaf, R-Montgomery, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee and called the hearing, said he was startled to learn that Pennsylvania held the No. 1 spot and that the United States is the only country in the world that regularly imprisons youths for life.
"That got my attention," he said. "I felt a responsibility to look at [the issue] ... which is why we held the hearing."
Some states have considered laws that would reduce mandatory minimum sentences for juveniles or that would eliminate the penalty altogether. Five states and Washington, D.C., prohibit the practice altogether.
Last year in Pennsylvania, nine people were sentenced to life for crimes they committed as minors. Today, 10 people in Allegheny County await trial for crimes they committed as minors and could wind up in prison for life. (First- and second-degree murder are the only crimes that result in a minor being sentenced to life in prison.)
The issue has been polarizing, with human rights activists arguing that sentencing a juvenile to life in prison is excessively harsh and some victims advocates arguing that those who commit homicide should spend the rest of their lives in prison, regardless of their age.
Still, it's the number -- 444 -- that troubles some.
"It could be a commentary on Pennsylvania law ... it could also be a commentary on society," said Judge Kim Berkeley Clark, who heads the county's Family Division and has adjudicated some juvenile homicide cases. "It makes me very sad."
Elizabeth Calvin of Human Rights Watch, which published the report that got Mr. Greenleaf's attention, said a major contributing factor is the rigidity of Pennsylvania law, which requires anyone charged with homicide, regardless of age, to be tried as an adult and has a mandatory minimum sentence of life without parole for first- and second-degree murder.
She called it "a double whammy for a kid, without any review."
In Pennsylvania, first-degree murder is defined as an intentional killing, generally premeditated; second-degree murder is any homicide that occurs during the commission of a felony.
Pennsylvania may be the only state that has a mandatory sentence of life without parole for both first- and second-degree murder, said James Fellman, a Tampa, Fla.-based attorney and the chairman of the American Bar Association's Commission on Sentencing.
"It makes no sense at all," he said. "That's why there's degrees of murder. There needs to be different sentences for different crimes."
Experts say that the exclusion rule, which requires anyone charged with murder to be tried as an adult, also contributes to Pennsylvania's number. Minors have the opportunity to have their cases transferred to juvenile court through a decertification hearing, but in homicide cases, such transfers are rare.
Ms. Calvin said many minors get convicted under felony murder rule, a type of second-degree murder conviction that holds all participants in a felony that results in murder responsible. Youths tend to act in groups, which makes them particularly susceptible to this charge.
In the case of the Knox twins, it was never determined which one fired the gun and killed Jehru Donaldson because the sole witness could not distinguish between the two, especially after the twins showed up to court in identical outfits and switched seats.
But the prosecution successfully argued that it did not matter, because both were involved in a felony that resulted in a death and both were convicted of felony murder. One twin, though he did not fire a weapon, will spend the rest of his life in prison.
Their father, Douglas Carey, maintains their innocence but said it is "unjust" that both his sons should be charged.
"How can you charge two people for one murder?" he said. "Basically what they're saying is that both my sons had their hand on the trigger."
But for Jay Donaldson, the father of the 18-year-old victim, the conviction was fair, because both could have predicted that an armed car-jacking could have resulted in someone's death.
"You're just as responsible because you didn't do anything to stop it ... for all intents and purposes you did it too," he said.
Many have challenged the fairness of the felony murder rule, because a person convicted does not have to be present or directly involved with the actual murder, only with the felony.
Even for those convicted of first-degree murder, critics say that a life without parole sentence is draconian for a minor.
A violent criminal act can be reflective of "extreme immaturity, but not one that would warrant treatment as adults," said Mr. Fellman of the American Bar Association.
This is why some states have banned it outright in favor of life sentences with the possibility of early release.
Mr. Greenleaf said that he has not come to any conclusions as to what Pennsylvania should do, if anything, to address the high number of people in prison for life for crimes they committed as minors.
In weighing options like early release for those currently serving life sentences and lighter mandatory minimum sentences, he said that the state must consider the impact on public safety, particularly how well the state can determine which of those convicted are sufficiently rehabilitated and which of those are likely to commit crimes again.
Mr. Donaldson said if the Knox twins were ever released he is certain that they would once again wreak havoc in the neighborhood. He said they were beyond hope for rehabilitation.
"They had so many chances to go the right way," he said, adding that they were in the same anti-violence program as his son.
But the punishment his son's killer faces does not make much of a difference, he said.
"It's not going to bring back my happiness, my joy," he said.
Moriah Balingit can be reached at or 412-263-2533.
First published on September 29, 2008 at 12:00 am

Cyntoia Brown, LIFE student at local prison, is subject of film shown at HumanDocs

Cyntoia Brown was just 16 years old when she was picked up by a 43-year-old man who ended up dead by her hand. In 2006, she was convicted for murder – as an adult – and sentenced to life in prison.
Today Cyntoia’s story is being told across the nation through the film Me Facing Life: Cyntoia’s Story, a documentary for Independent Television Services (ITVS) by Daniel Birman. Lipscomb University’s HumanDocs Film Series and ITVS Community Cinema are partnering to bring the film to audiences free of charge on Wednesday, Oct. 20, at 8 p.m. in Shamblin Theatre, on the Lipscomb campus.
Six years after the murder, Brown is studying as a Lipscomb University undergraduate student – despite serving a life sentence in the prison at the Tennessee Prison for Women (TPFW) – as part of Lipscomb’s LIFE (Lipscomb Initiative For Education) program. Thirty students from campus spend one night a week studying side-by-side with the inmates for credit.
In addition to the screening of the film, Lipscomb will present a panel including the filmmaker; Brown’s adoptive mother Ellenette Brown (who is featured in the film); Randy Spivey, a local lawyer who has taught Brown in the Lipscomb program; and Preston Shipp, a former appellate prosecutor who worked on her case and who also happened to teach her through the LIFE program.
While Shipp was teaching Brown at TPFW, the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals that affirmed her conviction and sentence, leading to a life-changing decision for Shipp.
“I never thought I would befriend a defendant from one of my cases.  In the judicial process class I taught at the prison, we studied various approaches to criminal justice: retributive, rehabilitative, and restorative.  Between my friendship with Cyntoia and the curriculum I was teaching, I felt compelled to make a change in my career.  It became impossible for me to be a cog in the wheel of a strictly punitive system,” said Shipp, who has left the Attorney General’s Office to work at the Board of Professional Responsibility.
About Me Facing Life: Cyntoia’s Story
In Me Facing Life, Birman’s camera first sights Brown the week of her arrest at age 16 and follows her for nearly six years. Along the way, nationally renowned juvenile forensic psychiatrist, Dr. William Bernet from Vanderbilt University, assesses her situation. Ellenette Brown, Cyntoia’s adoptive mother talks about the young girl’s early years. And Georgina Mitchell, Cyntoia’s biological mother, meets her for the first time since she gave her up for adoption 14 years earlier.
What mystified filmmaker Birman was just how common violence among youth is and just how rarely assumptions about it are questioned. Me Facing Life uncovers three generations of violence in Brown’s maternal line that play into her psychological complexity. The viewer watches her grow to become a woman in five years and hears about the insights she gains along the way.
Cyntoia’s Story was produced by The Independent Television Service (ITVS), which is the co-producing partner with PBS of the Emmy-winning Independent Lens television series. It is scheduled to air on PBS stations nationwide in May 2011. A rough cut of the film was screened at the Nashville Film Festival earlier this year.
Juvenile Justice in Nashville and the USA
The Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands and Waller Lansden is sponsoring a workshop, featuring Me Facing Life and filmmaker Dan Birman, to provide continuing legal education credits for attorneys at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 20, at the Nashville City Center. Cost is $100. To register for the workshop contact Cindy Durham at
About the LIFE Program
The LIFE (Lipscomb Initiative for Education) Program, coordinated by Dr. Richard Goode (615-966-5748), provides Lipscomb University students an academic and service-learning experience like few others. Up to 30 students each semester enroll in a liberal arts course held on-site at the Tennessee Prison for Women (TPFW) and study alongside 30 inmates of the prison. The mix of students and specifically designed coursework provides academic and character-building benefits for both students at the prison and students from campus.
The LIFE Program is unique in that every student in the classroom is a Lipscomb student. ”Outside” students are working on bachelor’s degrees, while “inside” students are working toward 18 hours of liberal arts credit that could be transferred to most universities. Through a higher education designed to introduce students to great thinkers, diverse cultures, critical thinking and effective communication, the LIFE students at TPFW are empowered intellectually, psychologically, socially and spiritually.
About the HumanDocs Film Series
The Lipscomb University School of Humanities in the College of Arts & Sciences presents the HumanDocs Film Series, free monthly screenings of award-winning documentaries exploring social justice issues. The fall series began in September with Crude. God in America, Sin by Silence and Me Facing Life: Cyntoia’s Story are scheduled for October, and Deep Down will be shown in November. Each film will be followed by a panel discussion, often including the filmmaker. These events are all free and open to the public.
For more information on the HumanDocs Film Series, e-mail or log on to the HumanDocs website.

Me Facing Life: Cyntoia’s Story Daniel Birman, Producer/Director

"The greatest surprise to me with this film has been a consistent response from both liberals and conservatives. This was unexpected because social films are often viewed as liberal recitations. We went to great lengths to present the material fairly. As a result, we created a story that resonates regarding a common and non-political problem: a young girl’s very personal and tragic story." Daniel Birman, Producer/Director

In 2004, at the age of 16, Cyntoia Brown was arrested for murder. There was no question that a 43-year-old man was dead and that she killed him. Going beyond the headlines, filmmaker Daniel Birman explores what led this intelligent and articulate young woman to prostitution and murder, and also looks at a juvenile justice system that lacks adequate resources to deal with increasing youth violence.

In today's clip, Cyntoia takes the stand at her murder trial and matter-of-factly describes a life of prostitution and abuse.

Death penalty possible in alleged shooting, burning case, lawyer says

(CNN) -- The suspected ringleader of a group arrested for allegedly luring a 15-year-old boy to a Florida home, shooting him several times, burning his body in a fire pit and putting the remains into paint cans, could face the death penalty if convicted, his attorney said Thursday.
But defense attorney Charles Holloman added, "We are not admitting any guilt at this time."
Michael Bargo, 18, appeared in court Thursday where he was denied bond in the killing of Seath Jackson, an act that allegedly involved five other people Sunday in the central Florida city of Ocala, according to a statement from the Marion County Sheriff's Office.
Holloman said Jackson and Bargo had dated the same girl, though not at the same time.
Jackson at one point went to Bargo's home yelling and screaming in the front yard, threatening to burn down Bargo's house, Holloman added. CNN cannot independently confirm that statement.
Prosecutors say two females later lured Jackson to the home, where he was beaten with a wooden object. He was then shot several times with a .22 caliber gun, authorities said.
As the wounded teen attempted to flee, he was tackled and shot again, according to the sheriff's statement. His body was allegedly placed in a sleeping bag and burned in a fire pit outside the home.
His ashes were placed into several paint containers and thrown into a large garbage can, authorities said.
Authorities said they learned of the alleged plot from a member of the group who admitted witnessing the killing.
Four adults and two minors have been charged in connection with the death.
Bargo, Charlie Kay Ely, 18; Justin Soto, 20, and two minors face first-degree murder charges, the Marion County Sheriff's Office said.
James Haven, 37, faces charges of accessory to the crime for allegedly helping to dispose of Jackson's remains and driving one of the suspects out of the area to avoid arrest, authorities said.
Sheriff's department documents gave little information on what led to the killing other than brief statements by suspects about a dispute and a growing hatred.
Divers on Wednesday found three paint buckets in a water-filled rock quarry that are suspected of containing the victim's remains, authorities said.
The contents of the buckets were delivered to a forensic specialist at the University of Florida in Gainesville to determine if the ashes and bone fragments match those of Jackson.
Haven, who is not represented by an attorney, posted a $10,000 bond and was released Wednesday morning.
The two minors involved in the case are currently being represented by public defenders, who could not comment.
A jury trial that was expected to take place on May 2 has been postponed, said Holloman.
Soto's public defender, Bill Miller, would not comment on the case. Ely is not represented by an attorney.
Bargo also had a restraining order issued against him, forbidding contact with a person named Calib, who is not connected to the Jackson case, Holloman said.


Scott Sappington Jr. had just dropped off his siblings at their grandmother's house when he was gunned down from point-blank on July 23, 2008. The 16-year-old junior at Sumner Academy was on his way to work at a McDonald's when he was killed by someone trying to steal his car at 10th and Laurel in Kansas City, Kansas.

KCK police pinne...d Sappington's killing on 13-year-old Keaire Brown. A jury found 15-year-old Brown guilty today of first-degree murder and attempted aggravated robbery (she was initially charged in juvenile court, but the state of Kansas won a motion to try her as an adult).

KCTV5 did a heart-wrenching interview with Brown's mother, Cheryl Brown, who told the TV station that "her daughter may have been a pawn for area gang members," who convinced her daughter to take the fall.

KCTV5 reported that witnesses told police that they saw a girl wearing bloody clothing walking down the street. One of the witnesses was a 6-year-old, who later testified that Brown gave her bloody clothes to a group of children to discard. Police later traced the clothes back to Brown.

Brown's sentencing is scheduled for January 20, 2011. She's facing life in prison. Until she's 18 years old, Brown will serve it in Wyandotte County's juvie detention center. Once she's 18, she'll be transferred to an adult prison.
See more


In America, the federal government and 44 states impose LWOP for children, but only 39, in fact, use it. These sentencing policies for children are barbaric. ....The rush to try more and more children as adults began in the 1980s when the country was gripped by hysteria about an adolescent crime wave that never materialized. Joe Sullivan, the petitioner in Sullivan v. Florida, was sentenced to life without parole in 1989 — when he was just 13 — after a questionable sexual battery conviction. His two older accomplices testified against the younger, mentally impaired boy. The case of Terrance Graham a learning disabled child — born to crack-addicted parents — Mr. Graham was on probation in connection with a burglary committed when he was 16 when he participated in a home invasion. He, too, had older accomplices. He was never convicted of the actual crime but was given life without parole for violating the conditions of his probation. In one of the most shocking cases of the courtroom on record, two Pennsylvania judges have been charged with taking millions of dollars in kickbacks to send teenagers to two privately run youth detention centers.
This is a case where literally thousands of kids lives were tossed aside in order for a couple of judges to make some money. Among the offenders were teenagers who were locked up for months for stealing loose change from cars, writing a prank note and possessing drug paraphernalia. Many had never been in trouble before. Some were imprisoned even after probation officers recommended against it.
Troubled children in need of self honest assistence and support that went unnoticed. It is insupportable to conclude, as the courts did, that children who committed crimes when they are so young were beyond rehabilitation. The laws under which they were convicted violate basic human rights standards as well as violated the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.
There is widespread agreement among child development researchers that young people who commit crimes are very likely to reform their behavior and have a great chance of rehabilitation. How can we hold these children accountable when we ourselves are not accountable for what we have accepted and allowed to exist within this world. Stand Up and face the shit that is going on within and as our world. Much change is necessary that requires self direction and self responsibility within self forgiveness and self honesty!
Support an Equal Money System for All from Birth till Death as a Solution- to reduce behaviours related to our current broken money system.
In America, the federal government and 44 states impose LWOP for children, but only 39, in fact, use it. Here's the Breakdown:
-- Indiana allows it from age 16; -- permitting it from age 15 are Louisiana and Washington; -- from age 14 are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, North Dakota, Ohio, Utah, and Virginia; -- from age 13 are Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Mississippi, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Wyoming; -- from age 12 are Missouri and Montana; -- from age 10 are South Dakota and Wisconsin; -- Nevada allows it from age 8; and -- 13 states permit it at any age, including Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Nebraska, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia. For News Sources: see description of video and Interactive State map link to see your locaton.
Join us in Discussion for Solutions
Background Music: A Piano, by Fidelis Spies, Desteni Chill
News Sources: - Interactive map

Monday, 18 April 2011

Advocates for Abandoned Adolescents

Advocates for Abandoned Adolescents was created to raise awareness of the irresponsible Juvenile sentencing laws. We advocate for any child sentneced under 18yrs of age, this means that many of our children are of cause adults now, we all age after all. We are a non-profit organisation, all proceeds raised would go directly to the child in who's name the donation was made, we stand by our beliefs that Juveniles have been poorly represented and often their cases go unheard or dismissed by the public at large. We stand by our beliefs to bring these children into the public eye, to shine a bright light upon their personal stories/cases and to assist each child with support in whichever area is required, as they are as individual and unique as any child in the world today. If you think you could be an Advocate of a Juvenile or are the parent/sibling/partner of a Juvenile defendant we welcome you to our cause and offer you a platform to bring much needed awareness to your fight.

A.A.A. California Chapter


MLK to psychologists: We need creative maladjustment

On creative maladjustment

There are certain technical words in every academic discipline which soon become stereotypes and even clich├ęs. Every academic discipline has its technical nomenclature. You who are in the field of psychology have given us a great word. It is the word maladjusted. This word is probably used more than any other word in psychology. It is a good word; certainly it is good that in dealing with what the word implies you are declaring that destructive maladjustment should be destroyed. You are saying that all must seek the well-adjusted life in order to avoid neurotic and schizophrenic personalities.

But on the other hand, I am sure that we will recognize that there are some things in our society, some things in our world, to which we should never be adjusted. There are some things concerning which we must always be maladjusted if we are to be people of good will. We must never adjust ourselves to racial discrimination and racial segregation. We must never adjust ourselves to religious bigotry. We must never adjust ourselves to economic conditions that take necessities from the many to give luxuries to the few. We must never adjust ourselves to the madness of militarism, and the self-defeating effects of physical violence.

In a day when Sputniks, Explorers and Geminies are dashing through outer space, when guided ballistic missiles are carving highways of death through the stratosphere, no nation can finally win a war. It is no longer a choice between violence and nonviolence, it is either nonviolence or nonexistence. As President Kennedy declared, 'Mankind must put an end to war, or war will put an end to mankind.' And so the alternative to disarmament, the alternative to a suspension in the development and use of nuclear weapons, the alternative to strengthening the United Nations and eventually disarming the whole world, may well be a civilization plunged into the abyss of annihilation. Our earthly habitat will be transformed into an inferno that even Dante could not envision.

Thus, it may well be that our world is in dire need of a new organization, The International Association for the Advancement of Creative Maladjustment. Men and women should be as maladjusted as the prophet Amos, who in the midst of the injustices of his day, could cry out in words that echo across the centuries, 'Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream'; or as maladjusted as Abraham Lincoln, who in the midst of his vacillations finally came to see that this nation could not survive half slave and half free; or as maladjusted as Thomas Jefferson, who in the midst of an age amazingly adjusted to slavery, could scratch across the pages of history, words lifted to cosmic proportions, 'We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal. That they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights. And that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.' And through such creative maladjustment, we may be able to emerge from the bleak and desolate midnight of man's inhumanity to man, into the bright and glittering daybreak of freedom and justice.

I have not lost hope. I must confess that these have been very difficult days for me personally. And these have been difficult days for every civil rights leader, for every lover of justice and peace.

King was assassinated seven months after giving this speech at the American Psychological Association's 1967 convention. - created at


ADVOCATES FOR ABANDONED ADOLESCENTS Mission Statement The Juvenile Justice in the United States is certainly in dire need of America's undivided focus and attention, for far too many children are being led into the adult court system and discarded into the adult prison system unnecessarily. So I commend and applaud your efforts to bring a degree of responsibility to the juvenile justice Laws. Though I think it's important that America's focus and attention also include the teenagers that were waived and sentenced to long terms of imprisonment in the adult prison system 15/16/17/years ago. I think Justice for these Juvenile offenders would include Liz Ryan, the Director for the campaign for youth justice called the 2nd look Legislation. '2nd Look' means youth serving long sentences get their sentences reviewed at some point in their incarceration. Would you consider 2nd look Legislation? - created at

Kent juvenile prison 'improving' but concerns remain

A Kent young offenders' institute described as "seriously unsafe" in 2009 has made some improvements but is still in "intensive care".
Prison inspectors who made a surprise visit to Cookham Wood, in Rochester, in October said the facility was safer but there were still concerns.
Problems included bullying, assaults on staff and failings at a unit set up to manage the most troubled inmates.
In 2009 a report said the facility was "seriously unsafe".
Two months after the most recent prison inspection specially trained prison officers had to be deployed to deal with a disturbance at Cookham Wood.
'Off critical list' About a dozen teenage inmates threatened staff at the facility during an incident which the Prison Service said lasted about eight hours.
The latest report said staff relied on "formal processes" because they were "anxious about engaging individually with young people" and a "significant number of young people never received any visits".
Chief inspector of prisons, Nick Hardwick, said: "The YJB [Youth Justice Board], NOMS [National Offender Management Service] and ministers should be in no doubt that although Cookham Wood may be off the critical list, it should remain in intensive care and needs intelligent support if that progress is to be sustained.
"The establishment is safer than it was when we carried out our last inspection, but staff and management need support and stability to build on that to deliver consistently effective relationships with young people.
"The safety of the prison will depend on these relationships, and they are the key ingredient in helping the young people move to law-abiding and useful adult lives."
Frances Done, chair of the Youth Justice Board, which places offenders at the institution, said: "We are pleased that the chief inspector has recognised the recent progress made at Cookham Wood.
Whilst the improvements are welcome, the YJB recognise there is still more to be done. The YJB will continue to support the Governor and staff in building upon the progress identified in the report and addressing those areas that require improvement.
"We are also committed to listening to the view of young people to drive improvements at the centre."
Penelope Gibbs, of the Prison Reform Trust said while it was reassuring that some progress had been made there was much to be concerned about.
She added: "More than a quarter of boys received no visits from friends and family, fewer than half could shower every day, boys with disabilities 'reported disturbingly high levels of bullying' and routine strip-searching on arrival was ongoing, despite recommendations to the contrary.
"While there have been some improvements, the prison is still not judged to be sufficiently safe, yet is operating at near capacity."

Friday, 15 April 2011

Assembly Considers Juvenile Prison Reform

LAS VEGAS -- Nevada lawmakers are taking first steps towards juvenile justice reform.

More than 100 children as young as 13 are serving sentences in adult jails. Supporters of a new bill say this situation makes them targets for abuse and a life of continued crime.

Assembly Bill 272 would raise the age children can be tried as adults from 14 for 16 for everything except murder and attempted murder.

Michael Lawson came out to the Grant Sawyer Building on Saturday to help convince lawmakers to support the bill.

The 21 year-old was sentenced to three years in prison at the age of 16 for robbing a grocery store

"Juvenile system is more aimed at helping you with your mind helping rehabilitate you. Within the adult system there's no hope left for you, they have few programs," said Lawson.

Esther Brown is the founder of "The Embracing Project," an organization dedicated to improving the lives of youth.

She says kids who commit crimes need to be placed in juvenile facilities where they have access to treatment and education.

"I always ask people the same question , what if this was your child? What would you do? Would you put him in prison full of 40 and 50 year old men where they can get raped and harassed or will you try to get them help," said Brown.

After Saturday's hearing Assembly Bill 272 will be discussed again and must pass out of the state assembly before moving onto the Senate.

Two juvenile detention centers could close in SE Mo.

Monday, 11 April 2011

A.A.A. California Chapter

A.A.A. California Chapter - created at

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Paul Henry Gingerich ... the other side of the story

A 12 year old boy found himself in a horrible situation that he tried to handle without the help of adults. He is not a bad person ... on the contrary, the boy tried to stop the murder of his friend's step-father. But the media never told his side. And he wasn't given a chance to really explain what did happen on that day ... until now.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Mom: Teen robbed marijuana dispensary to help with rent 68Share By KOMO Staff

ory Updated: Apr 5, 2011 at 7:00 AM PDT
Mom: Teen robbed marijuana dispensary to help with rent
Malik Heckard, right, is escorted by his defense attorney as he appears for his arraignment in King County Superior Court on April 4, 2011.
SEATTLE - A man and one of two teens charged in the armed robbery of a medical marijuana dispensary in West Seattle pleaded not guilty Monday afternoon, and the mother of one of the defendants said her son was scared and trying to help his family out of a financial crisis.

Donshae D. Sims, 24, faces a sentence range of 15 to 17 years in prison, and Malik D. Heckard, 16, who is charged as an adult, faces a range of 14 to 16 years if convicted. Both pleaded not guilty Monday.

The third defendant, who is 15, was charged in juvenile court and is awaiting a hearing to see if he too will be charged as an adult. He could be sentenced to 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 years at a juvenile facility if convicted as a juvenile, or 14-16 years if tried and convicted as an adult.

All three have been charged with first-degree robbery, first-degree burglary and unlawful possession of a firearm.

Malik's mother said their family ran into financial trouble she thinks her son participated in the robbery because was trying to help the family.

"I've been employed at a job for six years and I got fired... a few days before (the robbery) happened," Kanesha Heckard said.

"We were also facing an eviction because I was fired and we didn't have any way to pay my rent, and (Malik) was scared. He saw the stress in me, and... I think he just wanted some money to help me."

Malik's father Malcom Reyes said his son doesn't have a prior criminal record.

"He's scared, but he's just dealing with it," Reyes said. "He was under a whole lot of stress and he made a mistake."

Seattle police say that the robbery happened March 19 at a medical marijuana shop on the 5400 block of California Avenue SW. The three robbers walked into the shop, but were asked to leave by the shop's employees when they determined that the three weren't there to buy anything.

In response, police say, the men pulled out handguns, and then tied up the three employees and two customers in the store. They robbed the five victims of their wallets, stole some marijuana and ran out of the store, according to police.

The store employees managed to free themselves and caught two of the robbers a few blocks from the store.

Officers who arrived at the scene arrested the two men and the third suspect was caught a short time later.

Police recovered the stolen wallets and all of the stolen marijuana, along with two handguns.

The 15-year-old who was charged is in juvenile custody, and Sims and Heckard are being held in the King County Jaill

"(Malik) is a football player and well-liked in school," Kanesha Heckard said. "You don't run around doing negative things, that's not him. He just made a mistake because of the pressure he was under.

"If I could, I'd do the time for him."

Friday, 8 April 2011

Discussion on Cyntonia Brown, a young woman serving a life sentence for a crime she committed at 16 by JJ Matters in Youth

Listen to internet radio with JJ Matters on Blog Talk Radio
We will speak with Ellenette Brown, the adoptive mother of Cyntonia Brown, a young woman who is currently serving a life sentence for a murder she committed when she was 16. Also joining us will be Daniel H. Birman, director of "Me Facing Life: Cyntonia's Story." Join us as we speak to Ellenette and Daniel about Cyntonia's tragic story.

UPDATE: Juvenile Justice Experts Say Sheriff Using Illegal Scared Straight Program Written by Cameron Steele

The Anniston Star has this followup on the Alabama sheriff under investigation by the FBI after allegedly using manual force on a juvenile.
A Calhoun County, Al., Sheriff’s Office program for youthful offenders and suspended-from-school teenagers to work in the county jail sounds remarkably similar to programs banned by federal and state law, officials say.
Those programs, commonly called “scared straight” or “shock incarceration” programs, became popular in the 1970s as a way to scare or shock youthful offenders or juveniles prone to misbehaving into more appropriate behavior, a policy expert at the Washington D.C.-based Coalition for Juvenile Justice said.
But a range of state and national juvenile-justice officials said that years of research have proven the scared straight concept to be in error; those same officials say that such programs are violations of the federal and Alabama laws, which prohibit youthful offenders from being detained or confined in adult corrections facilities.
And all of those officials say the description of a Calhoun County program jointly run by the Sheriff’s Office and Family Links, Inc., a children’s behavior task force for the county, falls under the umbrella of those legally questionable programs.
Read more:Anniston Star – Legality of jail program questioned
Read more of JJIE’s Scared Straight coverage here and here.
Juvenile Justice Experts Say Sheriff Using Illegal Scared Straight Program

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Why Juvenile Justice Reform Appeals to Conservatives, and More: Roundup | Blog: News & Information

Juvenile justice reform lines up very well with conservative values, argues Marc Levin of the Texas Public Policy Foundation. That story more in this weekly roundup from Reclaiming Futures of stories on the juvenile justice system and adolescent substance abuse treatment.

Juvenile Justice System - Resources for Graduated Sanctions and Incentives

Resources on graduated sanctions and incentives for youth in juvenile drug courts and juvenile justice systems by juvenile probation officers, treatment providers, and others. Resources shared courtesy of National Council on Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) and Reclaiming Futures.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Sara Kruzan - Break the Silence on Human Trafficking Victims

There are approximately 225 juveniles in California serving a life without parole sentence. California has the worst racial disparity rate in the nation for sentencing juveniles to life without parole. Black youth are given this sentence at 22 times the rate of white youth.

A number of California cases have recently been highlighted in the media due to the background of the juveniles who received the sentences, and the circumstances surrounding their crimes. One such case involves Sara Kruzan, now 31. She was raised in Riverside by her abusive, drug-addicted mother. Sara met her father only three times in her life because he was in prison.

Since the age of 9, Sara suffered from severe depression for which she was hospitalized several times. At the age of 11, she met a 31-year-old man named G.G. who molested her and began grooming her to become a prostitute. At age 13, she began working as a child prostitute for G.G. and was repeatedly molested by him. At age 16, Sara was convicted of killing him. She was sentenced to prison for the rest of her life despite her background and a finding by the California Youth Authority that she was amendable to treatment offered in the juvenile system.

"Life without parole means absolutely no opportunity for release," said Senator Yee. (of California) "It also means minors are often left without access to programs and rehabilitative services while in prison. This sentence was created for the worst of criminals that have no possibility of reform and it is not a humane way to handle children. While the crimes they committed caused undeniable suffering, these youth offenders are not the worst of the worst."

"As a society we've learned a lot since the time we started using life without parole for children," said Elizabeth Calvin, a children's rights advocate with Human Rights Watch. "We now know that this sentence provides no deterrent effect. While children who commit serious crimes should be held accountable, public safety can be protected without subjecting youth to the harshest prison sentence possible."

*Written by Michelle Quann - created at

Kenny G ft. Yolanda Adams - I believe I can fly

Friday, 1 April 2011

Town Relies On Troubled Youth Prison For Profits

First in a two-part series on private prisons
Prisons are filled with stress and violence; without proper supervision they can revert to primitive places. That's what happened at Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility in Mississippi, an NPR news investigation has determined.
As the nation's largest juvenile prison, Walnut Grove houses 1,200 boys and young men in a sprawling one-story complex ringed by security fences about an hour's drive east of Jackson. The State of Mississippi pays a private corrections company to run the prison.
NPR's investigation found that allegations swirling around the prison raise the fundamental question of whether profits have distorted the mission of rehabilitating young inmates.
An Environment Of Violence
Walnut Grove "started out and it was formed to be something good for youth, but somewhere down the line it took a turn for the worse," said former inmate Clayborne Henderson, 27. He spent two years for kidnapping in "the Grove," as they call it, between his 19th and 21st birthdays. Now he's working at a car wash and taking community college courses in Jackson, trying to straighten out his life.
Via @nprnews: Town Relies On Troubled Youth Prison For Profits |

Kids Behind Bars

This young convict was sent to an adult facility, leaving him alone in a sea of predators and violent offenders.

Lockdown: Kids Behind Bars :
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