Tuesday, 29 November 2011

United States Must Halt Life Without Parole Sentences for Children, says Amnesty International

Amnesty International Press Release
Under Embargo Until
Wednesday, November 30, 2011 at 12:00 AM EST

United States Must Halt Life Without Parole Sentences for Children, says Amnesty International

Human Rights Organization Details Stories of Three Young Offenders From Louisiana, Illinois and North Carolina, in New Juvenile Justice Report

Louisiana Case to be Featured in Amnesty International’s Global Write-a-Thon

Contact: Gwen Fitzgerald, gfitzgerald@aiusa.org, 202-509-8194

(Washington, D.C.) -- Authorities in the United States must ban the imposition of life without parole sentences against children and review the cases of more than 2,500 prisoners currently serving such sentences to bring the sentences into line with international law, Amnesty International said today in a new report.

"In the United States, people under 18 cannot vote, buy alcohol or lottery tickets or consent to most forms of medical treatment, but they can be sentenced to die in prison for their actions. This needs to change,” said Natacha Mension, U. S. campaigner at Amnesty International (AI).

Children as young as 11 at the time of the crime have faced life imprisonment without parole in the United States – the only country in the world to impose this sentence on children.

Amnesty International’s 34-page report 'This is where I’m going to be when I die': Children facing life imprisonment without the possibility of release in the United States, illustrates the issue through the stories of Christi Cheramie, Jacqueline Montanez and David Young.

In the United States, life without parole can be imposed on juvenile offenders as a mandatory punishment – without consideration of mitigating factors such as history of abuse or trauma, degree of involvement in the crime, mental health status, or amenability to rehabilitation.

"We are not excusing crimes committed by children or minimizing their consequences, but the simple reality is that these sentences ignore the special potential for rehabilitation and change that young offenders have," said Mension.

In May 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court said life without parole is "an especially harsh punishment for a juvenile," as the young offender will serve, on average, more years and a greater percentage of his life in prison than an older offender. "A 16-year-old and a 75-year-old each sentenced to life without parole receive the same punishment in name only," the Court said.

Eighteen months after prohibiting this sentence for non-homicide crimes committed by under-18-year-olds, on November 8, 2011, the Supreme Court agreed to consider this issue in relation to crimes involving murder. It will not issue a decision until the second quarter of 2012 at the earliest.

The U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, which entered into force more than two decades ago, expressly prohibits the imposition of life imprisonment without the possibility of release for offenses, however serious, committed by people under 18 years old. All countries except the United States and Somalia have ratified the Convention.

"It is long past time for the United States to ratify the Convention without reservations or other limiting conditions and to fully implement its prohibition on the use of life imprisonment without release against children, including in relation to the cases of those already sentenced," said Mension.

On November 30, Christi Cheramie, who is serving life without parole in Louisiana, will submit an application for executive clemency with the state Board of Pardons. Christi was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of release in 1994, when she was 16 years old for the killing of her 18-year-old fiancĂ©’s great aunt.

She pleaded guilty just before her trial in adult court began, fearing she could be sentenced to death if the trial went ahead. Her guilty plea prevents her from directly appealing her conviction or sentence.

A psychiatrist who saw Christi prior to her trial said that she was a "depressed, dependent, and insecure" 16-year-old who "seems to have been fearful of crossing" her fiancĂ©, who she maintains committed the crime. Christi’s childhood was marked by sexual abuse. At the age of 13, she was hospitalized in a psychiatric clinic after trying to commit suicide on at least two occasions.

After spending half of her life in prison, Christi believes she has changed in many ways. She has obtained a high school equivalency diploma, a degree in agricultural studies, and teaches a number of classes at the prison. A warden has stated that she is "worthy of a second chance." View a video of Christi’s grandmother and her conversation with Christi here:

Christi will be among 15 people for whom Amnesty International activists worldwide will be taking action as part of Write for Rights – the Global Write-a-Thon on December 3 - 11. Hundreds of thousands of people worldwide will be educated about Christi’s case and asked to call on Governor Jindal to help. In the United States, more than 35,000 people are expected to participate in this annual event. http://www.amnestyusa.org/writeathon

Additionally, on Dec. 3 in New Orleans, Amnesty International USA, the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana, the Louisiana Interfaith Conference and Citizens for Second Chances will hold an event from 4 to 7 pm with a candlelight vigil, music and speakers focusing on Christi’s case at St. Anna’s Episcopal Church, 1313 Esplanade Avenue. For more information visit www.jjpl.org

A clemency campaign is also pending for a second person whose case is profiled in AI’s report. Jacqueline Montanez is the only woman in Illinois serving a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for a crime committed as a child. A victim of child abuse, Jacqueline began abusing drugs and alcohol at the age of nine.  Jacqueline’s abuser was her step-father, a gang leader, who also involved her in the drug trade as a very young child and groomed her to be his “little soldier.” After running away from home and joining a rival gang, she and two older women shot and killed two adult male members of her step-father’s gang.

Because she was 15 at the time of the crime and charged with first degree murder, she was automatically tried in adult criminal court. This denied the court system the opportunity of conducting a transfer hearing to determine whether her case ought to have been tried in juvenile court where factors such as her young age, home environment or amenability to rehabilitation would have been considered. Jacqueline was also automatically sentenced to life without parole due to her conviction; the sentencing court had no discretion to consider her history, her age, the circumstances of the offense or her potential for rehabilitation.

Now 35 years old, she expresses deep remorse for her actions and believes that she has grown into a very different person. She has obtained a high school equivalency diploma and has become a certified trainer of service dogs for disabled people. She grieves for her victims and the pain that their families have suffered.

In Illinois, 80 percent of children in prison for life without parole received mandatory sentences; about 82 percent are prisoners of color. That number is even higher in Cook County, where the Montanez case originated. These findings were published by the Illinois Coalition on the Fair Sentencing of Children in its 2008 report Categorically Less Culpable, Children Sentenced to Life Without Parole in Illinois. http://www.law.northwestern.edu/cfjc/jlwop/documents/JLWOP_Report.pdf

Jacqueline’s petition for executive clemency will be submitted to the Illinois governor and the Prisoner Review Board in January 2012.

David Young is one of two teenagers arrested and charged for the murder of Charles Welch in 1997. He was automatically charged in adult criminal court as required by North Carolina law for any criminal offense committed by anyone age 16 or older. Young’s co-defendant, who shot the victim, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 19 to 23 years in prison. David was convicted of first-degree felony murder and was sentenced to life without parole.

Young grew up in a hostile community environment where his parents abused drugs and his stepfather physically abused him and his mother. Now 32 years old, Young obtained his high school equivalency diploma and is in solitary confinement after being stabbed by two prisoners.

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom and dignity are denied.

For a copy of the report, 'This is where I’m going to be when I die': Children facing life imprisonment without the possibility of release in the United States, email Gwen Fitzgerald at gfitzgerald@aiusa.org. Photos are available online athttps://adam.amnesty.org/asset-bank/action/quickSearch?keywords=newsflash+LWOP. For more information, please visit: www.amnestyusa.org.

Monday, 28 November 2011

FFV Doc: When Kids Get Life

St. Louis judge gives kids chance for success

Russ Mitchell profiles Jimmie Edwards, a no-nonsense St. Louis judge who opened the Innovative Concept Academy for children who have been expelled and appear destined for a life of crime.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Teen Crime - Adult Time Truth Squad KBOI 2 - Boise News

15-year-old Trevor Reizenstein learned he'll be in custody for at least the next 10 years.

In August, Reizenstein pleaded guilty to the 2007 attempted murder of a 5-year-old girl in Nampa.

Reizenstein was just 12 when the crime happened, but despite that, he was charged as an adult. He's believed to be the youngest defendant ever to be charged as an adult in Idaho.

In a plea deal, he admitted to attempted murder and battery. That allowed him to avoid a trial, and the possibility of having to register as a sex offender.

"There are several things we think about," said John Bujak, Canyon County prosecutor. "First and foremost (it's the) protection of society."

In Idaho, some crimes involving children 14 and up are automatically prosecuted in the adult system including murder, rape, and robbery. But prosecutors had a choice to make when it came to Reizenstein.

"I don't think anytime you're dealing with criminal justice you can have any bright line rules," Bujak said. "Sometimes the legislature will give us bright line rules, but when discretion is involved, I think you have to look at each individual case."

Pamela Reizenstein, Trevor's mother, isn't making excuses for her son's crime.

"Whatever he said he did was terrible. I've got a little girl myself, and that was a friend of mine also," says Reizenstein. "It hurts, it hurts really bad."

But Reizenstein doesn't think anyone should pay an adult price for a crime committed at the age of 12. "I still think a child's a child," she says, "but that's not our say."

Dr. Tom Young, with the Warm Springs Counseling Center believes trying kids as adults opens up other philosophical arguments. "To me personally, if I can believe that I can treat him as an adult at age 12, I've got to start looking at a set of laws that don't let people be adults for certain things until they're 18, for certain other things 16, other things 21," says Young.

Young says looking at the factors that led up to a child's actions might be more valuable to society than punishment.

Pamela Reizenstein does not believe her son was sexually abused himself. "Trevor was experimenting with certain things," his mother says, "but as far as anything sexual, no, not at all."

Bujak says the decision to prosecute a 12-year-old as an adult was difficult, but called the safety of society the overriding factor. He also believes Reizenstein will have a chance of rehabilitation spending the first part of his sentence in juvenile detention.

"Here's a situation where we have a young man who's proven to be a danger to the community," says Bujack, "but there's also going to be some focus on rehabilitation and a chance to see if he can be reintegrated into society with continued supervision after he becomes an adult."

At his sentencing, the teen addressed the family of his victim, and apologized. "I really am sorry for what I did to your daughter. I really tried to do the counseling," said Reizenstein. "People make mistakes. I just hope I don't make another mistake. I don't know what else to say."

Pamela said she has encouraged her son to make amends for his crime. "I just asked him to ask God for forgiveness and also go deep within himself, and from the bottom of his heart apologize when the time is right for him," she says. "I can't force him to do that."

Reizenstein's punishment includes a blended sentence, which was part of the plea deal. The blended sentence means Reizenstein will be in juvenile custody until he's 21. At that time, he could be placed on probation, or a judge could order him to serve out the rest of his sentence in adult prison.

Juveniles Don't Belong in Adult Prisons

Jails and prisons are dangerous places for anybody, but especially for children and teens. Many of these institutions house vicious predators who have been locked up for brutal violent crimes. Yet on any given day, approximately 9,500 juveniles under the age of 18 are locked up in adult penal institutions. Children as young as 15 can be prosecuted as adults in many states without review by a judge or a court hearing.
The Campaign for Youth Justice report, "Jailing Juveniles: The Dangers of Incarcerating Youth in Adult Jails in America," released in November 2007, outlines the challenges to keeping children safe in adult jails. It catalogs the numerous jurisdictions throughout the United States where teens are placed in great danger because of the variety of flawed policies and laws governing juvenile incarceration. In 44 states and the District of Columbia, juveniles as young as 14 can be tried in the adult criminal system. Forty states either permit or mandate the jailing of young people in adult facilities before trial.
The report argues that children and teens should not be held to the same standard of accountability for their actions as grown-ups, citing research that shows the developmental differences between adolescents and adults. These findings indicate that the prefrontal cortex, which governs the "executive functions" of reasoning, advanced thinking and impulse control, is one of the last areas of the brain to mature.
In numerous cases, there is no public safety justification for locking up these young people in adult prisons. Juveniles may be held in adult jails for months or even years, although most of them are not charged with a violent crime, and many will not be convicted of any crime. Nevertheless, they languish behind bars with dangerous criminals and are at great risk of being raped and beaten. Many are pushed to attempt suicide.
As in the administration of many laws in this country, Black and Latino children and teens end up in adult facilities in numbers disproportionately higher than their representation in the general population. Nationally, according to the Campaign for Youth Justice report, three out of four young people admitted to adult prison in 2002 were either Black or Latino.
At issue is the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974 (JJDPA). When originally enacted, it was designed to prevent young people from going to adult jails and prisons and to separate young people from adults while incarcerated. These protections were called "Sight and Sound Separation"--a young person would be beyond the sight and sound of the adult inmates. Over time, however, these provisions have been eroded and do not apply to young people being tried in the adult criminal system.
Now judges in juvenile courts are often excluded from the decision to prosecute children and teens as adults. In many states, these decisions are made at the discretion of prosecutors, no matter how minor the infraction might be. The JJDPA does not provide a level playing field for Black and Latino youths who are more likely than White youths to end up in adult prisons and jails.
We have an opportunity and responsibility to do better in our country. Placing juveniles in adult jails and prisons is an appalling injustice -- and it doesn't work to reduce crime. With the JJDPA set to be reauthorized this year, Congress must amend the Act to ban the placement of children or teens in adult jails or prisons no matter what court hears their case. This is the right and sensible thing to do.
For more information about the Children's Defense Fund, go towww.childrensdefense.org.
Marian Wright Edelman is President of the Children's Defense Fund and its Action Council whose Leave No Child Behind® mission is to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities.
Mrs. Edelman will release her new book, The Sea Is So Wide and My Boat Is So Small: Charting a Course for the Next Generation, in September 2008. The book will be a look at what's been done and what still needs to be done to make our world safe and fair for all children.

The Costs of Confinement: Why Good Juvenile Justice Policies Make Good Fiscal Sense

Beyond Scared Straight -Juvenile Justice Reform: The Costs of Confinement: Why Good Juvenile Justice Policies Make Good Fiscal Sense | Juvenile Justice | Scoop.it
Approximately 93,000 young people are held in juvenile justice facilities across
the United States.
Seventy percent of these youth are held in state-funded, postadjudication, residential facilities, at an average cost of $240.99 per day per
With states facing serious budgetary constraints, it is an opportune time
for policymakers to consider ways to reduce juvenile justice spending that won’t
compromise public safety.
This policy brief details how states can see a net reduction in costs by moving
expenditures away from large, congruent care facilities (often called “training
schools”) for youth and investing in community-based alternatives. Such a
resource realignment can reap better results for communities, taxpayers, and
children. Evidence is growing that there are cost-effective policies and programs
for intervening in the lives of delinquent youth which actually improve
community safety and outcomes for children. While there is no silver bullet that
will guarantee reductions in crime, policies that include prevention and
intervention for youth in the community have been shown to have a positive
public safety benefit.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Calamari Outlet Juvenile Corrections Trailer2

Calamari Outlet Juvenile Corrections Trailer2 from Calamari Productions on Vimeo.

MTV Juvies (MTV)

MTV Juvies (MTV) from Calamari Productions on Vimeo.

Brothers by Zach Samuels

Brothers by Zach Samuels from Calamari Productions on Vimeo.

Lock Up: Pendleton Juvenile

Lock Up: Pendleton Juvenile from Calamari Productions on Vimeo.

No Place For A Child (MSNBC)

No Place For A Child (MSNBC) from Calamari Productions on Vimeo.
No Place For A Child (MSNBC)

Desirae Monique Pearson 17... Treated UNFAIR: Have a fair trial lessen the sentence and give Desirae a second chance

Desirae Monique Pearson was 17 years old at the time of her charge. There was no biracial or wide spread of age in the jury, and Desirae is biracial of Black and White the DA did not offer her a plea bargin, the DA kept bringing Desirae's race up through out the trial. The detective lied on the stand, stating "that Desirae was not on drugs", Desirae was on drugs and was not in her right state of mind when arrested she was not tested to see what was in her system, both parents feel that she should have been tested. She also seen her bestfriend and her aunt at the store the night of the incident and doesn't remember talking to them. Desirae was sentenced 50 years in prison she also DID NOT get a second chance.

http://www.change.org/petitions/t-have-a-fair-trial-lessen-the-sentence-and-give-desirae-a-second-chance?share_id=ylWXxiqqlC&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=twitter via @change

When Kids Get Life

Listen to internet radio with CrazyOldManNetwork on Blog Talk Radio

by CrazyOldManNetwork

The United States is one of the only countries

in the world that allows children under 18 to

be sentenced to life without parole. Human

Rights Watch and Amnesty International report

that more than 2,000 inmates are currently serving

life without parole in the United States for crimes

committed when they were juveniles; in the rest

of the world, there are only 12 juveniles serving

the same sentence, according to figures reported

to the United Nations' Convention on the Rights

of the Child. In When Kids Get Life.

paul henry gingerich update

Paul Henry Gingerich update

by dandailey

Since “Young Kids, Hard Time” premiered last Sunday on MSNBC, I have received a number of inquiries about just where Paul Henry Gingerich’s appeal stands. Paul Henry’s attorney Monica Foster filed our initial notice of appeal in January 2010, but since then there has been little news to share.
The reason for this is that the Kosciusko Circuit Court that originally waived Paul Henry into adult court, extracted a plea, and imposed a 30-year sentence had been extremely slow to provide a complete record of its proceedings and all the information it had considered in making its rulings. Between January 26 and September 27, Monica was obliged to file four requests before the lower court finally complied with the appellate court’s consistent orders that the complete record be provided.  
As important as this record is to Paul Henry’s appeal, it does not reveal the true story behind the killing of Philip Danner. Since we became involved in Paul Henry’s case, we have conducted the in-depth investigation that the police failed to do and we discovered the true facts behind this seemingly senseless crime which now makes all the sense in the world to us. The full story will be revealed here as Paul Henry’s appeal unfolds.
As yet the timing of his appeal is not exactly known. Monica’s brief is scheduled to be submitted to the appellate court at the beginning of next week, and several amicus briefs have already been filed. (An amicus brief is a legal argument provided by an amicus curiae who is someone, not a party to a case, who volunteers to offer information to assist a court in deciding a matter before it.) As these briefs are accepted by the court, they will be posted on the “Free Paul Henry Gingerich Discussion and Informational Forum” at http://justice4juveniles.com/index.php#8. Oral arguments before the appellate court will be scheduled thereafter, possibly as early as December but more likely in January.
Our position in the appeal is that it is unacceptable that Paul is being treated as an adult;12-year-olds are not adults, no matter how serious their offense may be. All we are seeking is a fair chance to present our case in a fair hearing before a fair judge, and to have been given adequate time to prepare. It is scandalous that Paul Henry’s original attorney was given only four days to prepare for his waiver hearing.
Paul is a good kid who made a serious mistake. He comes from a kind, loving, and supportive family. He has had no prior trouble with the law or in school. His behavior while incarcerated has been exemplary. He deserves a second chance.
And speaking of second chances… if you missed seeing “Young Kids, Hard Time,” you will have a second chance to see it tomorrow on MSNBC, Saturday, November 26 at 5pm Eastern, 4pm Central, and 2pm Pacific.
For more background information on Paul Henry’s case, please be sure to visit his website at http://www.paulhenrygingerichtrustfund.org/. If you are moved to help with some of the out-of-pocket expenses associated with his appeal, your tax-deductible contribution will be gratefully accepted through his website.
Groove of the Day 

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Demand justice for 15 y/o Josh Young

In May of 2011, 14 year old Trey Zwicker was murdered. He was found by a group of students in a ditch behind Liberty High School in Kentucky. Trey had reportedly been beaten to death, though it is unclear how long he was in the ditch or if he was actually murdered in that area.
15 year old Josh Young has been charged as an adult for the murder even though Josh's grandmother hasnamed her own son (the father of Josh Young and the stepfather of Trey) as Trey's real killer. She told the press that Josh's father "knows the whole truth about what happened that night" and has left "his son hanging" for the crime. She told the local news, "Big Josh told me at first he did it, and that's who they need to be looking at." She referred to her son as a "monster". Even Trey's own family believes that Josh's father was involved in the murder.
Despite suspicion from his mother and Trey's family, as well as an extensive criminal record that includes a kidnapping charge, assault, and a number of protective orders, the stepfather of Trey and biological father of the accused has not faced criminal charges in relation to the murder.
Instead, Josh Young was arrested after Trey's mother filed a protective order against Gouker (click here to read contents of that order) and he fled the area with his son. Before the two left, members of Trey's family contacted social services with concerns that Gouker would leave town with his son, Josh. Sure enough, the two did leave town and Gouker was subsequently arrested for kidnapping a woman and forcing her at gunpoint to drive for an hour and a half before dropping off Gouker, his son Josh, and Gouker's girlfriend. Shortly after Gouker's arrest, 15 year old Josh Young was arrested and charged with first degree murder and evidence tampering after the father implicated him in Trey's murder.
There are many problems with this case. First, Josh is being tried as an adult for Trey's murder and faces a maximum penalty of life in prison. Second, Trey's own stepfather has a criminal record, is suspected by multiple family members of being involved in the crime, and fled town after the murder. Why is a 15 year old child facing adult charges when the evidence suggests his father perpetrated the crime? If convicted in adult court, Josh could be sentenced to the maximum penalty of life in prison.
Josh Young has no criminal record. He had only been living with his father for a short time after his dad got out of prison when his stepbrother Trey was murdered. By existing accounts, Josh and Trey got along. There is no motive for him to have committed this crime and he has no history at all of violent behavior.
We, the undersigned, are asking for two things:
First, we ask that the prosecution drop their prosecution of Josh Young in adult criminal court. He is a 15 year old child without any history of violence. He is not an adult.
Second, we ask that Trey's stepfather (Josh's biological father) undergo a comprehensive investigation (click here to see past criminal charges on his record).
We also implore the state of Kentucky to avoid wrongfully prosecuting and convicted a minor child in adult court and to do everything in its power to ensure true justice for every person involved, including Trey Zwicker, Trey's family, and Josh Young.
To find out more about Josh's case and other cases involving juveniles charged in the adult criminal justice system please visit www.justice4juveniles.com.
Please share this petition on Facebook and Twitter. You may also share the Facebook page pertaining to this case: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Save-Joshua-Young/310548045640741

The Exonerated (full performance)

The Exonerated (full performance) from Culture Project on Vimeo.
Sunny Jacobs was convicted of a crime she did not commit, and lost 16 years of her life to death row. Frighteningly, Sunny's story is not unique. It could, and does happen dozens of times right here, right now, in the United States. The Exonerated tells the true tales of six innocent death row survivors in their own words. In words you won't forget.
The Exonerated played to sold-out crowds at Culture Project's 45 Bleecker Street Theater for 18 months before touring the country with featured performances by Robin Williams, Brian Dennehy, Mia Farrow, Stockard Channing, Avery Brooks, and other distinguished actors. After being seen by over 500,000 people across the country, The Exonerated was made into a Court TV movie starring Susan Sarandon, Danny Glover and Aiden Quinn. The Exonerated has raised over $800,000 for the individuals depicted in the play.

The exonerated:

Kerry Max Cook: Convicted of murdering a neighbor in Texas in 1977; exonerated in 1997.

Gary Gauger: Convicted of murdering his mother and father in Illinois in 1993; exonerated in 1996.

Robert Earl Hayes: Black Florida racetrack worker convicted of murdering a white woman in 1990; exonerated in 1997. In 2004, the real Robert Hayes plead guilty to manslaughter and arson in a 1987 rape and murder in New York. He is now serving 15 to 45 years. He is also the prime suspect in rapes in Delaware and New Jersey.

Sonia "Sunny" Jacobs: Convicted, along with common law husband, Jesse Tafero, and his friend, Walter Rhodes, of murdering Philip Black, a Florida state trooper and Donald Irwin, a visiting Canadian constable in 1976; plead no contest and was released in 1992. Tafero was executed in 1990.

David Keaton: Convicted of murdering a Florida police officer in 1971; exonerated in 1973.

Delbert Tibbs: Black Florida man convicted of murdering a white man and raping his girlfriend in 1974; exonerated in 1976. He was eventually freed in 1979 after serving time for an unrelated charge.