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16-Year Old Got Life Without Parole...

Discussion in 'Jukwaa la Sheria (The Law Forum)' started by X-PASTER, Nov 20, 2009.

  1. X-PASTER

    X-PASTER Moderator

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    Nov 20, 2009
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    Ugly Truth: Most U.S. Kids Sentenced to Die In Prison Are Black

    By Liliana Segura, AlterNet.

    The U.S. stands alone in the world in condemning thousands of juveniles to life without parole. And race is a huge factor. Will the Supreme Court even consider it?

    Despite suffering severe bouts of depression as a child, until then, Kruzan was a good student, an "overachiever" in her words. But her mother was abusive and addicted to drugs; as for her father, she had only met him a couple of times. So, more and more, GG filled in.

    "GG was there -- sometimes," she said. "He would talk to me and take me out and give me all these lavish gifts and do all these things for me …" Before long, he started talking to her about sex, giving her his expert advice on what men were really like and telling her that she didn't "need to give it up for free."

    Unbeknownst to her, GG was grooming Kruzan to be a prostitute. When she was 13, he raped her. "He uses his manhood to hurt," Kruzan recalls, "Like, break you in. I guess."

    Kruzan worked for GG as a prostitute for three years. The hours were 6 p.m. until 5:30 or 6 in the morning. She and "the other girls" would come back and hand over their earnings to him. "He was, like, married to all of us I guess," she says. " … Everything was his."

    After years of prostitution and sexual abuse, when she was 16, Kruzan snapped: She killed GG, was arrested and convicted of first-degree murder. Despite attempts by her lawyer to have her sentenced as a juvenile, the judge described her crime as "well thought-out" and sentenced her to life without parole.

    "My judge told me that I lacked moral scruples," she recalls, a term she did not know the meaning of.

    But the meaning of her sentence was all too clear. Life without parole, she says, "means I'm gonna die here."

    'These Children Were Literally Lost In Adult Prison'

    A few years ago, Sara Kruzan's story grabbed the attention of California State Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, who introduced legislation to abolish the sentence of life without the possibility of parole for youth offenders. The bill was no get-out-of-jail pass; under his legislation, a juvenile who committed a felony before the age of 18 would serve a minimum of 25 years before being eligible to go before a parole board (also not a get-out-of-jail pass).

    Yee is also a child psychologist. When it comes to judging the actions of teenagers versus those of adults, he argues, "the neuroscience is clear; brain maturation continues well through adolescence, and thus impulse control, planning and critical-thinking skills are still not yet fully developed."

    Condemning teenagers to die in jail, then, means curtailing the lives of potentially productive members of society. "Children have a greater capacity for rehabilitation than adults," Yee said. Anyway, didn't California's prison system rename itself the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation?

    In politics, however, punitive almost always wins out -- particularly in California, where "three strikes" laws have led to a prison crisis unparalleled anywhere else in the country. Yee's bill met intense political resistance and eventually died.

    This past February, he introduced a new, watered-down bill that, instead of eliminating life without parole for juveniles would provide a review of a youth offender's sentence after 10 years.

    In 2005, Human Rights Watch published an unprecedented study, "The Rest of Their Lives: Life without Parole for Child Offenders in the United States," which found "at least 2,225 people incarcerated in the United States who have been sentenced to spend the rest of their lives in prison for crimes they committed as children." Today, the number is even higher: 2,574.

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