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Friday, May 13, 2016

Florida Teen Raped, Beaten

From the PLN in Print Archives
Lawsuit Claims Florida Teen Raped, Beaten in Prison Initiation Ritual
Florida's correctional facilities for youthful offenders are part of the state's adult prison system, and Florida incarcerates more minors than any other state in the nation. Approximately 140 juveniles are housed in detention centers on any given day, and in July 2013 that included a 17-year-old identified only as "R.W."
According to a lawsuit filed on January 17, 2016 by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and Florida Institutional Legal Services, a project of Florida Legal Services, Sumter Correctional Institution guard Bruce A. Kiser, Jr. stood by and watched while at least six youths beat and sexually assaulted R.W. in a bathroom in F Dorm as part of a prison initiation rite called a "test of heart." R.W. was cut repeatedly with sharpened pieces of barbed wire, choked unconscious and raped with a broomstick on July 24, 2013. Kiser never reported the incident.
"R.W. suffered a nightmare at Sumter," said SPLC attorney Miriam Haskell. "Unfortunately, his experience is not unique. A culture of brutality persists within the Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC), and what R.W. endured is just another example of why children do not belong in the adult prison system." See: R.W. v. Kiser, U.S.D.C. (M.D. Fla.), Case No. 5:16-cv-00045-WTH-PRL.
An investigation by the FDOC's Office of the Inspector General "noted Kiser's inaction" and recommended a review of the incident, according to the SPLC, but Kiser reportedly "was not disciplined for his role in the attack and continues to be employed as a prison guard."
The FDOC had previously settled a similar lawsuit, agreeing to pay $700,000 to a youth who was permanently injured during a "test of heart" ritual at the Lancaster Correctional Institution. Another juvenile died in 2014 from injuries sustained in a comparable incident at a Florida prison for youthful offenders.
Read more: https://www.prisonlegalnews.org/news/2016/may/5/lawsuit-claims-florida-teen-raped-beaten-prison-

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Youngest Person In Indiana

WARSAW, Ind. (WXIN) — A northern Indiana teenager who was 12 years old when he helped kill his friend's stepfather has a shot at freedom.
Paul Henry Gingerich turned 18 in February, and under a state law that bears his name, a judge can now consider three alternative sentencing options, including Gingerich's release. The judge could also transfer him to adult prison to serve the remainder of his 25-year sentence or place him on probation, home detention or work release.
Gingerich was believed to be the Youngest Person In Indiana to be sentenced as an adult. is case sparked an outcry that led to legislation known as "Paul's Law," which allows alternative sentences for juveniles who commit serious crimes.
Gingerich appeared Friday in a Kosciusko County courtroom for a hearing on those options, the Indianapolis Star reported. Gingerich's attorney, Monica Foster, is asking for probation or home detention. A decision is likely by summer.
Pendleton Juvenile Correctional Facility Superintendent Alison Yancey also testified, speaking about Gingerich's progress while in custody, including his becoming an honor student and his participation in community services.
The Indiana Department of Correction has determined that Gingerich has a low risk of re-offending.

Judge James Heuer called his progress "impressive" but also said he has to consider the victim's family, some of whom attended Friday's hearing.
http://www.aol.com/article/2016/04/25/indiana-teen-who-killed-man-at-age-12-gets-shot-at-freedom/

Kids In Maryland Serving Life

Challenge seeks to hold Maryland to constitutional requirement of (A second chance) for rehabilitated juvenile lifers
April 6, 2016
BALTIMORE — Today, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Maryland filed suit in federal district court in Baltimore contending that Maryland’s current sentencing and parole schemes unconstitutionally condemn youth to spend the rest of their lives in prison without any meaningful chance at parole and without adequate consideration of their youth.
More than 200 individuals are serving parole-eligible life sentences for offenses committed as youth in Maryland, yet no “juvenile lifer” has been paroled in the last 20 years under Maryland’s current scheme. The suit argues that in Maryland parole exists in name only, denying juveniles who have clearly demonstrated their rehabilitation any meaningful opportunity for release, as required by the Eighth Amendment.
The lawsuit is brought on behalf of the Maryland Restorative Justice Initiative, a prisoners’ rights organization that includes juvenile lifers and their families among its members, as well as three individuals subjected to mandatory life sentences for offenses committed decades ago when they were teens. Although the plaintiffs are serving “life with parole” sentences, the suit argues that in practice Maryland never paroles lifers, instead operating a system of executive clemency in which commutation of life sentences is extraordinarily rare. In this way, Maryland converts “life with parole” sentences into de facto “life without parole” sentences that constitute cruel and unusual punishment.
In the last decade, the U.S. Supreme Court, joined by other state and federal courts around the country, has repeatedly ruled that the Eighth Amendment forbids condemning kids to the most serious penalties as if they were not minors. Building on common sense, social science, and a growing body of neuroscience relating to adolescent brain development, the Court has noted that youth are more likely to make rash decisions due to their lack of maturity, are especially vulnerable to external forces, and are, by definition, still developing. As such, the Court has ruled, young offenders cannot be judged solely on the basis of their actions as adolescents. They are capable of dramatic reform and rehabilitation as they mature – so long as they are not denied hope of a second chance.
As a result of these differences, young people have diminished culpability and greater prospects for reform than their adult counterparts, and the attributes of youth must be considered when subjecting youth to the harshest punishments. The Eighth Amendment bars life sentences for all juveniles other than the (rarest) juvenile offender “whose crime reflects irreparable corruption,” the Supreme Court has said. Under these rulings, youth cannot be condemned to life in prison without a real second chance—a “meaningful” and “realistic” opportunity for release upon demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation.
In sum, government decisions about sentencing and parole must take into account the offender’s status as a child at the time of offense.
Plaintiffs in the lawsuit argue that Maryland has not adhered to this constitutional rule in either sentencing or parole decisions by mandating life sentences without consideration of youth for certain offenses and by denying youth any real opportunity for release on parole even when they have plainly demonstrated their rehabilitation.
Most of the 200 Marylanders serving life sentences were sentenced under a mandatory scheme that doesn't require judges to consider their youth. Many have now served 30 or 40 years or more and have made admirable progress to demonstrate their maturity and rehabilitation.
Yet, no “juvenile lifer” has been paroled in the last two decades. This is so in part because Maryland is one of only three states in the country that requires the Governor to personally approve parole for any lifer, a rule that has politicized parole, entrenched barriers to release, and deprived deserving individuals of meaningful consideration for release.

“For decades, Maryland has denied any hope of release to juvenile lifers who have matured, who have done everything within their power to reform and to demonstrate their rehabilitation, and who the Constitution says deserve a second chance at life outside prison walls,” said Sonia Kumar of the ACLU of Maryland. “This second chance ~ this hope of redemption that the decisions of the Supreme Court promise young people ~ is all our clients ask. ”
One of the plaintiffs in the case, Nathaniel Foster, was given a mandatory life sentence in 1983 at the age of 17, for his involvement in a failed robbery attempt despite having no prior criminal record. At the time he had graduated from high school and was preparing to enroll in college. At sentencing, the judge in his case said he had no latitude to impose any other sentence. Mr. Foster is now 50 years old. He has never had a violent infraction during his entire, three-plus decades of incarceration, has earned stellar reviews as an employee from his supervisors, and has served as a mentor and volunteer providing hospice services to ailing prisoners. Despite his longstanding and extraordinary track record, as a result of Maryland’s dysfunctional parole scheme, Mr. Foster has never been recommended for parole.
I helped raise Nathaniel and now I feel so powerless, because it seems like he’s never going to get out,” said Brenda Allen, Nathaniel Foster’s aunt, who is a former parole officer. “He has worked so hard. I wish people would look at the kinds of things he’s accomplished. I don't know what else Nathaniel can do to prove he’s ready to return to society. I'm sorry for what happened. But he was just a kid himself.”
We are not asking for anything more than the law and basic fairness require,” said Walter Lomax, Executive Director of MRJI and a former lifer himself. “The men and women of MRJI who were sentenced as juveniles are not who they were decades ago. They have progressed and matured and deserve meaningful consideration for parole, not a system in which no one is paroled regardless of his or her merit.”
The plaintiffs are represented by pro bono attorneys Barry Fleishman and Jamie Brown of Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP and ACLU of Maryland Legal Director Deborah Jeon and Staff Attorney Sonia Kumar.
Go to the ACLU of Maryland web site to download the complaint and learn more: http://aclu-md.org/

media@aclu.org
125 Broad Street 18th Floor
New York, NY 10004.
(212) 549-2666
https://www.aclu.org/news/aclu-sues-ensure-consideration-youth-status-sentencing-and-parole

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Posted: Wednesday, April 6, 2016 2:07 pm
Associated Press |
BALTIMORE (AP) — Sentencing juveniles to life in prison in Maryland is unconstitutional because they don't have a meaningful chance at parole, the American Civil Liberties Union said in a lawsuit filed Wednesday.

Young offenders don't get the second chance to which they're constitutionally entitled because no juveniles sentenced to life have been granted early release in the past 20 years, according to the lawsuit filed against Republican Gov. Larry Hogan and several officials in his administration in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.
The suit was filed on behalf of three defendants and the Maryland Restorative Justice Initiative. Hogan spokesman Matthew Clark said Wednesday that the administration is reviewing the filing.
There are about 200 inmates serving life sentences in Maryland prisons with the possibility of parole for crimes committed when they were younger than 18. Maryland is one of only three states that require the governor to approve parole for prisoner serving life.
Johnston said a system that leaves final discretion to the governor is flawed, pointing to then-Gov. Parris Glendening's announcement outside a prison in 1995 that he'd refuse on principle to grant parole for prisoners convicted of murder or rape. He said that gives prosecutors an advantage because arguing for life in prison without parole is more difficult.
If you get a life sentence, you're going to die in prison unless the governor lets you out, and not a single person has been released since the early 1990s, Johnston said.

Against Incarcerating Youth

2016 4th Annual National Week of Action Against Incarcerating Youth
admin+ February 01, 2016+
2016 4th Annual National Week of Action Against Incarcerating Youth May 15 to May 21,..

Read More
http://savethekidsgroup.org/

WEEKLY CONFERENCE CALLS FOR THE NWAAIY
Monday May 9, May 16, and May 23, 2016
9pm Eastern or 8pm Central or 7pm or Mountain 6pm Western USA

Time.
Call: 310-372-7549
Code: 898729
All are invited.

@STKgroup
General Contact: Anthony Nocella: 315-657-2911 or

nocellat@yahoo.com

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Facebook Event Page:
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https://www.facebook.com/events/791749010929011

Friday, May 6, 2016

12 years old Sentenced As An Adult

WARSAW, Ind. (WXIN) — A northern Indiana teenager who was 12 years old when he helped kill his friend's stepfather has a shot at freedom.
Paul Henry Gingerich turned 18 in February, and under a state law that bears his name, a judge can now consider three alternative sentencing options, including Gingerich's release. The judge could also transfer him to adult prison to serve the remainder of his 25-year sentence or place him on probation, home detention or work release.
Gingerich was believed to be the youngest person in Indiana to be sentenced as an adult. His case sparked an outcry that led to legislation known as "Paul's Law," which allows alternative sentences for juveniles who commit serious crimes.
Gingerich appeared Friday in a Kosciusko County courtroom for a hearing on those options, the Indianapolis Star reported. Gingerich's attorney, Monica Foster, is asking for probation or home detention. A decision is likely by summer.
Pendleton Juvenile Correctional Facility Superintendent Alison Yancey also testified, speaking about Gingerich's progress while in custody, including his becoming an honor student and his participation in community services.
The Indiana Department of Correction has determined that Gingerich has a low risk of re-offending.

Judge James Heuer called his progress "impressive" but also said he has to consider the victim's family, some of whom attended Friday's hearing.
http://www.aol.com/article/2016/04/25/indiana-teen-who-killed-man-at-age-12-gets-shot-at-freedom/

Suicide In CIW Women's Prison

http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/35834-erika-rocha-s-suicide-underscores-the-damage-that-prison-is-wreaking-on-youth

Erika Rocha's Suicide Underscores the Damage That Prison Is Wreaking on Youth
Thursday, 28 April 2016 00:00 By Colby Lenz, Truthout | Op-Ed


Erika Rocha was a 35-year-old Latina woman incarcerated at the California Institution for Women in Corona. She was found hanging in her cell on April 14, 2016, after 21 years of incarceration. Erika was only 14 years old when she was charged and convicted as an adult in Los Angeles County.
I visited Erika in prison as a volunteer legal advocate with the California Coalition for Women Prisoners. She told me about the abuses she suffered at the hands of the State of California since she was 14. With no family by her side, Erika was intimidated by police and threatened by prosecutors with a double life sentence for attempted murder. This threatened sentence was far beyond the charge, but Erika was scared and confused. Police had interrogated her with no guardian present. She waived her Miranda rights, without understanding what that meant. The district attorney aggressively prosecuted Erika, who had grossly inadequate legal representation. Under pressure, she took the blame for the older kids involved and pled to a 19-to-life sentence. When it came time for her sentencing proceedings, Erika sat in court alone. The criminal legal system is intimidating for a well-resourced adult. Imagine what it was like for Erika.

Erika's story highlights how the criminal legal system intimidates, coerces and traps people, especially low-income youth of color. As a Latina youth, it was 43 percent more likely that Erika would be prosecuted as an adult and 40 percent more likely that she would be admitted to an adult prison compared to a white youth. As a poor youth in a foster care group home, Erika faced a much higher chance of incarceration. Erika's mom died when she was young, and she had recently learned that her dad was not dead but incarcerated.

Erika was sent to a women's prison in Chowchilla at 16 years old. Prison staff placed her in solitary confinement to "protect her" until she was 17. At our first visit, she told me that guards said they put her in solitary to protect the prison because she was too young to be there. They put a neon sign on her cage door that read "Do Not Approach - Minor." This would be just one of Erika's four indefinite solitary terms.

Erika was in a mental health unit when I met her. She spoke openly about attempting suicide and about her extended time in this unit and on-and-off suicide watch. Erika suffered from dehumanizing treatment for mental health issues attributable to her incarceration as a youth. Her trauma was worsened by the isolation of incarceration, added to by further isolation in solitary (including suicide watch). Formerly incarcerated leaders of the California Coalition for Women Prisoners who supported Erika as a teenager in prison have said she sought support for her trauma since the beginning of her incarceration. Since the moment I met Erika, I worried about her ability to stay alive, because of her notable and stated vulnerability and because of the prison system's proven ability to make her life impossible.

Erika was traumatized, but she also had a fighting spirit and a sweetness and a youthfulness that I will always remember. We made plans to fight for her release. She talked about wanting to tell the world what she survived. She wanted to fight for youth justice, and when she trusted me enough to start telling her story, she wouldn't stop talking.

This past weekend, Erika's sisters and stepmother (whom she met shortly before she was arrested) shared some of her writing with me from October 1996. Erika was 15 and locked up in juvie when she wrote, "When I was very young people always left me. I felt that they didn't even love me ... I care a lot about people but they don't care about me and it hurts me. I don't know, I'm just a confused kid just like everyone says."

Erika was more than confused -- she was neglected and abused. The child welfare system, the District Attorney's Office and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation are all responsible for Erika's death. She took actions to end her life, but the criminal punishment system killed her. These institutions robbed her of any sense of her own future, even a day away from her youth parole hearing.

In the weeks leading up to her death, Erika was transferred to suicide watch at least three times. The day before her death, she was released from suicide watch and returned to a mental health unit. The California Institution for Women failed to save Erika's life the very next day.

Several of Erika's closest people are now on suicide watch. The suicide watch unit at the California Institution for Women is overcrowded and the prison has mental health crisis beds on "overflow" in the SHU ("security housing unit"), further endangering people's lives. In 2015, the suicide rate at the California Institution for Women was more than eight times the national rate for people in women's prisons and more than five times the rate for people in California prisons. In January 2016, a court-ordered suicide prevention audit by suicide expert Lindsay Hayes concluded that the prison continues to be "a problematic institution" with "poor practices" that fail to prevent suicides.

This week the California Coalition for Women Prisoners launched a petition demanding an end to the epidemic of deaths and attempted suicides at the California Institution for Women. Impacted by the trauma of incarceration, people are speaking out and demanding an end to incarceration as a cause of death. In honor of Erika, the California Coalition for Women Prisoners also seeks support for the Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act to eliminate the power of prosecutors to directly file youth under the age of 18 into adult court. We also support legislation to limit solitary confinement for youth and to ensure that youth cannot waive their Miranda rights. Since we helped start it, California should end the war on youth, with its race-, class- and gender-targeted mass incarceration.

Erika's death was preventable. She should have been loved, not caged.
Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.