Follow by Email

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Mother's Advice

Tell Your Love One NOT to BORROW, EVER from anyone while incarcerated. Go Without!!! Not even a cigarette, for the interest on the loan WILL BE higher than the loan. This is why it is important to put something on your loveones account. $2.00 is better than Nothing. They will appreciate it. Tell them not to join any gangs. Mind their own business... "Do You"... Gossip will get you hurt and/or killed. Keep Busy. Have a schedule that includes exercising, mediation, reading, job and/or school. Make the Best of the Situation. Again, I can't stress the issue of NOT BORROWING...from anyone. You never want to owe a favor. Don't Loan Out Either, or Your may be the Bank for everyone and having trouble getting them repay their debts to you. Simply Again... Tell them to do themselves...or go without.

>> If your loveone is incarcerated out of state and it is hurting you not seeing him, and it cost to much to fly. Greyhound Bus service have all types of special programs and rates. Amtrak does too. My son is in state, but is over 9 hours away from me. I have met others that live in my area and have to travel that far, we now group together and even stay over night and bunk together in a hotel to save money. If there is a will, there is a way. If you have to stay overnight, book your room on the internet, it is much cheaper... Due to the distance, we are overnighters, The room cost $79 per night, we pay $43 with the internet...for the same room... The hotel has offered us the 2 room Suite at a discounted rate. Weekend rental car service is much cheaper. You can rent a car/suv and buddy travel to visit your loveones. There are so many things to do, to get you where you want to go... It's call "If there's A Will there's A Way"... For God Is Good!

>> My son says to me too, that it is hard for him to have to leave us, he wants to go home with us. Yet, he also says, I will never tell you to stop. Some inmates have chosen not to receive visitors until they are moved closer to home, which is understandable. Bottom line, unless they refuse visitation...Go see them. Also, while visiting my son, we witness family members of another inmate, arguing during the visit...If you could see the expression the saddness on the face of the inmate having to sit and watch his two siblings argue on his time...Please, come at looking and acting your best. Leave all the negativity at home. Visits should be pleasant, loving and to put a tiny bit of normalcy in that loveones life. For, tomorrow is not promised.

>> Don't baby them. Don't condone, but don't condemn them either. If you see or hear them changing for the better, let them know. If they are not, let them know.

>>Do not become friendly with the prison personnel, however, call or write your childs counselor, let them know that you are supportive to your child rehabilation and the family is available to assist with this. Find out what programs are being offered at the prison. Know the prison rules and regulations. When ever requesting for, e.g. that your child be allowed to attend college, which must be approval by the Warden, let them know, that education is a preventive measure to prevent relapses nto criminal behavior which is commonly referred to as "Recidivism". This will go a long way. Most prison officials think that the families have thrown away the key on the inmate. Be professional and pleasant at all times. Make sure that the counselor, the Warden have updated emergency contact information. Your child won't be treated any different the other inmates, but you have put them on notice that you hold the prison and warden accountable for your childs health and safety.

>> Don't assume anything about prison life, the prison your child is incarcerated at, and don't depend on your child letting you know, they sometimes don't know themselves. Call the prison and ask. If you don't know who to ask, ask your childs counselor.

>>Stay in touch with web sites such as this one. Don't be afraid or ashame to come out about your child, your loveone, your friend being incarcerated. I know, for my son is the first person ever in my entire family to be incarcerated and to be incarcerated in a max prison for 30 years. It was truly difficult for me to come out about this. It happens to the Best of Families... We are all in this together.

>> If you want your child to have the faith, you must have it, show it, and convey it. Regardless, of how much they may not be ready for it, send them spiritualand religious information. I simply tear pages from old books, magazines and send it. One day when they are bored and feeling hopeless, trust me... God is always On Time...

>> Send them photos of family, friends, of the house and etc. Never enough photos.

>> When writing them, tell them about your day. No need to discuss prison, they know, they are living it. Be honest about your day and things that happen. My son often tells me, "Mom, I can hear you actually talking in your letters"... I keep it real.

>> Take Care Of Yourself. You can be no good to your loveone if you aren't good to yourself. Your Health Is Your Wealth...Physically, Mentally, Emotionally, Spiritually. Incarcerated persons worry about their families and close friends. My son, worries about me constantly, Just as I worry about him. So for me, I make it my business through visitations to see for my own eyes that my son is in good health, spirits and safe...vice versa. I have made a promise to my son and self, God willing, I will be at the Gate when he is Released, whether it is 5, 10, 15, 20, 30 years... I don't talk about taking care of myself, I do it, by any means necessary. So, please take care of yourself. Be Good to yourself. Live your Life to the fullest... Simply incorporate your love ones situation into it....

God Bless You & Yours*

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Challenges Kids Face

young people in high schools today, especially those considered ‘at-risk’, face many challenges. Whether it is the major challenges of broken or abusive families, coping with poverty while everyone on the TV seems to be a millionaire, unplanned pregnancies and babies, or the slightly more minor challenges, like self image, trying to fit in, keep friends, be attractive and deal with all the cruelties that occur in their everyday drama, it is undeniable that these kids face difficult life issues at a very young age. While many of these challenges are often unavoidable, it is unfortunate that these young people do not have better tools to cope with these challenges in a healthy way.
Like all people, each and every one of them is caught up in a constant search and struggle to feel content. In order to achieve this, many of these teens essentially try to un-plug their minds from their problems. The main way to un-plug for the majority of these kids is by ‘getting high’, which comes with a whole string of secondary problems. Getting high can be achieved through many methods, not just drugs. Physical and mental violence allows one to ‘get higher’ than the person they abuse, and hustling to make money, legal or illegal, can give one a ‘higher status’. There are many ways to get high, healthy ones too, but essentially by getting high, these kids are able to rise up out of, or at least get away from, their primary problems.

When talking with these kids, however, you will not hear them say that they are trying to escape from their pain. They are usually not that self-aware.

Thousands Of Kids Are Serving Life Without Parole

United States: Thousands of Children Sentenced to Life without Parole
National Study by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch Finds Majority Face Life for First Offense
October 11, 2005
Kids who commit serious crimes shouldn't go scot-free, but if they are too young to vote or buy cigarettes, they are too young to spend the rest of their lives behind bars.

Alison Parker, Senior Researcher, U.S. Program, Human Rights Watch
There are at least 2,225 child offenders serving life without parole sentences in U.S prisons for crimes committed before they were age 18, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International said in a new joint report published today.

While many of the child offenders are now adults, 16 percent were between 13 and 15 years old at the time they committed their crimes. An estimated 59 percent were sentenced to life without parole for their first-ever criminal conviction. Forty-two states currently have laws allowing children to receive life without parole sentences.

The 157-page report, The Rest of Their Lives: Life without Parole for Child Offenders in the United States, is the first national study examining the practice of trying children as adults and sentencing them to life in adult prisons without the possibility of parole. The report is based on two years of research and on an analysis of previously uncollected federal and state corrections data. The data allowed the organizations to track state and national trends in LWOP sentencing through mid-2004 and to analyze the race, history and crimes of young offenders.

“Kids who commit serious crimes shouldn't go scot-free,” said Alison Parker, senior researcher with Human Rights Watch, who authored the report for both organizations. “But if they are too young to vote or buy cigarettes, they are too young to spend the rest of their lives behind bars.”

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are releasing The Rest of Their Lives at a critical time: while fewer youth are committing serious crimes such as murder, states are increasingly sentencing them to life without parole. In 1990, for example, 2,234 children were convicted of murder and 2.9 percent sentenced to life without parole. By 2000, the conviction rate had dropped by nearly 55 percent (1,006), yet the percentage of children receiving LWOP sentences rose by 216 percent (to nine percent).

“Untie the hands of state and federal judges and prosecutors,” said Dr. William F. Schulz, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA (AIUSA). “Give them options other than turning the courts into assembly lines that mass produce mandatory life without parole sentences for children, that ignore their enormous potential for change and rob them of all hopes for redemption.”

In 26 states, the sentence of life without parole is mandatory for anyone who is found guilty of committing first-degree murder, regardless of age. According to the report, 93 percent of youth offenders serving life without parole were convicted of murder. But Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International found that an estimated 26 percent were convicted of “felony murder,” which holds that anyone involved in the commission of a serious crime during which someone is killed is also guilty of murder, even if he or she did not personally or directly cause the death.

For example, 15-year-old Peter A. was sentenced to life without parole for felony murder. Peter had joined two acquaintances of his older brother to commit a robbery. He was waiting outside in a van when one of the acquaintances botched the robbery and murdered two victims. Peter said, “Although I was present at the scene, I never shot or killed anyone.” Nevertheless, Peter was held accountable for the double murder because it was established during the trial that he had stolen the van used to drive to the victims’ house.

The human rights organizations also said that widespread and unfounded fears of adolescent “super-predators”—violent teenagers with long criminal histories who prey on society—prompted states to increasingly try children as adults. Ten states set no minimum age for sentencing children to life without parole, and there are at least six children currently serving the sentence who were age 13 when they committed their crimes. Once convicted, these children are sent to adult prisons and must live among adult gangs, sexual predators and in harsh conditions. For more state-by-state statistics please see the State-by-State Summary.

According to Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, there is no correlation between the use of the LWOP sentence and youth crime rates. There is no evidence it deters youth crime or is otherwise helpful in reducing juvenile crime rates. For example, Georgia rarely sentences children to life without parole but it has youth crime rates lower than Missouri, which imposes the sentence on child offenders far more frequently.

“Public safety can be protected without subjecting youth to the harshest prison sentence possible,” said Parker.
Nationwide, black youth receive life without parole sentences at a rate estimated to be ten times greater than that of white youth (6.6 versus 0.6). In some states the ratio is far greater: in California, for example, black youth are 22.5 times more likely to receive a life without parole sentence than white youth. In Pennsylvania, Hispanic youth are ten times more likely to receive the sentence than whites (13.2 versus 1.3).

The United States is one of only a few countries in the world that permit children to be sentenced to LWOP. The Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified by every country in the world except the United States and Somalia, forbids this practice, and at least 132 countries have rejected the sentence altogether. Thirteen other countries have laws permitting the child LWOP sentence, but, outside of the United States, there are only about 12 young offenders currently serving life sentences with no possibility of parole.

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International also challenged the presumption that the youth offenders are irredeemable, which is implicit in the sentence they have received.

“Children who commit serious crimes still have the ability to change their lives for the better,” said David Berger, attorney with the law firm of O’Melveny & Myers and Amnesty International’s researcher for this report. “It is now time for state and federal officials to take positive steps by enacting policies that seek to redeem children, instead of throwing them in prison for the rest of their lives.”

The organizations called on the United States to end the practice of sentencing child offenders to life without parole. For those already serving life sentences, immediate efforts should be made to grant them access to parole procedures.

Testimonies from The Rest of Their Lives: Life without Parole for Child Offenders in the United States

On comprehending the life without parole sentence:
A 29-year-old woman who was sentenced to life without parole at the age of 16 said:
“I didn’t understand ‘life without’ . . . [that] to have ‘life without,’ you were locked down forever. You know it really dawned on me when [after several years in prison, a journalist] came and . . . he asked me, ‘Do you realize that you’re gonna be in prison for the rest of your life?’ And I said, ‘Do you really think that?’ You know. . . and I was like, ‘For the rest of my life? Do you think that God will leave me in prison for the rest of my life?’”
—Interview with Cheryl J., MacPherson Unit, McPherson, Arkansas, June 24, 2004 (pseudonym)

On committing crimes as children and being tried as adults:
Gregory C., who committed his crime of first degree murder when he was 15, described his state of mind at the time:
“A kid just does something—whether it’s an accident or intentional. I mean personally, me, I was fifteen years old . . . I didn’t know what I was doing. I was still a kid. . . . Kids do a lot of stupid things. . . . The person I was when I was fifteen, I really didn’t have any morals, I didn’t even know who I was at that time. I hate to admit it, but I was real ignorant.”
—Interview with Gregory C., Colorado State Penitentiary, CaƱon City, Colorado, July 2, 2004 (pseudonym)

Thomas M. described what happened when he heard the jury’s verdict:
“I was very emotional and I broke out crying in court. I don’t know if I fully understood but I kinda understood when they just said, ‘guilty, guilty, guilty’ and ‘life’ y’ know? As time went on, I’m really starting to realize how serious it is. I was young, I wasn’t really too educated. When I got locked up, I was in the eighth grade. All my education has come through the years of being incarcerated.”
—Interview with Thomas M., Colorado State Penitentiary, Canon City, Colorado, July 27, 2004 (pseudonym)

On contemplating suicide in adult prison:
Richard I., who was 14 at the time of his crime and entered prison at age 16, spoke about his suicidal thoughts and his repeated practice of cutting his arms with razor blades:
“When I went to prison, I was around all the—up all night—all the violence. I was like, ‘man I gotta get out of this—how am I gonna get out of this prison?’ I can’t do no life sentence here at that age. And so I thought of that [killing himself]. Gotta end it, gotta end it . . . I’ve got so many cuts on me. . . . Razor blades. They give us disposable razors, you pop it out.”
—Interview with Richard I., East Arkansas Regional Unit, Brickeys, Arkansas, June 21, 2004 (pseudonym)

On rape and other physical violence in adult prison:
Brian B. wrote about what happened soon after he entered prison in Pennsylvania at the age of 17 with a life without parole sentence:
“Sheriffs took me to the Western Penitentiary. They lied to the warden telling him I were eighteen, which I had not yet become. I were housed in an open poorly supervised unit, and that evening a group of large adult men rushed into my cell, holding me down, they began pulling my clothes off while another took a syringe over to a spoon that another inmate were holding a lighter under. He drew up whatever was in the spoon. I were then injected with whatever it were. And then raped. Once found by the officers I were taken to a holding area, cleaned up, and placed on a van to another prison at around 3:00 am.”
—Letter from Brian B., Albion, Pennsylvania, August 28, 2004 (pseudonym)

Warren P. wrote that when he first came to prison, at the age of 15:
“I was the target of covert sexual predators. Adults would pretend to be your best friend to get close to you, then they would try you. . . . Officers would be hard on me more so than the adults for they believe that the younger inmates need rougher treatment.”

Troy L., who was 15 when he murdered his abusive father, was interviewed for this report at age 24 in June 2004. He wrote in a subsequent letter:
“I would be ever grateful, in fact, for the chance to spend my life now for some good reason. I would go to the most dangerous parts of Afghanistan or Israel, or jump on the first manned mission to Mars. . . .[I]f the state were to offer me some opportunity to end my life doing some good, rather than a slow-wasting plague to the world, it would be a great mercy to me.”
—Letter to Human Rights Watch from Troy L., Grady Arkansas, July 2004 (pseudonym)

A legislator’s, prosecutor’s, and judge’s views on the sentence:
Florida State Attorney Harry Shorstein, who prosecuted 14-year-old Joshua Phillips for killing his eight-year-old female neighbor in 1998 said:
I oppose mandatory sentences and the Legislature's tying the hands of judges and prosecutors. No matter how tough you are on crime, you can't say a fourteen-year-old is the same as an eighteen-year-old.
—Paul Pinkham, “Court upholds life in prison for teenager,” Florida Times-Union, February 7, 2002, p. B-1

The judge who sentenced 15-year-old Henry L. to life without parole for first degree murder said at sentencing:
“[T]he sentence that I must impose is mandated by law. I don’t have any choice in the matter. I’m not at all comfortable with this case, not because the Defendant didn’t receive a fair trial. I think that he did. . . . [But] it’s obvious to me that we can’t, as a society, say that fifteen-year-old children should be held to the same standards as adults. Our law provides this. I think the law is wrong.”
—Honorable David Scott DeWitt (deceased), excerpt from sentencing transcript in People v. Lashuay, 75th Circuit Court, Midland County, Michigan, June 25, 1984

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Judge Deceides 12 Year Old Jordon Will Be Charged As An Adult

PA Judge Rules 12 Year Old Should be Tried as Adult for Murder
By Jeralyn, Section Juvenile Offenders
Posted on Sat Apr 03, 2010 at 08:32:00 AM EST
Tags: Jordan Brown (all tags)
Share This: Digg!

Via Sentencing Law and Policy comes the story of Jordan Brown. Jordan is 12 years old. When he was 11, prosecutors say he took his shotgun and killed his pregnant stepmother while she was in bed, then left for school. The theory seems to be he was mad he lost his bedroom to make way for the new baby. He had no prior contact with the criminal justice system and had always been a polite, typical kid. Even today, the doctors say there is no sign of mental illness.

Jordan's father and family friends are standing by Jordan. They, and his lawyer, say Jordan is innocent.

A judge in Pittsburgh ruled this week that Jordan should be tried as an adult. If convicted, he will be the youngest person in the nation sentenced to life without parole. [More...]

Judge Dominick Motto, in his ruling, determined that Jordan could not be rehabilitated in 9 years (the juvie system would release him at 21.) How did the judge look into the future and arrive at this conclusion? Principally by considering the effect of the deaths on the community and family and, get this, Jordan's refusal to confess. The opinion is here.

This is just plain wrong. No one, juvenile or adult, is required to confess -- particularly before trial. The impact of the crime on the community has nothing to do with whether the juvenile can be rehabilitated, which should be the principal factor in the determination of where he should be tried. No child should be locked up in prison for life at 12 years old. It's costly, cruel and foolish.

More on Jordan from the CNN article linked above:

At the time of the slaying, Jordan was a chubby fifth-grader with dark brown hair and an energetic smile. He liked riding bikes and reading Harry Potter books. Since the third grade, he played quarterback in his community's football league.

Family and friends describe him as an "all-American boy." On weekends, Jordan hunted alongside his father, Chris Brown, who purchased the youth-sized 20-gauge shotgun state police believe was the murder weapon. The gun was given to Jordan as a present for Easter, and the boy's lawyers say he only used it for hunting.

Children's brains function differently than adults. The judge engaged in little more than rank speculation in finding he could not be rehabilitated in 9 years. Dr. Paul Friday, a clinical psychologist, had this to say:

Dr. Friday says an 11-year-old' s brain is not capable of effective thought. He says effective thought does not come until the age of 25 and over.

"Will Jordan think at the age of 25 like he is now? No. Will he be able to differentiate good, bad, right, wrong, guilt or innocence at 25 better than now? Absolutely," explains Friday. "Are we sure that Jordan will not get insight into what he did? No we're not."

The judge also wrote in his decision that Brown refused to take responsibility for the crime which is believed necessary for rehabilitation.

"To say that he has no chance for rehabilitation would be a very difficult thing for another human being to say because the future at best is a probability, " Friday said.

Alternet has more. Jordan is not the only child in this predicament. 2,500 kids in the U.S. are serving life without parole for offenses committed before they were 18. It's a violation of human rights laws.

Bad decision, bad precedent. I hope the Jordan's lawyers can appeal the decision before trial. Here's the website set up for Jordan. From the factual background:

Kenzie had received death threats from a former boyfriend in the months before her murder—a lead the police inexplicably have not taken seriously, relying instead on a dubious and unreliable statement from Jordan’s younger step-sister.

About Jordan:

He had no motive to commit such an ugly and terrible act. He loves Kenzie and her daughters; there were no “blended family” problems as has been irresponsibly speculated in the media.

Jordan participates in school sports, likes reading books, and hunts with his dad. He attends summer bible camp. Jordan’s an all-American kid just like most parents hope to raise.

He is a kind, gentle, and honest boy who has consistently denied having committed the crime. It is shameful that this defenseless child has become the victim of inadequate police work, prosecutorial political ambitions, and a media feeding frenzy.

Here are some statements of support by those who know Jordan. Jordan's defense team is working pro bono. If you want to contribute, you can do so here.

Save Jordan Brown

Eleven-year- old 5th grader Jordan Brown is charged as an adult for a double homicide he did not commit.

Pennsylvania state police conducted an inadequate investigation which ignored important leads; the media have convicted Jordan of the crime without any credible evidence.

Under a Pennsylvania law aimed at urban street gangs, Jordan faces the prospect of spending his entire life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Jordan needs your help now!

Case Background
Legal Process
Jordan's Family
Support Statements
How You Can Help
Contact Us