Thursday, September 5, 2013

Sign New Petition Supporting Parole for Efrén Paredes, Jr.

The Injustice Must End (TIME) Committee recently created a new online petition for people to sign which supports the parole release of Efren Paredes, Jr.

The web site that hosts the petition generates individual e-mails to be sent to the Chairman and other members of the Michigan Parole Board each time someone signs the petition. The message that is sent is available for viewing on the petition.

In the coming weeks and months prisoners like Efren who were sentenced to life without parole (LWOP) when they were juveniles may begin receiving parole and/or resentencing consideration as a result of a recent federal court ruling. There is also a pending appeal in the Michigan Supreme Court and pending legislation that could produce similar results.

Please sign the petition and circulate its web link widely via e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms. You are also encouraged to download the petition flyer and print it out to post it at churches, libraries, and on college campuses. The flyer can also be distributed at gatherings and events.

Links to the online petition and petition flyer appear below:

Petition shortcut link: www.TINYURL.com/Efren2013

Petition flyer link: www.TINYURL.com/EfrenFlyer2013

Monday, August 12, 2013

Judge Bans Mandatory Life Without Parole Sentences for Michigan Juveniles

by Efren Paredes, Jr.

U.S. District Court Judge John Corbett O'Meara issued a court order on Monday, August 12, 2013 stating that all Michigan prisoners who were sentenced to life without parole (LWOP) when they were juveniles are now parole eligible.

In January the judge ruled that the state's law, MCL 791.234(6)(a), which denies juveniles sentenced to LWOP the opportunity for parole, is unconstitutional.

Subsequent to the ruling Attorney General Bill Schuette argued on behalf of the State of Michigan that the judge's order only applies prospectively to a handful of prisoners.

Judge O'Meara made clear in his ruling today that the state is wrong to believe it "may enforce the statute, which the court has been ruled unconstitutional." He added, "When a state statute has been ruled unconstitutional, state actors have an obligation to desist from enforcing that statute."

The ruling was applied retroactively to each and every prisoner who was sentenced to LWOP as a juvenile who had exhausted their court appeals previous to the court's order.

While the ruling strikes down MCL 791.234(6(a) as being unconstitutional, the legislature must still revise the statute to bring it into compliance with the court's order and Miller v. Alabama, 132 S.Ct 2455 (2012).

The ruling is a positive step in the right direction and puts the legislature on notice about the need for serious reforms to the state's sentencing laws governing juveniles sentenced pursuant to MCL 791.234(6)(a).

It is imperative that citizens continue signing the online petition dedicated to ending mandatory LWOP sentences for juveniles and circulating it widely until the legislation is passed.

Citizens must continue sending a strong message to legislators that it is unconscionable to condemn juveniles to death-by-incarceration.

Readers are encouraged to print the petition flyer below and distribute it to as many people possible, to educate people about this campaign, and to share it with people who can feature it on blogs, web sites, social media and hand it out anywhere there are public gatherings.

Petition Link: www.TINYURL.com/endJLWOP2013

Petition Flyer Link: www.TINYURL.com/JLWOP815

Friday, August 9, 2013

End Mandatory Life Without Parole Sentences for All Michigan Juvenile Offenders

Please sign this important new online petition aimed at ending mandatory life without parole (LWOP) sentences for all Michigan prisoners who were juveniles at the time their crimes were committed. This is a requirement made by a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court decision.

House Bills 4806-4809 extend this protection retroactively to prisoners whose court appeals were already exhausted at the time of the high court's decision providing equal and fair treatment to all affected.

Signing the petition sends electronic messages to your state representative, state senator, and the Governor, expressing support for passage of the bills. The petition will identity your respective legislators based on your zip code.

Please share the petition link with others widely via e-mail, Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms, and invite others to do the same.

Included in the messages sent to state legislators will be a request for an amendment to the bills which allows judges to impose sentences that are a term of years rather than only LWOP and parolable life sentences.

To deny this discretion to judges is to handcuff them by preventing them from utilizing their professional discretion to impose individualized sentences. It also ignores the inherent dignity in young people and abandons the concept of redemption.

We need to generate as much support possible for passage of these bills. This is a powerful form of activism that can empower citizens to reject the continued human rights abuses committed by the criminal justice system against youthful offenders.

Please urge people to continue signing the petition until the bills are voted on which will likely be in the Fall and keep gathering petition signatures until the moment that the bills are voted on and passed. We want legislators to know it is unconscionable to condemn juveniles to sentences of death-by-incarceration.   

The petition link is: www.TINYURL.com/endJLWOP2013

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Judge: Juveniles sentenced to life must get 'fair, meaningful' chance at parole

by Robert Snell
The Detroit News

January 30, 2013
  
Detroit — Inmates sentenced to life in prison for murder as juveniles are eligible for parole and must receive a "fair and meaningful" chance at leaving prison, a federal judge said Wednesday.

The order from U.S. District Judge John Corbett O'Meara comes six months after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down mandatory no-parole sentences for juveniles.

The order offers an opportunity at freedom for several inmates who challenged the constitutionality of a state law prohibiting the Michigan Parole Board from considering parole for juvenile lifers. The state has more than 350 such prisoners.

"I think this is both the right legal and moral decision," said Deborah LaBelle, the inmates' lead counsel. "We are pretty elated to be able to tell all of the individuals serving a hopeless sentence that they now have an opportunity for parole."

O'Meara said the state law is unconstitutional for inmates who received mandatory life sentences for first-degree murder when they were under the age of 18.

"As a result, plaintiffs will be eligible and considered for parole," O'Meara wrote. "It remains to be determined how that process will work and what procedures should be in place to ensure that plaintiffs are fairly considered for parole."

Attorney General Bill Schuette is considering appeal options, spokeswoman Joy Yearout said.

"He will continue to fight for crime victims and their families, who should not be forced to relive these horrific crimes at parole hearings," Yearout said.

The judge's order trumps a ruling last fall by the state appeals court, which said retroactivity would not apply for most people already behind bars.

He told the state attorney general and lawyers for inmates to propose a way to hold parole hearings. Those next steps will be litigated for months.

"If there was ever a legal rule that should — as a matter of law and morality — be given retroactive effect, it is the rule announced in Miller," the judge said, referring to the Supreme Court decision in Miller v. Alabama.

"To hold otherwise would allow the state to impose unconstitutional punishment on some persons but not others, an intolerable miscarriage of justice," he said.

Source: http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20130130/METRO/301300427#ixzz2JaphlTAZ

Click here to view the court opinion

Click "play" below to listen to an audio version of Efren Paredes, Jr.'s response to the recent federal court opinion which held that Michigan prisoners who received life without parole sentences when they were juveniles are entitled to "fair and meaningful" parole opportunities.
 
 

 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Disguising Authenticity

by Efren Paredes, Jr.

Prison corridors reverberate with embellished stories of urban exploits and manufactured images prisoners believe they should emulate behind prison walls.

Many prisoners adopt distorted lifestyles absent thought about the perils and long-term ramifications attendant to their decision. Their myopia prevents them from foreseeing the potential for self-inflicted damage that may ensue.

Too often people live their lives to impress others, curry favor with them or gain their acceptance. They do this unaware that they are essentially alienating their true identity and surrendering it in exchange for a fabricated illusion of reality.

Adopting self-destructive behaviors can lead to prisoners leaving indelible impressions on their lives long after their return to society. It can also manifest in a host of dismal outcomes that compound their vulnerabilities during their incarceration.

Another consequence of people projecting false illusions of themselves is that they attract the same energies they project. It can translate to becoming a magnet for problems or toxic people that infect their personal sphere.

People should not settle for less by wasting their time living for others, rather than investing time living for themselves. No one should ever stand on the outside of their own lives peering in through the prism of a stranger.

Being confident in ourselves and striving to maintain our individuality goes a long way. It is a reflection of our genuine beliefs and personality, not a transitory illusory persona that divorces itself from reality.

In prison -- as well as in ordinary life -- people earn respect and gain acceptance because of who they are and what they accomplish, not who they aren't or their personal failures. Success is real, it can't be fabricated.

No one decision or experience in life -- whether good or bad -- defines a person. It is a culmination of their decisions and life experiences that does. We have to endeavor to jettison counter-productive actions and harvest empowering ones.

People should never be disingenuous with themselves. Being themselves is one of the most important things they can do in life. It means working to conquer their insecurities and sacrificing acceptance for authenticity.

Real strength and courage is demonstrated when we resist changing our identity or lives to satisfy others. Identity abandonment isn't the solution to life's challenges, it's one of the problems.

Embracing these realities can help liberate people from the manacles of society's pressures that keep them trapped in a parallel universe that swims in an ocean of disguises.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

U.S. Supreme Court Ruling Quotes Banning Mandatory Life Sentences for Youth

Excerpts from the recent ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court banning mandatory life without parole (LWOP) sentences for juveniles in the case of Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. __ (2012):

"The Eighth Amendment's prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment 'guarantees individuals the right not to be subjected to excessive sanctions.' Roper, 543 U.S., at 560. That right, we have explained, 'flows from the basic 'precept of justice that punishment for crime should be graduated and proportioned' to both the offender and the offense. Ibid. (quoting Weems v. United States, 217 U.S. 349, 367 (1910))."

...

"Because juveniles have diminished culpability and greater prospects for reform, we explained, 'they are less deserving of the most severe punishments.' Graham, 560 U.S., at __ (slip op., at 17)."

...

"Our decisions rested not only on common sense -- on what 'any parent knows' -- but on science and social science as well. Id., at 569. In Roper, we cited studies showing that "'[o]nly a relatively small proportion of adolescents'" who engage in illegal activity "'develop entrenched patterns of problem behavior.'" Id., at 570 (quoting Steinberg & Scott, "Less Guilty by Reason of Adolescence: Developmental Immaturity, Diminished Responsibility, and the Juvenile Death Penalty," 58 Am. Psychologist 1009, 1014 (2003)). And in Graham, we noted that 'developments psychology and brain science continue to show fundamental differences between juvenile and adult minds'--for example, in 'parts of the brain involved in behavior control.' 560 U.S., at __ (slip op., at 17). We reasoned that those findings--of transient rashness, proclivity for risk, and inability to assess consequences--both lessened a child's 'moral culpability' and enhanced the prospect that, as the years go by and neurological development occurs, his "'deficiencies will be reformed.'" Id., at __ (slip op., at 18) (quoting Roper, 543 U.S., at 570).

...

"Deciding that a 'juvenile offender forever will be a danger to society' would require 'mak[ing] a judgment that [he] is incorrigible'--but "'incorrigibility is inconsistent with youth.'" 560 U.S., at __ (slip op, at 22) (quoting Workman v. Commonwealth, 429 S.W.2d 374, 378 (Ky. App 1968)). And for the same reason, rehabilitation could not justify that sentence. Life without parole 'forswears altogether the rehabilitative ideal.' Graham, 560 U.S., at __ (slip op., at 23). It reflects 'an irrevocable judgment about [an offender's] value and place in society,' at odds with a child's capacity for change. Ibid.

...

"'[J]ust as the chronological age of a minor is itself a relevant mitigating factor of great weight, so must the background and mental and emotional development of a youthful defendant be duly considered'" in assessing his culpability. Id., at 116.

...

"Such mandatory penalties, by their nature, preclude a sentencer from taking account of an offender's age and the wealth of characteristics and circumstances attendant to it."

...

"And still worse each juvenile ... will receive the same sentence as the vast majority of adults committing similar homicide offenses--but really, as Graham noted, a greater sentence than those adults will serve."

...

"('A State is not required to to guarantee eventual freedom,' but must provide 'some meaningful opportunity to obtain release based on demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation'). By making youth (and all that accompanies it) irrelevant to imposition of that harshest prison sentence, such a scheme poses too great a risk of disproportionate punishment."

...

"[G]iven all we have said in Roper, Graham, and this decision about children's diminished culpability and heightened capacity for change, we think appropriate occasions for sentencing juveniles to this harshest possible penalty will be uncommon. That is especially so because of the great difficulty we noted in Roper and Graham of distinguishing at this early age between 'the juvenile offender whose crime reflects unfortunate yet transient immaturity, and the rare juvenile offender whose crime reflects irreparable corruption." Roper, 543 U.S., at 573; Graham, 560 U.S., at __ (slip op., at 17)."

Monday, June 25, 2012

Nation’s High Court Ends Mandatory Life Without Parole Sentences for Youth

by Efren Paredes, Jr.

Today the U.S. Supreme Court issued an opinion abolishing mandatory life without parole (LWOP) sentences for the 2,500 prisoners across the U.S. who were condemned to die in prison for crimes they were convicted of as juveniles.

Courts will now have discretion to impose a lesser sentence in those cases and consider age as a factor in sentencing. Juveniles can receive LWOP sentences, however, it is a discretionary sentence now, not a mandatory sentence in cases involving homicide. Prisoners already serving LWOP sentences for crimes they were convicted of as juveniles are now eligible for resentencing. How that process occurs will vary by state.

The court conveyed what any parent, educator and common sense can tell us: children are different than adults. They possess the unique capacity for change and growth because they are still cognitively developing, and should be provided a path for rehabilitation during their incarceration.

Children are not incorrigible or expendable, nor are they miniature adults. They are not transformed into adults because they make mistakes or bad choices no more than they are transformed into adults for positive achievements or making good decisions.

It is undisputed that young people must be held accountable for their actions. This accountability, however, can only be achieved in ways that reflect the young person's age and his/her capacity for change. Just as the punishment should fit the crime, the punishment should also fit the offender.

In Michigan, 73% of the prisoners serving LWOP sentences for crimes they were convicted of committing when they were juveniles are people of color, yet they comprise only 27% of the youth in the state.

Nearly half of those convicted are also first-time offenders. Most grew up in impoverished areas, were victims of abuse, and were regularly exposed to drugs and violence.

The International Journal of Forensic Mental Health reports that 2/3 of males and 3/4 of females in the juvenile justice system show signs of one or more psychiatric disorders.

Taken together these findings reflect a very vulnerable demographic of 200,000 to 250,000 juveniles annually transferred to adult courts that are disparately being subjected to the harshest sentences meted out by judges.

Sadly, the vast majority of these juveniles are incapable of defending themselves against the political gamesmanship and cascade of abuses and mistreatment they are subjected to by older, experienced professionals in the criminal justice system.

It is a moral imperative that we now amplify the national conversation about the draconian policy of sentencing juveniles in adult courts. Rather than abandon and demonize young people, citizens should urge legislators to reform sentencing guidelines and work to ensure fairness in the parole process.

Life sentences in any form are veritable death sentences in Michigan. As long as they remain sentencing options for juveniles their opportunity for serious parole consideration will remain an unattainable reality.

To read the US Supreme Court Decision in its entirety click on:  http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/11pdf/10-9646g2i8.pdf

(Efren Paredes, Jr. is a Michigan prisoner sentenced to LWOP as a juvenile in 1989. Learn more about Efren at