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Friday, December 4, 2009

"Buried Alive: Breathing in a Living Tomb" by Efrén Paredes, Jr.

Buried Alive: Breathing in a Living Tomb

by Efrén Paredes, Jr.
Waking in an 8' x 11' concrete box each day is a painful reminder of the walls that forcefully keep me separated from society and the people I love. It is within these merciless barriers that I toil and struggle to keep the flame of hope and liberation burning.

Today, December 4, 2009, marks one complete year since my public hearing was convened. The wait has been arduous and often times seemingly endless. Some days the wait has felt like weeks and months have elapsed, other days it has felt like the past year has been longer than the previous 19-1/2 years of my imprisonment.

A year ago over 150 members of my family, friends and supporters traveled to the G. Robert Cotton Facility through the cold elements to observe the hearing and express their support. They packed a standing room only area, which typically only has one row of chairs reserved for most public hearings. At my hearing there were dozens of rows filled with chairs.

People wore the Free Efrén T-shirt, Free Efrén stickers, and braved the nine hour long hearing in a small room where every seat was filled. Some stood for hours along the wall and others sat on the floor due to the unavailability of seating.

Most people did not even eat a full meal the entire time. They consumed protein bars and other snacks and stayed the entire duration of the hearing so they would not miss any of what would be the longest and most attended public hearing in Michigan history. The only time some people left the room was occasionally to use the restroom.

Seeing the prosecutor and police who investigated my case at the hearing again after two decades since my original trial evokes myriad memories. As I raced through the corridors of my thoughts I felt myself recalling my arrest, court proceedings, sense of hopelessness and the soul-crushing tears I fought hard to suppress as I sat alone for weeks in a cold jail cell (at age 15, under constant light 24 hours a day) wondering when this nightmare would ever end.

I sat during the hearing last year the entire time handcuffed in a chair, shuffling through papers, responding to a barrage of inquiries, and only drank cups of water — all while defending myself against manufactured stories, distortions, verbal assaults, unwarranted remarks, and unprofessionalism of an Asst. Attorney General who argued to the Parole Board that I should remain in prison because "20 years in prison is not a lot of time."

It was a skillfully rehearsed performance of political theatre; one the Asst. Attorney General and Berrien County Prosecutor's Office hoped would result in transforming my prison cell into a death chamber. Their fixation on plotting my extinction was a total abandonment of civility and the concept of redemption — two signposts of their moral impoverishment.

In the midst of it all I felt the warmth, love and strength of all those who came out to support me. I was never discouraged and I never felt alone. I was wrapped in the solidarity we shared and spread widely throughout the room.

While the weight of the past year has been enormous and often disheartening, I have vigorously sought to stave off feelings of disappointment and despair. I have often sought refuge in the Creator, prayer, and meditation, and wrapped myself in the solace of my writings and activism.

Thinking about the people who love and care about me has been a constant source of strength as well. They have provided me with a lifeline when I have been most challenged, confronted with difficult moments, and found myself trudging through the pockets of pathology and ubiquitous darkness of daily prison life. I am grateful for all their love and support and I think about them often. I never take any of them for granted.

Despite everything going on the past year, I have continued to work on my personal growth and development and I persist in my work educating others, promoting worthy causes, and enriching the lives of others. I have not allowed my personal struggle to consume me or diminish my work helping others.

I know the value of service to others because it has been the gracious selfless acts of wonderful people who have helped me become the person I am today. I try to pass those blessings on to others every opportunity I receive.

This experience has not defined me in a negative way. It has only motivated me to fight even more diligently to pursue justice and evolve as a human being. I have worked hard to transform the negative energy into positive energy and use it to fuel my resiliency and determination to never be defeated by lies and inhumane policies.

While my life and future continue to be deliberated by the Hon. Governor Granholm, I ask each of you to please continue inviting people to sign our petition, asking her to grant my commutation request. It is a small contribution to my campaign that will go a long way. The petition is available at http://tinyurl.com/FreeEPJ.

The outcome of the Governor's decision could result in my release in the near future or condemn me to spend many more years in prison — a veritable death sentence. The urgency of this very critical hour cannot be underscored enough.

It is a possibility that I may never again receive this opportunity for release from another Governor of conscience willing to utilize their extraordinary clemency power to correct an injustice.

Collectively we have established that I am a worthy candidate for release, that I would pose no danger to society if released, and that I would thrive and be a productive member of the community. Others, who have achieved less than I have while incarcerated, and contributed less to society than me, have been afforded the opportunity for release. All we have ever said is that I am equally deserving.

Today I will reflect about the past year. I will nourish my spirit and continue exploring new ways to avoid the minefields of self-destructive thoughts. I will also endeavor to persist converting gulfs of sadness into healing sanctuaries, and summon radiant rainbows from storm-filled clouds of despair. I will disallow any embargoes on my creativity.

I intimately know the human capacity for survival. It has taught me to thrive and reminds me that I will emerge from this experience stronger than ever. It has also inculcated in me that the Creator didn't create human beings to live in chains or condemn their lives to expire in them.

As W.E.B. DuBois wrote, "There is in this world no such force as the force of a person determined to rise. The human soul cannot be permanently chained." The onus is on us to make this reality manifest each day.

Please continue to keep me in your thoughts and prayers.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving Holiday Message from Efrén Paredes, Jr.


Dear Family, Friends and Supporters,

I am writing to wish you a Happy Thanksgiving and let you know you are in my thoughts and prayers.

I hope you get to enjoy time with your family and take a break from your every day work schedule to relax from the stresses of your weekly routine.  It is easy to become trapped in disappointments and the challenges we face.  We often find it more difficult to swim out of murky waters that attempt to drown us in despair than to sulk in them.

Take some time for yourself to reflect on life and the gifts you are blessed with each day.  Whether it is the gift of family, friends, employment, happiness, or freedom, they are all deserving of our gratitude and not to be taken for granted.

Each day presents us with infinite possibilities.  It is up to us to make the most of each moment.  We have to remind ourselves that no matter how difficult times may get, our experiences can not erase our dreams and vision.

Our spirits were created to soar and transcend the challenges of life.  They are free and boundless.  And, they cannot be held down by gravity or be caged.  I know this to be true because these are not mere words I send you as a holiday greeting.  It is how I strive to live my life each waking day.

Have a great Thanksgiving Holiday!

Love,

Efrén

Monday, November 16, 2009

New Free Efrén - End Juvenile Life Without Parole Poster

Click here to download the latest 8-1/2" x 11" Free Efrén poster which also supports an end to life without parole (LWOP) sentences for youth in the U.S.

The U.S. is the only country in the world that is currently imposing LWOP sentences on youth. A movement to abolish LWOP for youth is growing exponentially by human rights advocates from every corner of the globe.

LWOP sentences for youth offends “the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society,” the U.S. Supreme Court’s announced standard for reviewing state punishment under the Eighth Amendment.


Like many adolescent development and neuroscience scholars and experts, Efrén supports an end to LWOP for youth not only because of his own case, but because he does not believe that youth should be condemned to die in prison for crimes they committed (or were accused of committing) when society deemed them too young to vote, join the military, get married, or even visit a prison.

He contends that if society deemed them too young or irresponsible to do lawful things, we cannot punish youth the same way we do adults when they commit crimes. The lives of youth are not dispensable. Any caring parent or knowledgeable educator knows this.

Efrén agrees that youth who commit crimes should and must be punished for the crimes they commit. He also believes that ending LWOP sentences for youth should not result in the release of each youth who committed a crime. Some youth who commit crimes may never deserve to be released if they do not demonstrate they have been rehabilitated and can be productive members of society. However, he opposes policies which condemn youth to die in prison and never being given the "possibility" for parole consideration.

As Professors Elizabeth S. Scott and Laurence Steinberg wrote in The New York Times recently, "[P]sychological experts are unable to distinguish between the young person whose crime reflects transient immaturity and the rare juvenile offender who may deserve the harsh sentence of life without parole. If experts can’t reliably make this determination, then it seems unlikely that juries and judges would be able to do much better."

They added, "There is now a consensus among neuroscientists, for example, that brain regions and systems responsible for foresight, self-regulation, risk assessment and responsiveness to social influences continue to mature into young adulthood. This evidence that adolescents are psychologically and neurologically less mature than adults should be important in deciding how to punish their criminal acts."

It is also well-documented that adolescents subjected to LWOP sentences are also disproportionately children of color. In the county Efrén was convicted in, Berrien County, MI, every juvenile who has received a LWOP sentence has been a youth of color. This statistic is, however, not isolated to Berrien County alone. There are many counties across the U.S. who echo this shameful and racist statistic.

Please download the latest Free Efrén poster, display it on college campuses, and in homes, libraries, churches, offices, and other public places to express your support for Efrén's release and an end to the deplorable sentences that condemn youth to die in prison. You are also encouraged to share the poster with people via e-mail and post about it on the various social networking sites (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc.).

Monday, November 9, 2009

New Video by Nezua Discusses Efrén's Case and Need to Abolish JLWOP Sentences for Youth




Please view the latest video by Nezua, "The Potential for Progress," which discusses the need to abolish life without parole (LWOP) sentences for youth in the U.S. The article that Nezua wrote which is the foundation of the video is available for your review below. The video and article both reference Efrén's case.

Nezua Limon, is a filmmaker and a published author/artist who blogs regularly at The Unapologetic Mexican. He was recently employed by MTV News Street Team ‘08 after competing to represent the state of Oregon, and was originally trained in the field of Film and Television at New York University.

In 2008, Nezua was selected to be a panel member of Online 100, “the first-ever survey of the top 100 online voices and bloggers tracking trends and attitudes heading toward the 2008 Election Day” (formed by Andrew Rawnsley, the Chief Political Commentator of The Observer).

Nezua is a founding editor of The Sanctuary, an award winning site dedicated to human rights and progressive grassroots action, and La Frontera Times.

Today the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the cases of Graham v. Florida, and Sullivan v. Florida. The Court will subsequently decide whether it is cruel and unusual to sentence people to prison to die for crimes they committed (or were accused of committing) when they were youth. The U.S. is the last remaining country who imposes this deplorable sentence on its young. It is our hope that we will soon join the rest of the civilized world and stop ignoring the concept of redemption or inherent dignity in children.

A special thanks to Nezua lending his voice to the international Movement to end LWOP sentences for youth and helping Efrén's case continue to generate global attention and support.



Also featured on The Unapologetic Mexican, La Frontera Times, NuestraVoice, and VivirLatino. Article text appears below:

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Workshop Panelist at Upcoming Conference on Democracy and Direct Action


by Efrén Paredes, Jr.

November 6-7, 2009 the Xicano Development Center will be hosting the Conference on Democracy and Direct Action. Day One of the conference will be held at East Lansing High School. Day Two of the conference will be held at Michigan State University.

I will be participating as a panelist of a workshop via phone on Nov. 7 along with other Xicana/o community leaders. We will be discussing my campaign for freedom, the anatomy of effective networking, and the value of Xicano prison programs.

People from across the nation will be presenting at the conference about a variety of important issues including the arts and activism, building solidarity across color lines, indigenous border issues, and other subjects.

The keynote speaker at the conference will be Ward Churchill. Churchill is a prolific American Indian scholar/activist, Ward Churchill is a founding member of the Rainbow Council of Elders, and longtime member of the leadership council of the American Indian Movement of Colorado.

Churchill has written over 20 books and is the former Chair of the University of Colorado/Boulder Ethnic Studies Department, where, until July 2007, he was a tenured Professor of American Indian Studies and where he received numerous awards for his teaching, scholarship and service. Professor Churchill is currently suing the University of Colorado for violating his First Amendment rights by firing him in retaliation for his observations on 9/11 and his exercise of his First Amendment-protected speech and in violation of the doctrine of Academic Freedom.

Also appearing at the conference will be New York Hip Hop group Rebel Diaz. Rebel Diaz came together at a critical moment in U.S. history. In early 2006, as Latinos throughout America found themselves under attack with anti-immigration laws, Rebel Diaz was in the streets of The Bronx, New York, organizing the community to fight against proposed racist legislation. Rebel Diaz performed in front of hundreds of thousands of people in massive protests from Chicago to Washington, D.C.

Using the power of hope and the struggles of the past as inspiration, these sons and daughters of revolutionaries express their wishes and demands for a just and compassionate world. In the streets of every ghetto across the world, one can hear the sound of people fed up with poverty and second-class citizenship. Rebel Diaz arises from these conditions to fan flames of change through songs that inspire, educate, and celebrate life.

I am looking forward to sharing my knowledge and experience about the subjects I will be discussing, and using the opportunity to dispel some of the myths that exist about prisons and those who its walls hold captive. It will be a rewarding and transformative experience for all who attend and aspire to foster a liberating consciousness.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Efrén Will Participate in 2009 Feminism(s) & Rhetoric(s) Conference Workshop Panel

Saturday, October 10, 2009, a workshop about women advocates of incarcerated men and women will be conducted at the 2009 Feminism(s) and Rhetoric(s) Conference which will be held at Michigan State University (MSU).

The conference is sponsored by the Coalition of Women Scholars in the History of Rhetoric & Composition and hosted by the Rhetoric & Writing program at MSU. The conference will take place October 7-10, 2009. The theme for this year's conference is "Enabling Complexities: Communities/Writing/Rhetoric".

According to the conference web site, "So our aim in organizing FemRhet 2009 has been to bring together the unique breadth and diversity of our experiences as scholars, teachers, and community members in order focus on the complex knowledge work that we do together."

They add, "In bringing the conference theme—Enabling Complexities—to life, we believe that we have created a conference that both examines the knowledge work we already do as scholars and community activists and that creates more space for the complicated, difficult work that must follow if we want to adequately reflect the deep structure of connections/intersections/overlaps that are critical to our shared future."

Workshop panelists will include Efrén'smother, Velia Koppenhoefer, a Xicana community leader and MSU graduate student, and a former Michigan prisoner who was incarcerated 29 years and served as an advocate for women. Efrén will also be joining the panel via phone to offer his insight from the perspective of an incarcerated male.

There will also be discussion about the global campaign to free Efrén, and an update about the status of The Injustice Must End (TIME) Committee's petition to Gov. Granholm asking her to grant Efrén's commutation request seeking his release.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Response to Week-Long Article Series in The South Bend Tribune

For the past six days The South Bend Tribune ran a series of articles about Efrén's case. Below are links to each of the articles for your review.
It appears the author attempted to provide balanced reporting in the series. With the exception of referring to Efrén as a "friend" of Eric and Alex Mui, Steve Miller and Jason Williamson, the remainder of the articles were accurate for the most part.

One thing we want to make clear is that Efrén was not friends with the above-named youths. They were students he knew from school. Even they denied being Efrén's friend. Steve Miller also denied liking Efrén in a statement to police.

The article series demonstrated that there exists clear evidence of problems with Efrén's case and the undeniable fact that he did not receive a fair trial. It did not bring out every piece of evidence which would have increased awareness about other aspects of the case, however, the purpose of the series was obviously not to exonerate Efrén.

Each day a number of comments were made in response to the online version of each article. Some were positive, others were negative, hate-filled and incendiary. Some of the victim's supporters even called for Efrén's execution.

Efrén and our family are committed to not speaking negatively about the Tetzlaff family (i.e., the victims in this case). We will not be a party to dialogue that causes them any further pain. Instead, we will continue to pray for their healing.

We have publicly expressed our condolences to the Tetzlaff family for their tragic loss. We have also always been open to sitting down with their family in an effort to discuss the case and share evidence and information with them in our possession which supports Efrén's innocence. They deserve to know about it more than anyone else.

Our invitation remains open. We are willing to meet with the Tetzlaff family with clergy or in any place of worship to discuss the case, or to help our families and the community find ways to heal. Civil discourse is essential to both families.

Harboring anger or hatred towards Efrén is not going to bring anyone closure, and listening to the inflammatory remarks of outsiders will only serve to further polarize us. If everyone can put their egos to the side for a moment, be open to peace and reconciliation, and put God first we are convinced progress can be made.

Those serious about working to help both the Tetzlaff family and our family truly begin the healing process can contact us via phone at 269-849-9056 or via e-mail. We ask everyone to please keep both of our families in your prayers.

On Behalf of the Family of
Efrén Paredes, Jr.

Velia Koppenhoefer

________________

* We invite people to click here to read a detailed account of what actually occurred in Efrén's case which was prepared by The Injustice Must End (TIME) Committee to Free Efrén Paredes, Jr.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Raising Funds for Making Strides Against Breast Cancer and Fifth Grade Classroom

by Efrén Paredes, Jr.

The past week has been challenging. It seems like I haven't had a moment's rest.

Having to prepare assignments for my University of Michigan weekly creative writing workshop, working on various social justice campaigns, raising funds for the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer campaign and funds to help a Detroit fifth grade classroom purchase a new laptop and printer, have all been mentally taxing and time-consuming.

This Saturday, October 3, 2009 I will walk in the American Cancer Society Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk at the G. Robert Cotton Facility at 1 PM along with other prisoners who helped raise money for the campaign. In all we raised $1,046. That's a lot of money considering prison work assignment pay prisoners less than $50 per month on average.

I am pretty excited about my contribution to help purchase the laptop and printer for the Detroit elementary school classroom. I know the children who will benefit from it will be very grateful. Their school district could not afford these items, so the teacher was compelled to independently raise funds to acquire them. The teacher will use the laptop and printer as tools to teach ESL students how to make comic books.

According to the teacher, ""Making comic books can inspire an emerging ESL learner to spread his or hers artistic wings. They will learn to construct and understand the structure of the English language at their own pace. Reading aloud published work will instill a confidence to teach themselves to self correct their own grammatical errors."

She added, "Constructing comic books is a great role model for demonstrating parts of a story, defining characters, recognize setting, and coming up with some crazy plots and far-out solutions. Showing my students what the power of words can do for written text helps them develop an incredible eye for detail on their own writing. After a few months my shy students are no longer shy but are then replaced with imaginative artist and engaging authors."

The money I helped raise will be used to assist finding a cure and prevention to breast cancer, and also empower the lives of young people in school. I hope that it will also inspire others to help people in need. All our lives are enriched when we make even one contribution to helping make the world a better place.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Ending the Xicana/Latina Drop-Out Crisis

by Efrén Paredes, Jr.

Yesterday many schools opened across the nation to commence the new school year. For many it will mark new aspirations, for others it will signal the painful reality of dreams deferred and evaporating hopes.

August 27, 2009 a new report titled, "Listening to Latinas: Barriers to High School Graduation," was released by the National Women’s Law Center and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF).

According to the report, "Latinas are dropping out of school in alarming numbers. Forty-one percent of Latina students do not graduate with their class in four years—if they graduate at all. Many Latina students face challenges related to poverty, immigration status, limited English proficiency, and damaging gender and ethnic stereotypes. And the high teen pregnancy rate for Latinas (53% by the age of 20) reflects and reinforces the barriers they face."

The gravity of this disturbing reality is exacerbated by the fact that 80% of the students surveyed want to graduate from college and perhaps go further, and 98% reported they want to graduate from high school. One-third of the girls who were surveyed do not expect to achieve their educational goals.

To help combat the factors that are contributing to the drop-out rate of Xicana/Latina high school students and bring attention to this issue, I asked members of The Injustice Must End (TIME) Committee to Free Efrén Paredes, Jr. to create a Facebook group on my behalf named, "I Pledge to Help Xicanas/Latinas Graduate."

With over 250 million Facebook users, according to Nielsen NetView, I felt it would be a great way to connect people who are serious about ending this cycle and offer them a platform to share ideas, resources, programs, and information about ways to accomplish this.

In just 11 days the group has reached 1,300 members and continues to grow each day. This is an indication that people are serious about wanting to end this crisis. Several people have expressed interest in the group and gratitude for conceptualizing the group's creation. People are already networking and sharing important information.

One group of students at Michigan State University is currently creating a mentoring group for Xicana/Latina students in the Lansing area. I recently spoke to the students and offered to help them in any way I can, including helping develop a workshop or offering relevant educational materials they can utilize.

Several students at various universities have also asked to publish my poem "The Wise Latina" in campus newspapers and feature it on their web site. I have granted permission for all of them to do it and have been grateful for the interest it has generated nationally.

I invite everyone to read "Listening to Latinas: Barriers to High School Graduation" and share it with other parents, educators, clergy, community leaders, and others who can help contribute to the campaign to help Xicanas/Latinas graduate from high school and pursue their dreams.

This call to action is not only to assist members of my own family and friends, but for every other Xicana/Latina student who dreams of graduating from high school and matriculating at a university.

Xicana/Latina students across the nation are depending on us. We have to be their voice and advocates. We have a responsibility to them and it is our mission to fulfill it. Last year half the children born in this country were Xicano/Latino and that number is expected to rise each year.

We have a lot of work ahead of us. But, we also have a lot of hands, strong hearts and brilliant minds to do it.

Click here to join the Facebook group and become a part of this effort. Share the link with others, invite your contacts, and spread the word. You can also download all the reports and fact sheets related to this issue by visiting the MALDEF web site.

Monday, September 7, 2009

President Obama to Deliver Positive Message to School Children

by Efrén Paredes, Jr.

There has been a great deal of controversy surrounding President Obama's message to school children which will he plans to deliver to U.S. primary and secondary students via webcast and C-Span Tuesday, September 8, 2008 at 12 PM ET.

Many people initially objected to having President Obama deliver his speech. No such objection was made by Republicans when both George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan delivered their direct-to-the-classroom talks in the 1980s and '90s.

What is very disturbing about this manufactured controversy is the level of hypocrisy and intellectual dishonesty being exhibited by people protesting President Obama's message. Some have even tried characterized his message as an attempt to indoctrinate children using subliminal messages cloaked in socialist ideology.

To quell the concerns of parents and educators the White House released the text of the President's prepared remarks on Monday. President Obama wanted to give people an opportunity to review the speech before making a decision about whether or not to allow students to view his message live on Tuesday.

One of the President's staunch opponents of delivering his message was Jim Greer, the Florida Republican party chairman. Last week Greer accused the president of trying to "indoctrinate America's children to his socialist agenda."

After the text to the prepared remarks the President will deliver were shared with the public yesterday Greer now says he will let his children watch what he calls a "good speech," one the president "should give."

Greer added, "It encourages kids to stay in school and the importance of education and I think that's what a president should do when they're gonna talk to students across the country."

Obama's intentions for Tuesday is tantamount to a presidential pep talk about taking education seriously. The President's message is one that should resonate with every educator and parent across the country, and one that they should encourage children to view/hear.

People would be remiss in their responsibility to our nation's children to pass up this learning opportunity and positive message directed at encouraging children to succeed and do good in life.

Update 9/9/09: You can watch the video of President Obama's message delivered yesterday below.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Efrén Speaks to Youth in Toronto, Urges Calm

Saturday, August 15, 2009 Efrén spoke to 160 youth via phone at the Second Annual Justice for Alwy 3-on-3 basketball tournament held at Carlton Park in Toronto, Ontario (Canada).

The event is dedicated to all victims of police brutality. It began in 2008 in remembrance of 18-year-old Alwy al-Nadhir, an unarmed teen who was shot and killed by Toronto Police on Halloween night, October 31, 2007 in Riverdale Park, Toronto. Click here to read more about how Alwy died.

After Alwy's tragic death his family, friends, and other local community organizers saw the need to get organized to put an end to the siege on their communities. Together, they created the Justice for Alwy Campaign Against Police Brutality.

Since Alwy's murder tensions between the police and youth have escalated, resulting in conflicts and additional acts of police brutality towards youth. Many Toronto urban youth have conveyed experiences about the daily harassment, false arrests, brutal beatings and verbal confrontations many have had with the police.

Efrén was invited to speak to youth at this year's Justice for Alwy basketball tournament by Pablo Vivanco, community activist and producer at Barrio Nuevo, a Latino community radio program based in Toronto. Efrén has previously appeared on two Toronto-based radio programs, Barrio Nuevo and Radio BASICS, to discuss his case and the imposition of life without parole sentences on juveniles.

At the basketball tournament Efrén urged the youth to remain calm and exercise patience and restraint. He urged them to take a proactive approach to finding lasting resolutions to existing problems, and cautioned them against allowing themselves to be reactionaries responding to taunts and acts of aggression or unprofessional conduct by police.

Efrén told the youth that there would be serious consequences for acting impulsively and ignoring the future of their actions. He told them that they could end up like many prisoners he sees every day who are condemned to die in prison because of their impulsiveness and refusal to listen to reasoned advice.

During his message Efrén told the youth they should work to resolve conflicts intelligently and in a non-violent manner. He told them they should organize rallies and engage the community in meetings to bring attention to the injustices they are encountering. They can call on local and federal investigations, meet with legislators, file complaints against police officers, initiate legal action against them, and even file human rights charges against the violators in an international forum, if necessary.

Efrén wanted the youth to know that avenues for redress and improving matters exist. He did not want them to feel a sense of hopelessness and or believe that violence or rebelling were the vehicles for them to obtain an illusion of justice.

He told them if elected officials do not listen or respond to their grievances they can always seek to recall and replace them with officials who will fulfill the responsibilities of their office. There is a process for officials to take office, and a process for them to leave if they are ineffective or remiss in their duties.

The event was a success and it was a reminder to all who participated that through organizing and a shared vision we can create space and events we need to achieve a desired purpose.

As Efrén stated, "If the youth could all work together to organize the tournament in Alwy's memory, they can work together to make other things materialize in his honor as well. They just need guidance and encouragement along the way."

Efrén's voice transcending prison walls to reach the listening youth in Canada served to do just that.

Friday, August 14, 2009

"The Wise Latina" by Efrén Paredes, Jr.

The Wise Latina

by Efrén Paredes, Jr.

Saturday morning,
protected by the colossal frontal columns
of the nation's Supreme Court
that were once like prison bars
seeking to lock you out of its halls —
before the blinding glare
of flashing cameras
bouncing off adorned walls
absent any images celebrating
your likeness —
there you stood,
the Wise Latina.

Your confirmation hearing
the true identity politics,
the underpinnings of tilted scales,
an indictment of a racist patriarchal system
that stains justice
with its misogynist ways.

Opponents clamored to defame you,
attempted to relegate you
to a footnote in history,
dismissing you
as a child of affirmative action,
as another marginalized brown face,
like the ones they built the wall
along the Mexican border to keep out.

Somebody forgot to tell them
affirmative action
didn't do your homework,
didn't graduate you summa cum laude from Princeton,
didn't edit the Yale Law Journal for you,
didn't make difficult choices
or bequeath you wisdom.

Your strength and poise made us proud
as we were fixated to television screens
at viewing parties
in skyscrapers and barrios,
inspired by your courage,
displaying your buttons and posters,
watching you deflect
the barrage of attacks
you bravely endured
to become the nation's
111th U.S. Supreme Court Justice.

The eyes of many Latinas y Latinos
filled with tears,
as their exuberant smiles
brightened the morning sky.

Your detractors never gained an advantage,
even in their failed attempts to diminish you.
They couldn't erase our illustrious past
or replace it with illusions of inferiority.
They couldn't write our Quinceañeras
or love for arroz, maíz y frijoles
out of our rich culture and heritage.

Carrying a legacy of struggle on your back
you transcended the tide of ignorance,
the protests and intimidation,
and rallying cries for your defeat.
The impotent Kyls, McCains and Sessions
couldn't change destiny,
they could only fulfill it.

It was the Wise Latina who prevailed,
who captivated the world.
Speaking loudly through your elegance
and quiet strength
you silenced your critics,
scattering them like the winds
of a fierce Summer storm.

At that moment
we all briefly touched the sky,
danced in the sun's warm glow,
and summoned the Ancestors
to celebrate your victory.


Copyright © 2009 Efrén Paredes, Jr.

Click here to download a PDF version of this poem.

This poem was featured on the Latina Lista blog on 8/14/09. It was featured on La Raza Chronicles on 8/18/09 and most recently appeared on ¡LatinoLA! on 8/19/09. In the Fall the poem will be part of an exhibit at the Cesar Chavez Library, Chicano/Latino Studies Department, Michigan State University.


Update 8/18/09 11:25 PM EST










You can listen to an MP3 recording of Efrén reading this poem to celebrated poet, storyteller and independent media producer, Nina Serrano, on the show "La Raza Chronicles" below.




Friday, August 7, 2009

"Where We Still Discover" by Efrén Paredes, Jr.

Where We Still Discover

by Efrén Paredes, Jr.

Sitting on our mother's laps,
Speaking in a language
of only our own,
surrounded by the wonders of life,
we see the world
moving ...
shifting ...
Guiding us
as we expand our consciousness.

Our eyes open wide
inhaling the brisk morning air.
Thoughts percolating ...
Releasing the energy
that feeds new experiences.
Pulsating around us like tiny heartbeats ...
We slowly awaken.

Each moment is an opportunity.
A chance to learn
to build
to grow.
Life blossoms
and ushers in the unknown.

We travel
through time and places.
Corridors filled with infinite possibilities
waiting to receive us
with its tender hands
to carefully guide us
along our journey.

In our mistakes
we find lessons.
Like rocks polished to become gems
we enter each experience
and mine its treasures.
We make it a new part of us
and harness its power.

In our Winter years,
after experiencing the fullness of life,
exploring the complexities of its winding roads,
swimming through its vast ocean of dreams,
we find,
this magical place.

It never eludes us,
never far away.
Like the air we breathe,
it is,
in the end,
as in the beginning,
Each Moment,
the place,
where we still discover.


Copyright © 2009 by Efrén Paredes, Jr.


Friday, April 17, 2009

Mario Rocha: Another Tragic Story of Injustice Revealed

by Efrén Paredes, Jr.

For the past month the documentary, "Mario's Story," has been featured on the cable television network Showtime. It will continue to air each Monday through the end of this month.

The documentary is about Mario Rocha, a 16-year-old student at a Los Angeles high school, who was accused of opening fire at a party in 1996 that resulted in the death of a high school student. Mario was tried as an adult and sentenced to two life sentences in prison. Two others were also convicted.

Mario has always maintained his innocence and adamant that he did not commit the crime he was accused of committing. Several witnesses at the party where the killing took place say they saw Mario run for cover when the shots were fired. They say he had nothing to do with the shooting.

Mario was represented pro bono by a legal team from the high-profile law firm Latham & Watkins. Their work on Mario's appeals for nearly eight years resulted in the reversal of his conviction in 2006 on the grounds of ineffective assistance of trial counsel.

After an appeals court reversal in August 2006 pending the re-filing of charges by the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office Mario was released on a $1 million bond. Los Angeles County prosecutors announced October 28, 2009 that they would not retry the case and dismissed the charges.

Since his release from prison Mario has been actively involved in several progressive projects and a wide range of social activism. He currently resides in Washington, DC, and is attending George Washington University where he is pursuing a degree in International Affairs and Communications.

Mario is currently working with Bruce Saito, Executive Director, Los Angeles Conservation Corps, developing a re-entry program for ex-offenders in California for people ages 18-25. Last Summer he traveled to Washington, D.C., to teach creative writing in a juvenile correctional facility.

April 9, 2009 Mario appeared at Berkeley Law School where his documentary, "Mario's Story," was screened. After the screening he was interviewed, during which time he discussed his case and problems in the criminal justice system. The event was hosted by the Berkeley La Raza Law Journal.

Mario is a member of the The Injustice Must End (TIME) Committee to Free Efrén Paredes, Jr. and a staunch supporter of my campaign for freedom. In March 2008 he organized an event in Los Angeles during the Fast for Freedom which was observed on my behalf globally. He has discussed my case during several radio interviews and presentations about the subjects of wrongful convictions or juvenile life without parole sentences.

I am proud to know Mario and call him a friend. His unyielding commitment to pursuing justice is an inspiration to others who have been wrongly convicted. He is also an example to the world that young people who go to prison — unlawfully or otherwise — can and still do positive things with their lives and be productive citizens, if given the opportunity.

Mario is a positive role model for Xicano/Latino youth and he continues to use his life to help others. Though he has lost many years of his own life to wrongful imprisonment, he persists sharing the freedom he was restored only a few years ago to improve the future of our youth. These are selfless acts of generosity that could only be borne in the heart of a person who has unadulterated love for humanity and an intense desire to foster its perpetual evolution.

When I spoke to Mario via phone two weeks ago he expressed a strong interest in visiting Michigan in the coming weeks to help garner additional support for my release and to share his personal experience with people in the Midwest. We look forward to Mario visiting Michigan in the coming weeks.

To learn more about Mario you can view the "Mario's Story" documentary trailer below and visit the "Mario's Story" web site at: http://www.mariostory.org.




Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Support Generated at 2009 Día de la Mujer Conference

The 16th Annual Día de la Mujer (DDLM) Conference, celebrating the lives of Latina women, was held Saturday, March 28, 2009. The theme of this year's conference was "La Mujer Maravilla" (Our Everyday Superheroes). The one-day conference hosted workshops for hundreds of Latina women from all over the Midwest. It was held at the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center, on the campus of Michigan State University.

According to the DDLM web site, "This annual conference has provided a much needed space for Latinas in Michigan to affect social change and to highlight their accomplishments. Keynote presenters, forums and workshops facilitated by Latina women will provide conference participants with networking opportunities for employment, education and sharing life experiences."

The keynote speaker at this year's conference was one of my friends and supporters, Favianna Rodriguez. Favianna is an artist-entrepreneur who has helped foster resurgence in political arts and media both locally and internationally. Named by UTNE Magazine as "one of the countries leading visionary artists," Favianna is renown for her leadership in establishing innovative institutions that promote education and engage new audiences in the arts.

Favianna is renown for her vibrant posters dealing with issues such as war, immigration, globalization, and social movements. By creating lasting popular symbols - where each work is the multiplicand and its location the multiplier - her work interposes private and public space, as the art viewer becomes the participant carrying art beyond the borders of the museum. She has lectured widely on the use of art in civic engagement and the work of artists who, like herself, are building bridges between the community and museum.

Favianna discussed my case during her speech and urged the hundreds of people in attendance to sign a letter or petition addressed to Gov. Granholm expressing support for my release. Below is a video of her remarks.



Later that afternoon a workshop was conducted at the conference inspiring Latina mothers to advocate for their incarcerated family members. My mother, Velia, sat on the panel, along with other wonderful members of The Injustice Must End (TIME) Committee to Free Efrén Paredes, Jr. They discussed a wide range of topics involving organizing, public relations, and other ways to gather support and convey their story. They also helped gather postcards of support and passed out hundreds of flyers and dozens of Free Efrén posters to those in attendance.

A special thanks to the conference organizers for their support, and for creating space for us at the event.


Sunday, March 22, 2009

Efrén Presents Workshop at MEChA National Conference



Saturday, March 21, 2009 Efrén presented his workshop via phone, "Awakening the Xicano/Latino Leader Within," at the 16th Annual Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán (MEChA) National Conference. The event was held at the University of Oregon. It was the 40th anniversary of the birth of MEChA.

MEChA is a student organization that promotes higher education, culture, and history. The organization was founded on the principles of self-determination for the liberation of Xicano/Latino people. MEChA advocates  that political involvement and education is the avenue for change in our society.

Efrén discussed the importance of education in the Xicano/Latino community and the need to reduce drop-out rates. He also emphasized community development and a commitment to create a brighter future for the Xicano/Latino community.

As he often does, Efrén asked the students to use their lives in a positive way to effectuate change, and to empower themselves and others to foster their perpetual growth and development. He cautioned them against being silent about social injustice and to never allow themselves to let others limit their creativity or define them.

One of the students asked Efrén how he has maintained such a positive attitude and remained strong during 20 years of incarceration. Efrén responded:

"The outpouring of support from my family, friends, and supporters through visits, mail, and talking to them on the phone daily have helped me tremendously. Knowing I am innocent of the crime I am imprisoned for has been a major factor as well."

Efrén went on to explain that educating himself about various subjects has helped him continue to evolve. He cited attaining knowledge about struggle, culture, history and identity as major contributors to maintaining his strength and refusing to capitulate to injustice.

Efrén used this as an opportunity to tell the students that perception about our experiences in largely determines how we are affected by them. Efrén conveyed to the students that, "No one can compel us to fail. We succeed because we choose to succeed. We wield the power to transform our reality." He added:

"We have to learn how to meet the demands of the time. Our people are looking to you to be the catalyst of change necessary to end the cycle of ignorance that has kept us marginalized and taken for granted."

On the subject of social networking web platforms Efrén told the students they should harness the power of these sites and use them constructively beyond just exchanging greetings and entertainment information. He also urged them to share useful and educational information, and to foster social activism through those mediums.

In a post-conference interview with a member of the TIME Committee Efrén stated, "I always remind youth of the February 2008 protest in Columbia against FARC which was organized by students on Facebook. Some estimates were that two million people participated. Others estimated up to four million people participated. Of that number 250,000 organized the event via a Facebook group. Social networking platforms can be used to shape the consciousness of the world in a powerful way."

Efrén fielded questions and some of the students conveyed words of appreciation for Efrén presenting the workshop. It was a positive experience and had a profound impact on those who were able to attend.

Part of Efrén's closing remarks included asking the male students to remain mindful of the need to ensure that there is gender equality and mutual respect amongst the leadership in organizations. He told them they risk marginalizing and subordinating women if they do not promote their inclusion. He added that, "excluding women also fosters a culture of misogyny."

Efrén urged the students to denounce the ICE raids being perpetrated against immigrants, and asked them to participate in the upcoming May Day rallies that are scheduled to take place across the nation in support of comprehensive immigration reform.

The previous day 600 students participated in the Rally for Comprehensive Immigration Reform and Immigrant Rights at the Eugene office of Oregon Congressman Peter DeFazio. Many of the students present were MEChA National Conference attendees.

The event was organized by the students of MEChA from the University of Oregon chapter and chapters from across the nation. Other organizers included CAUSA, Oregon's immigrant rights coalition. The event also drew the support of various UO departments, PCUN, and Eugene community organizations.

The students called on Congressman Defazio to support and prioritize safe, humane and fair immigration reform. Because the majority of rally attendees were students, they demanded that DeFazio also support the Federal DREAM Act which would open the doors of higher education to immigrant students and students of immigrant parents.

Efrén was proud to be a part of the MEChA National conference and to join the students who commemorated the organization's 40th anniversary. He expressed his gratitude to the University of Oregon MEChA for hosting the conference and to the National MEChA for allowing him to present his workshop at this historic event.


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

United Nations Action: Indigenous Peoples and Children in Prison

Greetings My Relations,

My name is Tony Gonzales, Director for AIM-WEST based in San Francisco, an affiliate of the American Indian Movement (AIM), North America. I am pleased to know the community of Berkeley voted recently to condemn the sentence of Efren Paredes, Jr. as a human rights violation. This is a major development in the campaign to abolish juvenile life without parole (JLWOP) sentences in the USA.

I am currently planning a round table discussion at the United Nations in NYC during the 8th Session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII-8), May 18-29, 2009 regarding Indigenous Peoples held in prisons throughout the world in an effort to bring these injustices before the appropriate bodies of the United Nations. I will cite certain cases such as Leonard Peltier, in prison for over 33 years, and other forms of injustices such as severe sentencing of minors in the USA, and of their failure to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

I would like to communicate with you and your family about how the American Indian community can also support Efren's release after twenty years of incarceration, and restore justice and hope to America. The passage of the Berkeley resolution will serve as a model to further coordinate with other municipalities across the nation and inspire them to choose promoting human rights over discarding the lives of children. Change is urgent, sign us up now!

Accordingly, I will impress upon our membership to learn more about the situation of Efren Paredes, Jr., international standards related to children's rights, and to consider developing local strategies to bring similar resolutions to the attention of elected officials in their districts, on Efren's behalf. Perhaps with the optimism of the Obama Administration, change is possible. There are many international laws and standards the USA have yet to sign. Together we can help take this to the table.

Thank you and I hope to hear from you soon.

Tony Gonzales
AIM-WEST
eltonyg@earthlink.net
415-577-1492

Source: http://bsnorrell.blogspot.com/2009/02/un-action-indigenous-peoples-and.html

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Berkeley City Council Condemns Efrén's Sentence as Human Rights Violation

"The link between violent subjugation of youths in prison and their long-
term spiritual and emotional decay suggests that life in prison is as severe, if
not more severe, for a juvenile than is the death penalty." (Fagan, Jeffrey, End
Natural Life Sentences for Juveniles, 6 Criminology & Public
Policy 735 (2007)).


Dear Friends,

Tuesday, February 10, 2009, the Berkeley City Council in California voted to condemn my sentence as a human rights violation. This is a major development in the campaign to abolish juvenile life without parole (JLWOP) sentences in the USA.

In a letter that will be mailed to the Governor of the State of Michigan the Berkeley City Council states:
"The United States should be at the forefront of promotion and protection of human rights. For this country to be the lone holdout on the issue of JLWOP weakens our moral and legal standing in the international community. The Berkeley City Council supports the call for the United States to align itself with international law by ratifying banning JLWOP.

Given Paredes' history as an honor student with no prior criminal record, the questionable circumstances that led to his conviction, and his inspirational leadership as a positive, productive member of society despite his location, his release after 20 years of incarceration would demonstrate to U.S. citizens that the State of Michigan courageously took appropriate action to restore justice and hope to America.

Mr. Paredes' release should be a pivotal step toward ending JLWOP sentences in the United States."
The decision underscores the need to respect the inherent dignity in children and our commitment to the protection of children's rights. The resolution will serve as a model to other municipalities across the nation and inspire them to choose promoting human rights over discarding the lives of children.

Although children should be held accountable for their actions — including crimes they commit — the USA criminal justice system should never make them disposable. It is my hope that the decision of the Berkeley City Council will be a catalyst for change with regard to the treatment of children in the current legal landscape.

The resolution is an acknowledgment that:
"[T]he treatment of juveniles in the criminal justice system is, at best, a noble failure and at worst, a great catastrophe. It is obvious that a change is urgent. Now is the time for the United States to leave the lonely island of juvenile injustice amidst a vast ocean of global concurrence. This shameful sentencing practice diminishes us as a society and it, not the children, must be sentenced to death." (Adepoju, Akin, Juvenile Death Sentence Lives On ... Even After Roper v. Simmons, 2 Trends and Issues in Constitutional Law 259 (2007))
I would like to extend a special thanks to Wendy Kenin, Commissioner, Berkeley Peace and Justice Commission, for spearheading this effort, and to the other members of the public who attended and/or spoke at the meeting in support of the resolution. Wendy worked closely with us to help advance this issue and devoted considerable time and energy to helping compose the language in the resolution.

I would like to also thank Jesse Arreguín, Councilmember, Berkeley City Council, for introducing the resolution. Jesse is the first Latino Berkeley City Council member and I am proud to have his support. I commend him for having the courage and vision to propose this resolution and garner support for it.

Wendy and Jesse made history with this resolution and their actions will be forever remembered for being leaders in the struggle for human rights and equality, and for helping end the deplorable sentencing of children to LWOP.

Thanks to everyone for your continued support. I look forward to working with you to help introduce similar resolutions in your respective cities as well. I am optimistic we can produce similar results across the nation as we collectively work to abolish JLWOP sentences in the USA.

In Solidarity,


Efrén Paredes, Jr.


Click here to view the resolution as passed.

Click here to view the Injustice Must End (TIME) Committee to Free Efrén Paredes, Jr. Press Release.

Click here to learn how you can contact the Governor of the State of Michigan to support Efrén's release.

This writing was prepared in advance of the Berkeley City Council meeting date so, if the resolution passed, it could be posted by TIME Committee members as soon as possible.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Message from Efrén Supporting Call to Action to Abolish Juvenile Life Without Parole (JLWOP) Sentences

"We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality,
tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly,
affects all indirectly." —Martin Luther King, Jr.


Dear Friends,

I am writing asking you to support a call to action urging people to contact your state legislators and asking them to support the passage of Senate Bills 173-176 which seek to abolish juvenile life without parole (JLWOP) sentences in Michigan.

I am currently constructing a letter to President Obama's transition team and administration encouraging them to ratify the Convention On the Rights of the Child (CRC). The CRC expressly prohibits the imposition of JLWOP sentences, however, the U.S. has not ratified the treaty.

The CRC was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1989 and instituted as international law in 1990. The U.S. signed the treaty with reservations, but is the only remaining country in the world that has not ratified it besides Somalia. Somalia, however, does not have a functioning government.

A couple months ago when asked about the CRC on the campaign trail, President Obama stated, "It is embarrassing to find ourselves in the company of Somalia, a lawless land." He continued, "I will review this and other treaties and ensure that the United States resumes its global leadership in human rights." You can view his response at http://tinyurl.com/auerqp.

I believe President Obama's recent vow to reclaim our "moral high ground" in the world, his commitment to ensure that "transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones" of his administration, and his signing of the Executive Order banning torture to protect the human rights of foreigners abroad, signal that he will also ensure the protection of children's rights at home.

President Obama signed the Executive Order to ensure that the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment is adhered to. This same treaty contains provisions which offer protections of juveniles as well. JLWOP sentences constitute a violation of this treaty along with several others, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention On the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination.

If President Obama ratifies the CRC it would become a very strong instrument for citizens to utilize to encourage legislators across the nation to abolish JLWOP sentences.

I will also be urging the Obama administration to ask members of Congress to pass H.R. 4300, a bill introduced by U.S. Representative Robert Scott (D-VA) and co-sponsored by U.S. Representative John Conyers (D-MI) that seeks to abolish JLWOP sentences nationwide. H.R. 4300 is currently pending in the U.S. House of Representatives and can be viewed at http://tinyurl.com/aeubfk.

We continue to make progress each day. While it has certainly been a challenging time waiting to hear the Parole Board's recommendation the past 55 days since my public hearing, it has also been a time of prayer, deep reflection, and strengthening of my faith.

I continue to remain strong and focused, working each day to reach out to people who can help us make a difference in the world. Not a day expires that I do not do something to advance our campaign to restore my freedom and abolish the imposition of JLWOP sentences. Thank you for your continued support, and thank you for helping me never lose sight of our enduring spirit to seek justice.

In Solidarity,

Efrén

Click on the following link to view a TIME Committee blog post that contains additional information about pending Senate Bills 173-176, including links to download the bills: http://tinyurl.com/d957sm.

Click on the following link to view information about how to contact your legislators to urge them to support passage of Senate Bills 173-176: http://tinyurl.com/anccbw.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Reviving the Goal of an Integrated Society: A 21st Century Challenge

The newest report in a series of Civil Rights Project (CRP) annual reports on desegregation trends, Reviving the Goal of an Integrated Society: A 21st Century Challenge, points out that it would be wrong to assume that our nation has realized Dr. King's dream and created a society where race no longer matters. In fact, the report concludes the opposite. The U.S. continues to move backward toward increasing minority segregation in highly unequal schools.

The mission of the Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles at University of California, Los Angeles, is to help renew the civil rights movement by bridging the worlds of ideas and action, to be a preeminent source of intellectual capital within that movement, and to deepen the understanding of the issues that must be resolved to achieve racial and ethnic equity as society moves through the great transformation of the 21st century.

They believe that either the country will learn to deal effectively with the richness of its astonishing diversity or it will lose pace in a globalizing world and decline and divide. Focused research and the best ideas of scholars and leaders from all parts of the country can make a decisive contribution to a renewal of the promise of the civil rights movement.

Please review this report and circulate it widely with others who are concerned about this very important issue.
Reviving the Goal of an Integrated Society

Monday, January 19, 2009

Only in America: Children Without Parole


"We must use time creatively and forever realize
that the time is always ripe to do what is right."
—Martin Luther King, Jr.—

Monday, January 19, 2009, the University of Michigan Prison Creative Arts Project (PCAP) held a workshop at the University of Michigan 23rd Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Symposium to discuss the issue of life without parole (LWOP) sentences for juveniles.

There are currently over 330 people in Michigan prisons serving LWOP sentences for crimes they were accused of committing as children. Nationally that number has exceeded 2,500 people. Shamefully the U.S. stands along as the only country in the world that sentences children to die in prison in violation of several international treaties.

The event drew over 200 people who attended to hear several powerful and moving messages by the panel members which included State Representative Alma Wheeler Smith, Anita Colón, Warden Millie Warren, Monica Jahner, Jerry Moore (reading the testimony of Jerry Lashuay), as well as Efrén's wife and mother.

There was discussion about how juvenile LWOP impacts children in the U.S. nationally, information about how young prisoners are being housed in the Michigan Department of Corrections and programs available to them, what people can do to promote the campaign to abolish juvenile LWOP sentences, and the personal stories of men and women serving LWOP sentences for crimes they were accused of committing as juveniles.

Efrén's wife and and mother spoke about his case and the issue of juvenile LWOP sentences. They were there representing Efrén's family and The Injustice Must End (TIME) Committee to Free Efrén Paredes, Jr.

During her message, Efrén's wife stated, "Life without parole sentences have been characterized as a 'living tomb.' Modern courts have characterized JLWOP as a 'slow death sentence' that is 'equally severe' to a death sentence. Others have described it as a 'virtually hopeless lifetime incarceration' that is '... a denial of hope' that renders "good behavior and character improvement' immaterial and worse, is cancerous to human development.

Efrén's mother added, "Sentences for juvenile offenders should not conclude today what kind of adults these youths will be many years from now. As any parent knows, predicting what teenagers will become by next week, let alone when they are adults, is nearly impossible. That decision should wait until they have reached adulthood and can be assessed more accurately."

After the panelists spoke they fielded several questions from the audience. Information was available for distribution at the end of the workshop regarding juvenile LWOP sentences along with sign-up sheets for writing letters to legislators. Information about Efrén's case and how to support our campaign to free him was also available.

Later that evening one of the panel members, Anita Colón from Pennsylvania, and Efrén, appeared on the Ebling and You radio show on 1320 WILS-AM to discuss the event and juvenile life without parole sentences. Click the play button on the left side of the flash player below to listen to the interview.



A special thanks to the PCAP event organizers, to everyone who attended, and to our friend Jack Ebling for continuing to generate awareness and support for our campaign to free Efrén.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

"Three Wise Men" by Arthur Fidel Argomaniz

College essay titled "Three Wise Men" by Arthur Fidel Argomaniz about the imposition of life without parole sentences (LWOP) for juveniles. Included in this must-read article are several references to Efren's writings. It is a powerful example of how Efren continues to help shape the social consciousness of people across the nation through his writings.

Arthur is a McNair Scholar, senior attending the University of Southern California (USC) majoring in sociology. He is also president of MEChA de USC, a member of CCU (Campus and
Community United) and a SAJE (Strategic Action for a Just Economy)
intern.
Three Wise Men by Arthur Argomaniz