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Monday, March 19, 2012

Support Documentary Film Calling for End to Life Without Parole Sentences for Youth

by Efren Paredes, Jr.

Today the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments to consider whether or not to end the sentencing of youths to life without parole (LWOP) -- death by incarceration -- nationwide.

If the high court rules in favor of abolishing this deplorable sentence it will make 2,500 juveniles across the nation eligible for parole consideration. Michigan incarcerates 358 of these juveniles, 15% of the total number of juveniles serving this sentence globally.

Ending LWOP sentences alone will not result in releasing a single prisoner. Parole Boards will just begin having the authority to give release consideration to these prisoners. Parole Boards currently have no authority to release prisoners serving LWOP sentences. Only state Governors can grant them a pardon or commutation of sentence that will result in their release.

To help end the shameful imposition of LWOP sentences on youths, a documentary film in its post-production stage titled "Natural Life" is seeking financial support necessary to be complete and distributed nationwide by the summer of 2012.

A complete description of the film is available at the end of this message, as well as information about how you can make a donation to help make the film completion a reality.

Please take a few minutes to visit the link and, if able, make a financial donation to this project. You can also contribute to this project in a big way by circulating the link to the fundraising project widely via email, Facebook, Twitter, and Google. You can also mention the link in editorials, in comment posts to articles on the Internet, and by posting flyers on college campuses, at churches, libraries, community centers, etc.

Your participation in this project can help change the course of history and end the mistreatment of juveniles by the criminal justice system. It will also send a message to the rest of the world that you stand in defense of human rights and the inherent dignity in our nation's youths.

I have been imprisoned since age 15 and the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling could impact my life in a huge way. Just four days ago I completed 23 years of imprisonment. I have spent 8,474 days -- over half my entire life -- locked away from society in adult jail and prisons.

If we do not end LWOP sentences for juveniles in the U.S. many of us will die in prison having never experienced living one single day in society as a free adult. We will never have been given the opportunity to be rehabilitated and be a productive citizen because of a crime we were convicted of committing when we were juveniles.

Let us remember the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who reminded us "Our lives begin to end the moment we stop caring about the things that matter." The lives of children matter. And so do their futures and the future of this nation.

The fundraiser link is: