The film challenges inequities in the U.S. juvenile justice system by depicting, through documentation and reenactment, the stories of five prisoners who were sentenced to life without parole (natural life) for crimes they were convicted of committing as youths.
Life without parole is the most severe sentence available for convicted adults. Shamefully the U.S. is the last remaining country in the world imposing this draconian sentence on youthful offenders. Seventy-two percent of the children who received the sentenced in Michigan are children of color.
The youthful status and/or lesser culpability of these youths, their background and their potential for rehabilitation, were not taken into account at any point in the charging and sentencing process.
Without a change in current sentencing laws, or a favorable decision by the courts regarding applying a 2013 U.S. Supreme Court case (i.e., Miller v. Alabama) retroactively which held that mandatory life without parole sentences for juveniles are unconstitutional, the five could remain in prison until they die.
The documentary film portrays the ripple effect that this unforgiving sentence has had not only on the incarcerated youth and their victims, but also on the community at large.
During the past two-and-a-half decades fear of juvenile crime has violated the fundamental ideas upon which juvenile court rests, and specifically, the belief in children's unique capacity for rehabilitation and change.
State lawmakers and the federal government have more and more frequently opted to resort to harsher punitive adults models, demanding that children be put on trial as if they were as culpable, liable and informed as adults who commit similar crimes.
Forty-one states in the U.S. impose life without parole sentences on youth under the age of 18. The sentencing system for youth is especially vulnerable to a challenge where over half of the youths serving these sentences did not, themselves, commit a homicide.
The film features nearly 50 interviews with individuals who were involved with the crime, the arrest and the sentencing of the five featured inmates.
Among those interviewed are judges, lawyers, police officers, reporters, wardens, teachers, child psychiatrists, legal experts, members of families of the incarcerated as well as of the victims' families; all this alongside extensive recorded phone conversations with the inmates themselves.
The film is being screened across the U.S., Canada, and Europe. You can learn more details about the film or purchase a copy by visiting NaturalLifeFilm.org. You are also invited to "Like" the film's Facebook page.
Members of the media, educators, students, people seeking to screen the film for a large audience, and others can request a live interview with Efren to discuss the film, or to include his responses to questions in a media story by putting "Efren Media Request" in the subject line of an e-mail to his family.
You can also contact Efren directly electronically via JPay.com. He can be found on the prisoner locator for
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