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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Efren Paredes, Jr. Letter to Pope Francis

April 14, 2014

His Holiness, Pope Francis 
Apostolic Palace 
00120 Vatican City

Dear Pope Francis,

My name is Efren Paredes, Jr. and I am a Latino prisoner currently housed in the State of Michigan, United States of America (U.S.).

In 1989 I was arrested at age 15 and given two life without parole (LWOP) sentences, and one parolable life sentence, for a homicide and armed robbery I did not commit. I was home with my family when the crime occurred. This past March marked 25 years of imprisonment.

During my incarceration I have educated myself and worked tirelessly to help improve the lives of other prisoners, young people in society, and to bring attention to the shameful practice of sentencing children to die in prison.

I have been very moved by your courage and bravery since becoming the Bishop of Rome by speaking out against injustices that have been committed against children and the poor. Your actions have reflected a sincere follower of Christ whose life I believe other Christians should strive to emulate.

I admire your ability to help re-energize the Catholic church and change antiquated policies that need to be reformed to meet the demands of the time. You have a profound compassion for humanity and your actions have impressed upon the world the need for racial, gender, and economical equality.

I write to ask you to please publicly condemn the shameful practice of sentencing children to die in U.S. prisons. LWOP sentences for children are an unforgiving sentence that ignores the inherent dignity in young people. The U.S. is the last remaining country to impose this sentence on children.

I believe that the rest of the civilized world can shine a light on this cruel and unconscionable policy to influence the U.S. to one day make it an inhumane relic of the past. I contend that the voices of people who remain silent on the issue are complicit in the perpetuation of this cruel injustice.

It is my prayer that together we can galvanize people of conscience to encourage the U.S. to abolish the practice of sentencing children to die in prison and replace it with a policy that reflects the spirit of forgiveness and rehabilitation.

I have witnessed the transformation of countless prisoner lives during my incarceration. In over two-and-a-half decades of imprisonment I have never encountered a single prisoner sentenced to LWOP as a juvenile who does not regret the mistake(s) he made which resulted in the precious loss of life.

I reject the notion that any child is incorrigible or expendable. Children deserve second chances. Every parent, educator and most adults know that young people have an enormous capacity for change. All children can be rehabilitated if placed in an environment that genuinely seeks to foster that goal.

If we can shift the public perception about juveniles who commit crimes we can change the way they are punished for their actions in a manner that is sensible and humane. We cannot allow vengeful prosecutors to hijack the narrative of peace and reconciliation in our society.

We often hear believers in Christ ask the question, "What would Jesus do?" regarding a variety of issues. We need to transform this question from an empty slogan without substance to one that begs an honest, genuine response.

True followers of Christ know that Jesus would not condemn children to die in prisons. To do so would be diametrically opposed to everything he taught about valuing and protecting the lives of children as well as the concept of redemption.

It is in this spirit that I invite you to join the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and chorus of voices who have called on the U.S. to end the draconian practice of sentencing children to die in its prisons.

Please use your voice to help spare the lives of the 2,600 prisoners whose lives will expire in prison cells if LWOP sentences continue to be imposed on children. We desperately need you to lend your voice and influence to this campaign.

Thank you for your time and consideration and may you enjoy a blessed Easter in the coming days.


Efren Paredes, Jr.
Saginaw Correctional Facility
9625 Pierce Road
Freeland, MI 48623
United States of America (USA)