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Thursday, January 31, 2008

Elena Herrada Message to TIME Committee Members About Efren's Recent Letter to the Committee

January 31, 2008

Dear friends,

I am writing to mention to you that Efren wrote a piece about butterflies and seeds, which he sent out broadly. It is a very introspective, reflective piece. What moved me most about reading it, though, was the idea of Efren imagining the beauty of such things, to which he has no access.

Efren is mining the depths of his imagination and heart to keep his spirits centered and balanced after a lifetime of incarceration. The fact of his innocence, of course, is a painful reminder of terrible injustices that surround us everywhere. There are people who knew he was innocent when they sent him away, and people who were not sure of his guilt when they cosigned his fate with those who committed this child to prison.

The steadfast faith he shows in his efforts to get justice, and inevitable subsequent freedom, should inspire all of us. He is not bitter and he is not self obsessed. He thinks about the world and people and conditions, and writes his reflections for us to share. He is aware of life's gifts, even from his prison cell. The mystery of life, of God's presence in the world, of the possibilities, are not lost on him. He is a person of inestimable intelligence and depth. It takes a great thinker and a disciplined soul to seek solace and find peace in a situation he did nothing to deserve.

My heart is heavy with the events of the world today. It saddens me to see our country continue in this terrible war, based on lies and greed, and the devastating effects it has on its victims around the world. It demoralizes us sometimes to think that there are people not only getting away with murder, but sending others off to do it for them. And taking our jobs and livelihood in the process, causing us all to live diminished lives. Demonizing people who are forced to cross the deadly border to escape conditions created by the same corporations that loot the world's resources.

We are standing with the people on the losing end of these deals every day. And that is where we'll stay. In these battles, there is only struggle, rarely closure or victory. But Efren's spirit inspires me to stay on the path of justice, to keep fighting even when there is no victory in sight.

It is in the spirit of gratitude for people like all of you, and Efren, who keep going, that I write to you and thank you for your gifts of energy, faith and continued renewal. The joys of life are found in those we travel with, and I am deeply grateful to know you all.

Elena M. Herrada

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Seeds and Butterflies: Symbols of Life and Transformation

by Efren Paredes, Jr.

I want to thank each of you for attending the TIME Committee meeting on Saturday, January 26, 2008 in Lansing. You had a very productive meeting and you filled the North Star Center with positive energy.

Our meetings are the building blocks for new ideas and help us improve our campaign for justice. As we work to educate ourselves and others about my case we continue to expand our circle of influence and make a compelling case for my release.

I was unable to call in to the Saturday meeting as hoped because the phone system was off at the facility I am housed. I was really looking forward to calling in. This is one of many disappointments I have encountered over the years. I remained strong though and did not let it consume me. I took comfort in knowing that those attending the meeting knew I was there in spirit. I also knew everything was in good hands.

Last week our Detroit Committee convened a wonderful meeting which included members of the media from The Michigan Citizen and National Public Radio (NPR). I was fortunate to call in to that meeting and communicate with those present. It is always a pleasure to hear your voices, engage in dialogue with you, and exchange ideas.

I am encouraged each time you convene on my behalf because I know every meeting gives birth to a multitude of innovative possibilities. Each of you possesses a wealth of potential that can germinate into the key that delivers me from the dismal cages that hold me captive.

Seeds represent potential. They are symbols of regeneration. Each time we observe them we are reminded that life springs forth from their core. They are an ecumenically recognized part of creation that are revered and an integral part of everyone's life.

Maria used beans during her opening remarks at the committee meeting to illustrate how we can distribute work and lighten our burdens. She discussed the significance of beans to Mexican people and them being the embodiment of sustenance.

After the meeting, the following day, I spoke with one of our committee members and friends, Scott Elliott. Scott told me that everyone who attended took some of the beans home with them as a reminder to continue spreading our vision and nurturing these seeds of potential.

During our conversation Scott told me that he is going to take the beans he received and plant them around the Berrien County Courthouse where I was unlawfully convicted. He plans on also planting them around the police department and throughout various parts of the city of St. Joseph where my arrest occurred.

To Scott, whenever the beans take root and begin to grow they will remind him of me and our campaign for justice. And, they will be sprawled throughout the entire city; tiny symbols of my spirit and the wonderful work done by the committee.

To reinforce the powerful message that lies in the beans/seeds that I heard about from the meeting something interesting occurred today when my mail was delivered. My newspaper was slid under my cell door accompanied by a letter from a prisoner friend housed in the upper peninsula, along with a card from an address that didn't appear familiar.

Curious what was inside the card-sized envelope I briefly studied the address, realized I was sure I didn't recognize it, and then I proceeded to open it. Inside I discovered a card. On the cover it said, "I bought a seed bank for you" with a photograph of a small hill of large seeds that look like beans. Inside the card was the message, "Dear Efren, we are thinking of you and wish you very well." It was signed by 10 people.

According to the card, the investment of a seed bank was made in my honor. It is part of Oxfam America's gift program that gives in two ways: by providing a symbolic gift for the recipient of the card, as well as supporting people in need. The inside of the card says that Oxfam saves lives, helps people overcome poverty, and fights for social justice.

I received the mail just as I was about half-way into writing this message. In many ways, the sender of the card mailed me a gift of life which arrived very timely. They wouldn't know that though since I didn't receive it until well over a week after they mailed it. Typical mail delays in prison. I was thankful to receive it though and it brought a smile to my face.

Later that day I had the opportunity to speak with another one of the individuals serving a life without parole sentence who was sentenced as a juvenile. Like me, he has strong family and friends supporting him. He just arrived at the facility on Friday.

This individual and I had corresponded through the mail for several years but never met each other personally. This was the first encounter we had in person. And, I don't believe it was a coincidence that we met at this particular time.

We discussed several issues related to the juvenile life without parole legislative hearing from last week and the various facets of our individual campaigns. I learned that he submitted a commutation request in March 2007 and still has not received a response. His request was prepared by a parole board consultant his family hired for him. He agreed to share it with me tomorrow so that I may perhaps receive some helpful ideas about its preparation.

During our discussion I told him I was nearing completion of my commutation request and told him the approach I was utilizing. He agreed with what I told him but urged me to review his request to ensure I explored other ideas as well. I, of course, agreed to do that.

One thing I strive to do is make informed decisions. Only a fool would prepare something haphazardly and rush to submit a document that will greatly impact their life. Careful deliberation is essential in any decision that alters the trajectory of our lives.

Later that evening I attended an Indian Nations United (INU) meeting and our sponsor brought in several hand drums for us to play. INU is a cultural organization dedicated to the preservation of indigenous culture and history.

The 10 people in attendance formed a circle and we drummed for a half-hour. It is always a great experience when we do it. The unification, energy, and peace generated is always refreshing and has a healing effect.

All of the oldest known religious rites used drumming as part of the shared religious experience. According to master drummer Babatunde Olatunji, "The sound of the drum resonates with an inner chord that vibrates through your whole body, so that when you go through the act of drumming, you are energizing every cell in your body."

When people are surrounded by drums played in unison a phenomena called entrainment takes place. The organization The Primal Connection writes that, "The vibrations of the drums cause the cells and fragmented electrical impulses of the body’s nervous system to smooth out and line up with the rhythm. This is the state of mind where healing begins and a sense of well being comes to the forefront."

Drumming tonight allowed me to clear my thoughts, feed my spirit, and release a considerable amount of stress. It was therapeutic and the vibrations washed away the negative energies. The opportunity to drum couldn't have come at a better time.

Tonight I selected one of the drums I had never used before too. It was covered with brilliantly painted butterflies; symbols of transformation. Some were depicted flying, others delicately sitting on freshly grown flowers.

After several weeks of prayer, intense thought, countless hours of research, conferring with several others similarly situated, speaking with members of the committee, etc., the time has arrived to complete the final steps of the commutation request.

I am hopeful it can be submitted this week, but if not it will be submitted next week for sure. There are factors beyond my control which could compel that. I am not able to put anything directly in the U.S. Mail mailbox. Everything we submit for mailing goes through the prison mail room which then turns it over to the U.S. Postal Service after they process it.

I share all this with you to invite your prayers and ask you to join me in spirit this week as I steadfastly work to complete this very important project. While I have been under a considerable amount of stress as I have worked on it, I have done my best to stay on course and not allowed people or things to scatter my focus.

Seeds and butterflies were the last things I focused on tonight before completing this writing. Life and transformation. Hopefully the coming days will manifest this in my life in a very powerful and profound way.

Like the butterflies, my spirit waits to be finally lifted from this experience so I can join all of you one day and be physically present at a committee meeting. Finally free and working to fight other injustices.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Message to Supporters of Second Chance Legislation (Michigan House Bills 4402-4405)

The following message was read to one of the TIME Committee members over the phone when they spoke with Efren last night. He asked us to share his message with everyone.

Dear Second Chance Legislation Supporters:

I would like to personally thank you for attending yesterday's House Judiciary Committee hearing regarding House Bills 4402-4405. It meant a great deal to me that you took time out of your busy schedules, braved the cold elements, and drove through some of the inclement weather to support this very important legislation.

I had the opportunity to receive feedback from people who were fortunate to attend the hearing. By all accounts it went very well and the spirit of those supporting House Bills 4402-4405 was resilient. You have much to be proud of.

The hearing was a historic event. It is the genesis of what will eventually manifest into sentencing reform that abolishes the imposition of life without parole (LWOP) sentences against juveniles in this state. Our collective efforts and voice of consciousness will help us restore the human treatment of children and respect for their inherent dignity.

Your efforts and dedication to this campaign are deeply appreciated by all those adversely affected by the existing juvenile LWOP sentences that have been meted out. On behalf of the over 300 people whose lives you valiantly fought to save from the clutches of Michigan's death penalty equivalent yesterday, I extend my heartfelt gratitude to each of you.

I commend the persons who spoke at the hearing in support of the house bills. You were each courageous and your messages resonated with those in attendance according to those I had the privilege to speak with about the hearing. You were able to deliver powerful heartfelt messages that are certain to be given serious consideration in the deliberation process over the bills' final outcomes.

I want to also thank those who support the house bills who were unable to attend the hearing. Your spirit was felt and the work that you do for the campaign does not go unnoticed. Without your tireless efforts and support we would not be enjoying the progress we do today. Every endeavor in this movement counts. We are all one part of a enormously powerful collective body of progression.

We will prevail in this matter because we stand on the side of justice and the protection of human rights. We will not jettison our children, and we will persist paving the way for them to enjoy a future of freedom from further human rights abuses.


Efren Paredes, Jr.

Web Site:

The Injustice Must End (TIME) Press Release About Michigan House Bills 4402-4405

Efren's Letter to House Judiciary Commitee About Michigan House Bills 4402-4405

Abolish Juvenile Life Without Parole Sentences in the USA — Facebook Group

Abolish Juvenile Life Without Parole Sentences in the USA — MySpace Group

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

TIME Committee to Free Efren Paredes, Jr. Press Release About Michigan House Bills 4402-4405

The Injustice Must End (TIME)
Committee to Free Efren Paredes, Jr.
P.O. Box 858
Battle Creek, MI 49016
Web Site:

Press Release
For Immediate Release
Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Injustice Must End (TIME) Committee to Free Efren Paredes, Jr. opposes the imposition of life without parole (LWOP) sentences on children. We do not support abandoning the inherent dignity of children, and view LWOP sentences for children as a human rights violation.

We believe in redemption and assert that persons who are convicted of committing crimes when they were children are not incorrigible and deserve an opportunity to one day return to society. It is our prayer that our honorable legislature and Governor will enact House Bills 4402-4405, which are aimed at abolishing the deplorable practice of sentencing children to LWOP.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) prohibits the sentencing of children to death or LWOP. One hundred ninety-two nations in the world have ratified the CRC. Refusal to acknowledge this treaty violates the evolving standards of decency in a civilized society.

Passage of House Bills 4402-4405 will not release a single person from prison. It will merely give these persons the opportunity to one day be given consideration for release by the Michigan Parole Board. It will also breathe life into a procedure previously designed to quell every conceivable notion of hope.

This legislation will also be able to help Efren Paredes, Jr., a Latino honor student who was arrested at age 15 and unlawfully sentenced to two LWOP sentences for the death of one victim, and one parolable life sentence for the charge of armed robbery. Efren did not commit the crime and was in no way involved. He will turn 35-years-old in April and commence his 19th year of incarceration in March.

Efren's accomplishments while in prison are exemplary and his conduct outstanding. For the last 12 years Efren has maintained employment with Michigan Braille Transcribing Fund (MBTF) as a certified Literary Braille Transcriber, and he has received no misconduct reports during that time. Efren has also worked to reduce youth violence, helped educate others, assisted others with the development of social and critical thinking skills, among other productive things.

Throughout his incarceration Efren has demonstrated continued growth, maturity, and stability. We are very proud of Efren and all he has achieved during this very painful and grueling experience within very controlled and restricted conditions. He continues being the positive person he was previous to his imprisonment.

Efren poses absolutely no risk or danger to society. His continued incarceration is a shameful waste of taxpayer dollars and valuable resources needed elsewhere in the state. To date, the State of Michigan has spent nearly $570,000 to keep Efren in prison. We waste $30,000 in public spending each year to keep him incarcerated.

Upon his eventual release from prison Efren will contribute a great deal to society and be very successful. He has a home to live in, strong family and community support, and full-time employment. He will even be able to employ others and help contribute to our struggling economy. Efren and the citizens of this state are well-deserving of this reality.

Abolish Juvenile Life Without Parole Sentences in the USA — Facebook Group

Abolish Juvenile Life Without Parole Sentences in the USA — MySpace Group

* You can download a hard copy of the actual press release from: