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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.