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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving Holiday Message from Efrén Paredes, Jr.

Dear Family, Friends and Supporters,

I am writing to wish you a Happy Thanksgiving and let you know you are in my thoughts and prayers.

I hope you get to enjoy time with your family and take a break from your every day work schedule to relax from the stresses of your weekly routine.  It is easy to become trapped in disappointments and the challenges we face.  We often find it more difficult to swim out of murky waters that attempt to drown us in despair than to sulk in them.

Take some time for yourself to reflect on life and the gifts you are blessed with each day.  Whether it is the gift of family, friends, employment, happiness, or freedom, they are all deserving of our gratitude and not to be taken for granted.

Each day presents us with infinite possibilities.  It is up to us to make the most of each moment.  We have to remind ourselves that no matter how difficult times may get, our experiences can not erase our dreams and vision.

Our spirits were created to soar and transcend the challenges of life.  They are free and boundless.  And, they cannot be held down by gravity or be caged.  I know this to be true because these are not mere words I send you as a holiday greeting.  It is how I strive to live my life each waking day.

Have a great Thanksgiving Holiday!



Monday, November 16, 2009

New Free Efrén - End Juvenile Life Without Parole Poster

Click here to download the latest 8-1/2" x 11" Free Efrén poster which also supports an end to life without parole (LWOP) sentences for youth in the U.S.

The U.S. is the only country in the world that is currently imposing LWOP sentences on youth. A movement to abolish LWOP for youth is growing exponentially by human rights advocates from every corner of the globe.

LWOP sentences for youth offends “the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society,” the U.S. Supreme Court’s announced standard for reviewing state punishment under the Eighth Amendment.

Like many adolescent development and neuroscience scholars and experts, Efrén supports an end to LWOP for youth not only because of his own case, but because he does not believe that youth should be condemned to die in prison for crimes they committed (or were accused of committing) when society deemed them too young to vote, join the military, get married, or even visit a prison.

He contends that if society deemed them too young or irresponsible to do lawful things, we cannot punish youth the same way we do adults when they commit crimes. The lives of youth are not dispensable. Any caring parent or knowledgeable educator knows this.

Efrén agrees that youth who commit crimes should and must be punished for the crimes they commit. He also believes that ending LWOP sentences for youth should not result in the release of each youth who committed a crime. Some youth who commit crimes may never deserve to be released if they do not demonstrate they have been rehabilitated and can be productive members of society. However, he opposes policies which condemn youth to die in prison and never being given the "possibility" for parole consideration.

As Professors Elizabeth S. Scott and Laurence Steinberg wrote in The New York Times recently, "[P]sychological experts are unable to distinguish between the young person whose crime reflects transient immaturity and the rare juvenile offender who may deserve the harsh sentence of life without parole. If experts can’t reliably make this determination, then it seems unlikely that juries and judges would be able to do much better."

They added, "There is now a consensus among neuroscientists, for example, that brain regions and systems responsible for foresight, self-regulation, risk assessment and responsiveness to social influences continue to mature into young adulthood. This evidence that adolescents are psychologically and neurologically less mature than adults should be important in deciding how to punish their criminal acts."

It is also well-documented that adolescents subjected to LWOP sentences are also disproportionately children of color. In the county Efrén was convicted in, Berrien County, MI, every juvenile who has received a LWOP sentence has been a youth of color. This statistic is, however, not isolated to Berrien County alone. There are many counties across the U.S. who echo this shameful and racist statistic.

Please download the latest Free Efrén poster, display it on college campuses, and in homes, libraries, churches, offices, and other public places to express your support for Efrén's release and an end to the deplorable sentences that condemn youth to die in prison. You are also encouraged to share the poster with people via e-mail and post about it on the various social networking sites (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc.).

Monday, November 9, 2009

New Video by Nezua Discusses Efrén's Case and Need to Abolish JLWOP Sentences for Youth

Please view the latest video by Nezua, "The Potential for Progress," which discusses the need to abolish life without parole (LWOP) sentences for youth in the U.S. The article that Nezua wrote which is the foundation of the video is available for your review below. The video and article both reference Efrén's case.

Nezua Limon, is a filmmaker and a published author/artist who blogs regularly at The Unapologetic Mexican. He was recently employed by MTV News Street Team ‘08 after competing to represent the state of Oregon, and was originally trained in the field of Film and Television at New York University.

In 2008, Nezua was selected to be a panel member of Online 100, “the first-ever survey of the top 100 online voices and bloggers tracking trends and attitudes heading toward the 2008 Election Day” (formed by Andrew Rawnsley, the Chief Political Commentator of The Observer).

Nezua is a founding editor of The Sanctuary, an award winning site dedicated to human rights and progressive grassroots action, and La Frontera Times.

Today the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the cases of Graham v. Florida, and Sullivan v. Florida. The Court will subsequently decide whether it is cruel and unusual to sentence people to prison to die for crimes they committed (or were accused of committing) when they were youth. The U.S. is the last remaining country who imposes this deplorable sentence on its young. It is our hope that we will soon join the rest of the civilized world and stop ignoring the concept of redemption or inherent dignity in children.

A special thanks to Nezua lending his voice to the international Movement to end LWOP sentences for youth and helping Efrén's case continue to generate global attention and support.

Also featured on The Unapologetic Mexican, La Frontera Times, NuestraVoice, and VivirLatino. Article text appears below: