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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.).