In an exciting development, a California Court of Appeal found a life with the possiblity of parole sentence unconstitutional as cruel and unusual punishment for a 16-year-old. Victor Mendez did not commit a homicide or inflict bodily injury but was sentenced to 84-years- to-life in prison, a sentence that meant he would have no real opportunity for release. Relying on the recent US Supreme Court Case, Graham v. Florida, the California court found that the lengthy sentence did not give him “some meaningful opportunity to obtain release based on demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation.” To read the Mendez case click here: People vs. Mendez. To read the US Supreme Court case that found life without parole unconstitutional for juveniles who commit non-homicide crimes, click here: Graham v. Florida.
Archive for September, 2010
Sara Kruzan is one of many youth sentenced to life without parole across the US who have grown into mature, responsible adults and should have the chance to work toward release. In California and 38 other jurisdictions in the US, there is no chance for individuals like Sara to earn release. Sara, who was just two months past her 16th birthday when she shot the 36-year-old pimp who had raped and abused her, has filed a clemency petition asking California Gov. Schwarzenegger to commute her life without parole sentence to time served. Now 32, Sara has spent half her life in prison, where she is a model prisoner and working toward a college degree. A petition for clemency is very difficult to win, and only granted in rare cases. To write a letter in support of Sara’s petition, click here. Look on the home page of this website to watch a video of an interview with Sara.
Great article chronicling the effort of a mother to ensure her son gets the education he needs…and deserves. She’s an inspiration to us all, as are the groups and individuals who worked with her: The Youth law Center, Chaplain Javier Stauring, and the Disability Rights Legal Center. Click here to read, “With Son Behind Bars, A Mother Wages Battle for his Education.”
The broad, diverse, and hard-working coalition of supporters that came together around SB399 will not let this struggle die. We’re meeting and mapping out next steps. Send your ideas into email@example.com. Keep checking back at this website for more information.
Don’t let those who oppose be the only ones that Assembly Members hear from about SB 399. You can take one important step right now towards future success of fair sentencing for youth: Let those Assembly Members who voted yes know you appreciate their leadership. Tell those who did not vote for the bill that you expect different vote the next time. Go to the “Take Action” page for instructions.
The California State Assembly defeated SB 399, just two votes shy of what was needed for passage. There’s no question that our coalition is deeply disappointed that California failed to stop this human rights violation. Nevertheless, it is clear that while we were working for this bill, something else happened. Perspectives have changed, and there is support building for changing how California treats young people. Literally thousands of individuals called and wrote letters in support of SB 399. Hundreds of people met with their representatives. A diverse collection of over 100 organizations supported the bill, while dozens of churches and other groups held events to push for its passage. We’re looking forward to the next steps, and hope you will join us. Right now, please go to the “Take Action” page and see what you can do.