Blanket sentence for juvenile capital murder cases
Blanket sentence for juvenile capital murder cases
Why this petition matters
Could you imagine making a grave error in your teen years and being punished for it for the rest of your life? Could you imagine your child making a grave error and then spending the rest of their lives in prison? Could you imagine never being able to get married, have children, go on vacation, have a job, have a driver license, go to the grocery store, eat at a restaurant, own a pet if you chose, lay in bed and watch tv, hug your loved one and tell them you loved them whenever you wanted? These things and so many more are all a reality for those individuals who were juveniles when they committed a grave offence and have been sentenced to life without the opportunity for parole.
These young men were never given a chance, and that hasn’t changed. The ones who went in as mere children are now grown men with a lifetime of experience in survival. They have educated themselves and even gotten their GED’s. They have taken classes on living outside those fences, controlling their anger, read more books than most people would even try to do, and for many learned more about themselves than us “free” people ever will. Many of these young impressionable children are now grown self-educated, very smart men. So, no matter that these children are no longer children and are different people now they still aren’t given a chance. The consequences remain, even with rehabilitation.
Research about adolescent brain development shows people do not fully develop rational decision-making abilities until their 20s. Other research has highlighted the impact of adverse childhood experiences on the developing brain, including sexual and physical abuse, poverty, neglect, and incarcerated parents — events that can negatively wire some children’s brains. Children can mature and overcome early impulsive or thoughtless behaviors to become more responsible and morally centered adults if they are given the chance.
The prison system is honestly not set up to rehabilitate individuals with the intent to eventually integrate them back into society, just imagine a child as young as 14 years old being put in an adult prison and made to fend for themselves, made to learn how to survive in a hostile environment with men way older and more experienced than them. Juveniles who commit murder are charged as adults and put into adult prisons when they are nothing but troubled children. They aren’t sent to juvenile detention centers until they are legally adults they are immediately considered adults and sent into one of the worst prison systems and for many years were placed in general population. Prison obviously and rightly so isn’t meant to be a vacation, but it shouldn’t be a place where you have to worry for your life 24/7 or sleep with one eye open. It shouldn’t be a place where many days you go hungry because you either aren’t given food, or the food is so terrible you get sick from it. The amount of money that a state allocates per prisoner is around $33,000, and that number increases once they reach the age of 55. This is more than many households bring home in one year for a family of 3, and they aren’t starving. With that amount of money there is no reason to go hungry, go without proper medical care, or feel unsafe when you go to sleep at night. Just imagine if a juvenile commits his crime at the age of 15 and serves 30 years in prison, it has cost approximately 990,000 to house just that one prisoner, and then consider the fact that we have more than 100 juvenile offenders is Alabama alone, those numbers are staggering considering Alabama’s prisons are one of the worst in the country.
Sentencing a juvenile to prison for life without parole does not give that juvenile an opportunity to demonstrate meaningful rehabilitation. This is the cruelest type of punishment that can be imposed, except for possibly the death penalty. Juvenile offenders have clear constitutional rights and strong cases for relief. They’re just not getting it.
A series of U.S. Supreme Court rulings opened up the possibility for parole for prisoners convicted of capital murder for crimes committed when they were less than 18 years old.
In 2005 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that juveniles - those who were under the age of 18 when the crime occurred - can't be executed for a capital murder conviction. As a result, a number of Death Row inmates, who were juveniles when they killed, had their death sentences converted to life without the possibility of parole. Then in the case of (Evan) Miller v. Alabama in 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional laws in states, including Alabama, where life without the possibility of parole was the only sentence judges had available to impose on juveniles convicted in capital murder cases. Judges must have more than one sentencing option, the court ruled. U.S. Supreme Court then held that their earlier decision in the Miller case is to be applied retroactively to those who were convicted prior to 2012. Many of those inmates who had originally sought to have their sentences reduced to life with a chance at parole have re-applied. And yet Alabama is behind other states in addressing juvenile sentencing. As a result of the Supreme Court ruling in the Miller case, at least 24 other states have reformed their sentencing guidelines for juvenile offenders by eliminating life without parole or reducing the length of time that must be served before a parole hearing. Hundreds of juvenile offenders sentenced to life have been resentenced to lesser terms or released, just not here.
In 2016 a new law was put into effect in Alabama stating that Juvenile offenders must serve at least 30 years before being eligible for parole. The amendment to the capital murder sentencing states, in part, that a judge now has the option of sentencing juveniles convicted of capital murder to life with the possibility of parole. But if the defendant is given a life sentence, they must at least serve 30 years before they can first be considered for parole. Under the Alabama law a judge also still has the ability to impose life without the possibility of parole.
Alabama prisons rank fourth highest in the nation for the percentage of incarcerated people who are serving either life without the possibility of parole, life with the possibility of parole or sentences of at least 50 years. In Alabama, 5,660 state inmates, 0r 26 percent, are serving either LWOP, LWP or virtual life sentences, which ranks as the fourth-highest percentage in the country.
The number of people serving either LWOP, LWP or virtual life sentences in Alabama in 2020 was 149 percent higher than the state’s total prison population in 1970, at the start of the country’s mass incarceration boom, which was the eleventh-highest percentage in the country.
The U.S. Department of Justice in December filed a federal lawsuit against the state of Alabama and the Alabama Department of Corrections, alleging violations of inmates’ constitutional rights to protection from prisoner-on-prisoner violence, sexual abuse and excessive force by prison guards.
Alabama has an incarceration rate of 938 per 100,000 people (including prisons, jails, immigration detention, and juvenile justice facilities), meaning that it locks up a higher percentage of its people than any democracy on earth. Alabama released fewer people on parole in 2020 than they had in 2019 and approved a smaller percent of parole applications.
With Alabama having one of the worst prison systems in the United States with mass overcrowding, violence, sexual abuse, murders, and low staff revising our laws to allow these individuals that could possibly be a benefit to society would help more than just the individual, it could help Alabama. These once children now grown men deserve a chance to prove they have changed, they are remorseful and that they could be more than their past.
Please consider signing this petition to make the US Supreme Court make a ruling to mandate a blanket sentence for Juvenile offenders nationwide and not just leave it up to the judge’s discretion. These men deserve a second chance at life.