70 Years in Prison for Being a Lookout on a 1st Offense!? Cruel and Ineffective!

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 It can happen to you, "Man Gets 70 Years in Prison on 1st Offense for Being a Lookout."  "Only in America: Lookout Gets Life Sentence for 1st Time Offense."  How can a first-time offense for robbery warrant more time than a murderer or child molester?

This petition is a chance to make a difference in the lives of not only the family and friends of Vernell, but also the community.  Vernell Freeman was sentenced to 70 years beginning on November 3, 2000.  This sentencing was the result of going to trial with a public defender, and not a personal attorney. Vernell was charged with 2 burglaries and other crimes as a result of the burglary, such as receiving stolen items, and robbery with bodily injury. 

I agree and stand with the decision to incarcerate Vernell for his actions.  No one deserves to have their home invaded and things taken.  I have had my home invaded on 3 separate occasions so I sympathize with the victims, however, I disagree with the amount of time given for this crime.  In my case the person who broke in was given probation.  Vernell has to live with his mistakes forever, he can never forget what he did, but he can apologize for what he did, and repent and ask for forgiveness in an attempt to move on in life. 

Injustice comes in many forms, and at times when we don't recognize it, and at times there is not much we can do.  In this case, we can clearly see an injustice.  He went in around age 22 and will not be able to return to society, loved ones, or home until he is about 58 years old.  What quality of life will he have?  He will be struggling for jobs at that age, trying to rekindle relationships with his adult children and adult grandchildren who only know them through a picture, phone call, letter, or video.  He loves his children, and stays in contact with them. He will also mourn and miss loved ones who are deceased, whom he will never get to show how much of a better person he has become. 

This was Vernell's first offense, and his first trial ever in life.  He had not been to prison prior to this, 70 years is a horrid sentencing at such a young age.  There have been many cases that show that you can in fact kill someone, or hurt someone and still get less time than Vernell did for his crime.

According to Guerra (2014)  "Judge Kurt Eisgruber in May sentenced David Wise to eight years of home detention for drugging his then-wife and raping her while she was unconscious." 

Wierks (2015) states that, “Two decades ago, Tony Degrafreed, 52, was convicted for killing his first wife, Stacy Degrafreed. He served 11 years in prison for her murder.”

According to Garrison (2017) “A 28-year-old woman whose vehicle was used to kidnap two teenage brothers later brutally murdered was sentenced to 30 years in prison.”

Vernell has completely turned his life around, he focuses on God, and God has become the center of his life.  He is a positive influence on many other prisoners around him, and he has, with letters and phone conversations helped with the happiness and well-being of his home and children.

This petition is not a selfish cry out for Vernell to be freed, this is a holistic cry out, because I am a mother and a teacher, and I see where our young men are headed.  Vernell has a gift and talent that he discovered while in prison and so, we thank God for him going to prison, God has saved his life there.  He had a chance to sit still, and grasp the life that God purposed for him.  He is now ready to share this goodness with others.  He is the perfect candidate to show that prison can in fact be rehabilitation for some.  He has written to me these words, "Be still, be patient, listen to God- He talks to us through us - the signs are there and have always been there.  It might not be how we wanted it, but it's without a doubt what we need." I know without a doubt that prison was a gift for Vernell, he was on the wrong path in life, but he has not been given a second chance to prove himself worthy for a second chance at life.

What is a second chance? We use second chances all the time.  Supervisors warn of what will happen if a worker encounters an infraction, we tell our children what consequence will be rendered upon a second time around, as a teacher my students get more than enough chances to turn their behavior around.  What is a second chance? It is a chance to see if what you said, or did actually worked.  In this case, has prison served its purpose in Vernell’s life?   Benson (2003) stated that, "Until the mid-1970s, rehabilitation was a key part of U.S. prison policy. Prisoners were encouraged to develop occupational skills and to resolve psychological problems--such as substance abuse or aggression--that might interfere with their reintegration into society. Indeed, many inmates received court sentences that mandated treatment for such problems.

Since then, however, rehabilitation has taken a back seat to a "get tough on crime" approach that sees punishment as prison's main function, says Haney. The approach has created explosive growth in the prison population, while having at most a modest effect on crime rates.

As a result, the United States now has more than 2 million people in prisons or jails--the equivalent of one in every 142 U.S. residents--and another four to five million people on probation or parole. A higher percentage of the population is involved in the criminal justice system in the United States than in any other developed country."  

How do we gauge what works or not, if some people who it may have worked with, does not get a chance to show that it worked!   Vernell deserves a chance to come out into society, to make a difference in our youth, and to show the courts and the prisons, that he is an example of someone who just simply needs a second chance at life.  He has 2 daughters, 6 sons, and 2 grandsons that love him dearly.  He has lost his dad, and many others while he has been in prison, and his mother is having current health issues.  He is needed in their lives. He is needed in many other lives in this community; allow him a chance to show the goodness of his change. 

Are his sins different from the sins people are committing daily.  Is it different for him because his are on public record? Everyone makes mistakes, sign this petition to support second chances, and to advocate against near life sentencing on 1st offense cases.  Vernell is prepared to help save generations, as well as show that prison can be a positive institute if it is used in the proper manner. Thank you in advance for your support in this case.


Works Cited

Benson, E. (2003). Rehabilitate or Punish? Psychologists are not only providing treatment to prisoners; they're also contributing to debate over the nature of the prison itself, 34(7). Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/monitor/julaug03/rehab.aspx

Guerra, K. (2014, June 29). Marion County criminal cases with sentences less than expected. Indy Star. Retrieved from http://www.indystar.com/story/news/crime/2014/06/19/marion-county-criminal-cases-sentences-less-expected/10788647/

Wierks, K. (2015, October 6). Indianapolis man gets 60 year prison sentence for second wife’s murder.  Channel 4 News. Retrieved from http://cbs4indy.com/2015/10/06/indianapolis-man-gets-60-year-prison-sentence-for-second-wifes-murder/

Garrison, S. (2017, December 1). Woman sentenced to 30 years prison for kidnapping of murdered teenage brothers.  NW Indiana Times. Retrieved from http://www.nwitimes.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/woman-sentenced-to-years-prison-for-kidnapping-of-murdered-teenage/article_03999071-bbfa-515b-bd67-73eb7b1a2b06.html