Efren Paredes, Jr. Resentencing Hearing Support Letter
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You are invited to join the campaign to support the release of Efren Paredes, Jr. who is scheduled for a resentencing hearing in the coming months. In 1989 Efren was arrested at age 15 and subsequently sentenced to mandatory life without parole (LWOP) by the Berrien County Trial Court in St. Joseph, Michigan. He is one of Michigan's 365 prisoners who received this draconian sentence as a youth who are referred to as "juvenile lifers."
In 2012 the U.S. Supreme Court made a landmark ruling forbidding mandatory LWOP sentences for juvenile offenders. The high court ordered the resentencing of all 2,500 juvenile offenders adversely affected by the unconstitutional sentence across the nation. Consequently Efren now awaits the opportunity to be resentenced which will occur after seven years of inordinate delays.
You can help contribute to Efren's important campaign for freedom by taking a few moments to sign this petition below and asking others to do the same. Once signed, the letter is sent electronically to the Berrien County Trial Court and Efren's family. The letter asks the court to impose a 30-year minimum to 60-year maximum sentence on Efren when he is resentenced.
You can also support Efren by sharing a link to this page on your Facebook timeline, groups, and pages; as well as on Twitter, and other popular social network platforms. Additionally, you can share a link to this page via email, listservs, and post it to websites and blogs. A shortcut link you can use to share this page is: www.TinyURL.com/Efren1016.
If you wish to write a personal support letter separate from the template letter you are encouraged to include information regarding your thoughts about Efren's character and accomplishments today. It would also be helpful to include a paragraph about yourself (e.g., your employment, educational background, organization affiliations, etc.) in your letter so the court can better appreciate your contributions to society and opinions.
You should address any support letter you write to:
Hon. Sterling Schrock
Berrien County Trial Court
811 Port Street
St. Joseph, MI 49085
After you write your letter please send a PDF version of the letter as an attachment to EfrenUncaged@gmail and insert "Efren Support Letter" in the subject line to ensure the email is opened and read. If you are unable to create a scanned PDF version of your signed letter to email as an attachment you can send your signed letter to Efren's family via U.S. Mail to:
Efren Paredes, Jr.
P.O. Box 5
Paw Paw, MI 49079
Upon receipt of your letter Efren's family will forward copies to Efren and his attorneys to submit to the sentencing court on his behalf.
People can view a list of Efren's accomplishments by visiting: www.TinyURL.com/EfrenCV2016 You can also learn more about his campaign for freedom by visiting the Free Efren Facebook page at: www.fb.com/Free.Efren. People can also view his writings at www.4Efren.blogspot.com and website at www.4Efren.com.
Q: Why does Efren's online petition request a 30- to 60-year sentence?
A: Our focus is on the minimum sentence term which makes Efren a candidate for parole. In Michigan 25 to 60 years is the minimum term-of-year sentence that a prisoner convicted as a juvenile pursuant to MCL 769.25(9) can receive. The judge has discretion to sentence Efren to a minimum term between 25 to 40 years. The maximum term of years Efren can receive is a mandatory 60 years. Since Efren will have served 30 years of incarceration by the date of his resentencing hearing we think it is appropriate and reasonable to request a 30 year minimum term of year sentence.
The Berrien County Prosecutor's Office is once again seeking a LWOP (i.e., death-by-incarceration sentence) in Efren's case despite the U.S. Supreme Court's 2012 ruling that the only prisoners who can receive the deplorable sentence are incapable of change and rehabilitation. Efren's accomplishments and body of work the past three decades make it abundantly clear he does not meet that criteria.
Q: Why should I support this petition?
A: Having been incarcerated nearly 30 years, and spending two-thirds of his life behind bars, today Efren is a principled, thoughtful 45-year-old father, husband, educator, and social justice activist. Among his interests are advocating for racial and gender equality, at-risk youth, prison reform, and comprehensive immigration reform. He is also a strong proponent of teaching conflict resolution, mediation, and critical thinking skills. Efren would be a valued asset and contributing member to any community he becomes a part of.
Q: Will Efren's attorneys be able to discuss the disputed facts in his case at his resentencing hearing?
A: The resentencing hearing is not a forum to argue disputed facts in the case. It is solely to focus on Efren's 1989 conviction, redemptive qualities, and capacity for change in accordance with the U.S. Supreme Court rulings in Miller v. Alabama (2012) and Montgomery v. Louisiana (2016). Overwhelming evidence that a LWOP sentence for Efren is dispropropriate, extreme, and unconstitutional will be presented at Efren's hearing via court briefs, exhibits, and expert testimony.
Your assistance with this campaign would be most appreciated.
The Injustice Must End (TIME)
Committee to Free Efren Paredes, Jr.
Web Site: www.4Efren.com
Below is the text of the letter that is emailed to the Berrien County Trial Court when you sign this petition:
Berrien County Trial Court:
I am writing regarding the future resentencing hearing of Efren Paredes, Jr., Berrien County Trial Court case number 89-1127-FC-Z.
The U.S. Supreme Court made it abundantly clear in Montgomery v. Louisiana, 136 S. Ct. 718 (2016), that the imposition of life without parole (LWOP) sentences on juvenile offenders must be unequivocally "rare" and "uncommon." The court also remarked that trial courts must ensure that only those juveniles who "exhibit such irretrievable depravity that rehabilitation is impossible" are eligible for LWOP sentences. (Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. at 479-80, 132 S. Ct. 2455 (2012)).
"Because juveniles have diminished culpability and greater prospects for reform ... they are less deserving of the most severe punishments." (Miller, at 471). "States [are not] free to sentence a child whose crime reflects transient immaturity to life without parole. ... Miller established that this punishment is disproportionate under the Eighth Amendment." (Montgomery, at 735). The Montgomery court mentioned eight times that only irredeemable (i.e., irreparably corrupt) juveniles may constitutionally be sentenced to LWOP.
Efren has exhibited compelling evidence he possesses the capacity to learn, grow, and change throughout the past 29 years of his imprisonment. He has made numerous selfless contributions to society mentoring young people, fostering violence reduction, and improving race relations. Additionally, he has successfully completed a broad range of education and self-help programs which have helped him develop invaluable communication and conflict resolution skills. He has used these skills to help enrich his life and those he comes into contact with.
Countless posts documenting evidence of the positive body of work Efren has done transforming lives are featured on various blogs and social media sites across the Internet. Archived interviews Efren has done with various print, television, and radio media, both nationally, and internationally, are also featured on dozens of websites. You can click here to view a list of his impressive accomplishments.
Throughout his incarceration Efren has garnered the documented support of various organizations, educators, journalists, current and former Michigan Department of Corrections employees, and hundreds of other professionals. He has home placement, employment opportunities awaiting him upon release, and enjoys the long-time, overwhelming support of family and friends committed to helping him make his concrete and realistic goals materialize upon his release.
During the past year over 100 prisoners sentenced to mandatory LWOP when they were juveniles have been resentenced in Michigan and none have reoffended. Their successful reentry into society reflects the long established fact that prisoners serving LWOP sentences who are released have less than a 1% chance of recidivating. This, in comparison to the national recidivism average of 67% for all offense categories.
Of the prisoners who were 15-years-old at the time of their arrest, 90% of them have received 25- to 60-year sentences or sentences equaling the time they have already served, making them eligible for parole consideration. The average minimum sentence they have received is 28.5 years. I believe Efren is also equally deserving of fairly receiving a sentence proportionate to those similarly situated.
The Berrien County Prosecutor's Office filed a motion with the trial court on July 21, 2016 --- two years ago -- seeking an unwarranted LWOP sentence against Efren when he is resentenced which he clearly does not qualify as a candidate to receive according to the standards outlined by the U.S. Supreme Court. I respectfully request that you dismiss the motion and impose a more reasonable and humane sentence of 30 to 60 years which is permitted according to MCL 769.25(9).
A 30- to 60-year sentence is a very lengthy and substantial sentence for a person imprisoned since age 15 to receive. Thirty years is a startling two-thirds of Efren's entire lifespan thus far. A 30- to 60-year sentence would allow the Parole Board to utilize their wealth of resources to begin safely assessing future release consideration for Efren as they do for thousands of parolees each year. It would also give jurisdiction to the Parole Board to potentially keep him incarcerated until the year 2049 based on his behavior in prison. There is no guarantee of release prior to that date.
I do not believe that people are defined by any single act or decision they make during their lives. This is even more true in the case of juveniles who will undergo countless changes throughout their lifetimes. According to behavioral experts no evidence exists that personality ever ceases to change during a person's lifetime. (Avshalom Caspi & Brent W. Roberts, "Personality Development Across the Life Course," 12 Pschol. Inquiry 49, 51 (2001)). Evidence also exists that personality traits change gradually and systematically throughout the life span, sometimes more after age 30 than before. (Sanjay Srivastava, et al., "Development of Personality in Early and Middle Adulthood," 84 J. Personality & Soc. Psychol. 1041, 1051 (2003)).
The U.S. Supreme Court stated that, "The opportunity for release will be afforded to those who demonstrate the truth of Miller's central intuition -- that children who commit even heinous crimes are capable of change. ... [Juvenile offenders] must be given the opportunity to show their crime did not reflect irreparable corruption; and, if it did not, their hope for some years of life outside prison walls must be restored." (Montgomery, at 736-737).
"Deciding that a juvenile offender forever will be a danger to society' would require making a judgment that [he] is incorrigible -- but incorrigibility is inconsistent with youth. ... Life without parole foreswears altogether the rehabilitative ideal. It reflects an irrevocable judgment about [an offender's] value and place in society, at odds with a child's capacity for change." (Miller, at 472-473).
If released, I believe Efren would pose no danger to society, he would be a productive citizen, and he would have a great deal to contribute to the world. In the interest of justice and spirit of fairness I ask this honorable court to please consider imposing a 30- to 60-year sentence on Efren when he is resentenced.
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