Make Joshua George immediately eligible for parole!

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Please, Read through entirely. There are important facts that you should consider.

Joshua George has been incarcerated since he was 16, he has now been in prison well over half of his life (the past 21 years). Joshua has a life without parole sentence for a murder that took place when he was 16, that should never have even been classified as 1st degree murder. Joshua and his stepbrother had gotten into a heated argument, but instead of just walking away as most of us would, he picked up a weapon and hit his stepbrother with it, resulting in Daniel dying later. The crime was not premeditated and is considered what we call a crime of passion. Joshua has served more time in prison for this crime than other's would sentenced with the same crime. When the Supreme Court ruled against mandatory life without parole for juveniles they did so because scientific neurological research has proven that the brains of children are not as fully developed as the brains of adults and therefore children are less culpable than adults. Joshua has spent 21 years of his life being remorseful of this crime because it was not intentional. No other country in the world sentences juveniles to life without parole. When the Supreme Coirt ruled, Governor Branstad commited all the the JLWOP sentemces to lofe with possibility of parole AFTER 60 years. That is still a LWOP sentence because Joshua would be 76 when he is eligible and mans life expectancy is only 78.2. That is called virtual life sentences. Joshua should not spend any more of his life behind bars for this crime. Please sign this petition and help Joshua get a second chance.

Death fades into insignificance when compared with life imprisonment. To spend each night in jail, day after day, year after year, gazing at the bars and longing for freedom, is indeed expiation.

—Lewis E. Lawes, warden of Sing Sing prison, 1920–41

Facts:

The explosion in the number of lifers in the United States since the 1970s is a dramatic change in U.S. penal policy. For much of the last century, a life sentence rarely meant a lifetime behind bars. In 1913, a “life” sentence in the federal system was officially defined as 15 years. Many states had comparable rules. Until the early 1970s, even in a hard-line state like Louisiana, which today has the country’s highest incarceration rate, a life sentence typically meant ten years and six months. For almost five decades, the 10/6 law, enacted in 1926, governed life sentences in Louisiana. Lifers were routinely released in Louisiana after serving about a decade if they had good conduct records and the warden’s support. The years that prisoners spent in Louisiana’s infamous Angola prison were oftentimes brutal and dehumanizing, but they nearly always had an end date. That changed almost overnight in the 1970s, as lawmakers dramatically increased the minimum time served to be considered for clemency and then in 1979 mandated that all life sentences would be served without the possibility of parole. In 1970, just 143 people were serving LWOP sentences in Louisiana. By 2009, it had mushroomed to 4,270 – or to about 11 percent of the state’s entire prison population.

Most people sentenced to life do not have any real chance of getting their sentences overturned or reduced. They often have fewer legal resources to challenge their sentences because they are not entitled to the automatic appeals process available to prisoners on death row. Moreover, most post-conviction law offices and organizations focus almost exclusively on capital cases which are paid for by the federal judiciary or otherwise receive special funding.

the Supreme Court identified the “denial of hope” as another reason to declare that these specific juvenile LWOP sentences were unconstitutional. The Court indicated that an LWOP sentence for certain juvenile offenders may be unacceptable because it means that “good behavior and character improvement are immaterial; it means that whatever the future might hold in store for the mind and spirit of [the offender], he will remain in prison for the rest of his days.”

This is not to deny or minimize the severe psychological distress that often comes with a life sentence. These sentences are like a death in slow motion for many prisoners, causing great mental and sometimes great physical distress. Furthermore, the conditions of confinement for lifers in the United States tend to be far worse than those for the general prison population and are more likely to fall below international human rights standards.

The deterrent and incapacitative effects of lengthy sentences are so modest for several reasons. First, offenders tend to be present-oriented. Thus, lengthening the sentence from, say, 15 years for a certain offense to life in prison is unlikely to have much of an effect on whether someone commits that crime or not. Moreover, the evidence that people age out of crime is compelling. Researchers have persistently found that age is one of the most important predictors of criminality. Criminal activity tends to peak in late adolescence or early adulthood and then declines as a person ages. Finally, many lifers are first-time offenders convicted of homicide. The phrase “one, then done” is commonly used to sum up their criminal proclivities.

The plight of juvenile offenders sentenced to life without the possibility of parole is another good case in point. Approximately 2,500 people currently are serving LWOP sentences for offenses committed when they were juveniles. This sentencing practice violates the 1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and other international human rights agreements and norms. Many youths sentenced to LWOP are incarcerated in adult facilities while they are still juveniles. Despite efforts to segregate these juveniles from the adult population, often in supermax-type conditions until they turn 18, many youths in adult prisons are still subject to physical and other abuses, including rape, by adult prisoners and staff alike.

By contrast, the maximum sentence available today to the International Criminal Court, which tries the gravest of crimes, including war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, is a life sentence reviewable every 25 years.

Released long-time offenders do not pose a widespread public threat. But they do pose a significant risk to political careers. Changes in the institutional structure of parole and pardon boards could provide public officials with some important political insulation from potentially controversial release decisions. States almost always staff such boards with political appointees, who are extremely vulnerable to the wrath of public opinion. Four decades ago, the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice recommended that the boards be comprised of psychologists, social workers, corrections officials and other professionals with specialized training and expertise to evaluate offenders’ suitability for release. That recommendation remains largely unrealized today.

The new focus on the plight of the innocent has overshadowed the wider question of what constitutes justice for the guilty housed on death row and for the growing number of lifers who will likely die in prison or spend most of their lives there. The number of people sentenced to death and executed has fallen sharply, but at the cost of a huge spike in those sentenced to “death by incarceration.”

In many European countries, if a “lifer” does not continue to pose a major threat to public safety, he or she is typically released after serving about a dozen years or so.

Reentry has caught the political imagination of penal reformers, policy-makers and public officials spanning the political spectrum. But as reentry has skyrocketed to the top of the penal reform agenda, lifers are facing the prospect of a further deterioration in their conditions of confinement. Despite all the recent talk about reentry, funding for treatment, programs and services for prisoners is shockingly limited and continuing to shrink. In an age of tightening budgets and a fixation on reentry, lifers are increasingly being denied programs and activities that might make their days without end more bearable. As one lifer in California lamented, “The thinking goes that since we will never get out of prison there is no point in expending scarce resources on dead men walking.”

 



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