Clemency for Laverne Dejohnette!

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“More people would learn from their mistakes if they weren’t so busy denying them. This quote that I read in a random book has become a focal point in my rehabilitation. I now recognize the many mistakes I made early in my life. I also know that I was lost, coming from a dysfunctional home, neighborhood and community. I am accountable for the bad choices I made but I also have learned to hold others accountable for the many abuses I endured growing up. I have healed by taking full advantage of self- help opportunities, and I continue to actively participate in my rehabilitation. I have transformed my life and if given the opportunity I will live a productive life and thrive. A Life Without the Possibility of Parole (LWOP) sentence reinforces a “throw away” attitude towards human beings.  It denies that a person can grow or change.”  Laverne Dejohnette

Laverne Dejohnette grew up in South Central Los Angeles during the 1980’s. She is a survivor of incest, repeated abuse and neglect from the time she was a young child. She grew up thinking these conditions were normal because the people she knew were all experiencing the same things and there wasn’t any help for anyone in her neighborhood.

At age 13 she was removed from her home because of the child abuse occurring and placed in foster care.  There she was trafficked and introduced to the sex trade and drugs.  Eventually she ran away, joined a gang, and learned to survive on the streets. She went to prison several times for drug related offenses. Each time that she was released she was not offered any alternatives and she returned to the same circles. DeJohnette takes full responsibility for her own harmful choices, but she also understands that she and her community were impacted by many societal inequalities and discriminations that lay the basis for mass incarceration.

When she was 25 years old in 1994, Dejohnette was convicted of murder and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.  This is when she began her journey of healing and self-restoration.

For many years she accepted her LWOP sentence and learned to live in the present, focused on giving to others and building community inside prison. She has taken over a hundred self-help groups and has 'created' curriculum that is taught throughout the prison today. She is a member of the esteemed Youth Diversion Program and is a service dog trainer. She is currently in college working to obtain two AA Degrees in Theology and Pastoral Ministry.

Dejohnette once learned to detach and suppress all hope of freedom. In the process of telling her story through the digital story telling project,  A Living Chance, she started to realize how much she had changed and what she could give back to the community if she were ever released. She began to reject the LWOP living death sentence for herself and others. She reclaimed her self-worth and dignity and began to actively work towards freedom by submitting her commutation packet to the Governor.

Dejohnette’s petition for commutation has been reviewed and approved by the Governor’s investigators.  Both the Parole Board and the California Supreme Court have recommended clemency. They have confirmed the early, protracted abuse that she suffered and the enormous changes she has made in her life. Now the commutation is in the Governor’s hands. Please join with California Coalition for Women Prisoners in urging Governor Brown to grant a commutation to Laverne Dejohnette.

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