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To the Honorable Edmund G. Brown, Jr.
Governor of the State of California:
We, the undersigned, hereby request and urge you to grant commutations of sentence to all men and women serving the sentence of Life Without the Possibility of Parole to life with the possibility of parole, provided these men and women are first-time adult offenders. The enormity and complexity of California’s laws has inadvertently created an environment where a person who has committed a crime for the first time, even though their conduct may be attributable to youth, addiction, or any similar circumstance, could be sentenced to die in prison with no possibility of redemption or opportunity to make amends.
We realize that this action must be undertaken with serious thought and consideration and that these sentences are the product of crimes with real victims. With earnest respect for lives lost or damaged and the families and communities who have been harmed, we solemnly make this request. We are seeking this relief only because California’s laws are inequitable and excessive and there is no feasible way to bring these back to balance. There are currently 5,086 men and women serving a sentence that is a de facto death sentence. We are asking only for the chance for those first-time adult offenders to prove themselves capable of becoming contributing members of society again by doing the hard work that is necessary to accomplish this and be given the opportunity to come before the Parole Board.
We have watched your actions in regard to commuting the life without the possibility of parole sentences of several men and women over the past year. Your courage and commitment to the possibility of redemption and the concept of hope is nothing short of inspiring.
In your State of the State Address, you professed that the theological virtue of hope brings the incentive to reform and, without hope, despair and violence take over instead of maturity and growth of character. As a great many of these men and women are first-time offenders who were youths at the time of their offense, hope for the opportunity of parole affords them the courage and commitment to engage in rehabilitative programs and turn their lives around. This, in turn, fosters a safer environment with an atmosphere of respect and order for the correctional officers who walk the halls in fulfillment of their duties.
A life with parole sentence does not, in fact, mean that someone is getting out of prison; it means only that they have a chance at parole. No one will be released unless they have served many years in prison and have successfully participated in treatment, educational and vocational programs and then deemed by the Board of Parole, through a rigorous process, to not be a danger. They will then have to pass further scrutiny by the Governor.
Until the time comes where the de facto death sentence of life without the possibility of parole is no longer an option, our only recourse is to appeal, with great urgency and sincere hearts, on behalf of those first-offense men and women who are completely without hope of redemption or the opportunity of making amends to those they have harmed. We ask, therefore, that you exercise your constitutional authority and commute the sentences of all first-time offenders under your authority sentenced to life without the possibility of parole to a sentence of life with the possibility of parole.
Thank you for your careful consideration.
F.U.E.L. - Families United to End LWOP
Fair Chance Project - Geri Silva
Anti-Recidivism Coalition - Scott Budnick
Felony Murder Elimination Project - Joanne Scheer
California Families Against Solitary Confinement - Dolores Canales
Time for Change Foundation - Kim Carter
The Place4Grace - Karen McDaniel, M.A.
Life Support Alliance - Vanessa Sloane
Dean, Berkeley School of Law - Professor Erwin Chemerinsky
Words Uncaged - Professor Bidhan Chandra Roy
The Other Death Penalty Project - Kenneth Hartman
Silicon Valley DeBug
Unlock Tomorrow - Ray Adornetto
Liberation Prison Project - Thubten Choyki
Elizabeth Calvin - Attorney
Initiate Justice - Taina Vargas-Edmond
ACLU - Statewide
Restore Justice - Alex Mallick
#Cut50 - Michael Mendoza
Laura Sheppard - Attorney
Luis J. Rodriguez - Author and Activist
A New Path - Gretchen Burns Bergman
Healing Dialogue and Action - Javier Stauring
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