Give Mississippi Lifers the right to seek parole

Give Mississippi Lifers the right to seek parole

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Carly Rheilan started this petition to Mississippi House of Representatives and Senate

Suppose an 18 year old and a man of 50 both get life sentences for a violent crime in Mississippi.  Same crime, same day, same judge, same law.  For the teenager the life sentence – meaning no chance of release until they reach 65 – will involve a minimum of 47 years in prison. Almost half a century.

But the 50 year old could be out after just 15.  

Is this what how we actually want sentencing to work? That a teenager should be sentenced three times as severely as a man of 50?    The younger the offender, the harsher the punishment?  This is the inevitable consequence of the (labyrinthine) legislation that denies to these prisoners the opportunity for parole.

We’re not talking about prisoners whose exceptional crimes have resulted in the courts imposing a sentence of ‘Life without Parole’.  As the Supreme Court has clarified, life sentences without that restriction are intended to be lesser sentences.  But the current ‘no parole’ laws make nonsense of the distinction. 

We’re trying to wake up the Mississippi House and Senate to fix these anomalies. 

We’re trying to promote real justice by restoring to all lifers the possibility of parole after ten years in prison.  Just that.  Not automatic release, not letting out offenders who still pose a danger -  just giving prisoners the chance, once they've served a decade, to put their case to the parole board, to present evidence of their reform, and ask for a second chance.

Ten years is a long time.  For a teenager, whose offenses were driven by a brain not fully formed, ten years is time to grow up, to get an adult understanding, to understand – really understand – about right and wrong and responsibility and consequences.  Even for older offenders, ten years can be life-changing. 

Greg and Chris, pictured above, both committed their crimes as teenagers, and they’ve each spent 20 years in prison – all but a few months of their adult lives. They aren’t criminals now.  They’ve reflected, reformed, grown up.  They’ve worked to prove themselves. They’ve been GED tutors, supported other prisoners, tried to use their time well, taken the few chances of rehabilitation that are offered in Mississippi. 

As Chris says, “In twenty years there’s no violence in my prison record. And there are many guys like me in here – violent offenders who are not violent.  But no matter how we prove ourselves in prison, there’s no second chance for us.”

The denial of parole means that reform cannot be recognized or acted upon.  It means that the state must go on paying to incarcerate the offender, though years or decades that serve no purpose.

We are petitioning the House and Senate of Mississippi to repeal the laws which refuse to life prisoners the possibility of parole. 

Please sign our petition and visit our Facebook page.  Kids With 47 Years.

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