Petition Closed

Seek to restore judicial sanity to how juveniles are charged and sentenced

Pendulum Juvenile Justice was founded in 2004 to build on the work by the Pendulum Foundation. It is a registered Colorado non-profit, 501(c)(4)(pending), seeking to restore judicial sanity to the process of how juveniles are tried as adults. We represent the families of juveniles incarcerated in adult prisons and the juveniles as well.Is it justice when juveniles receive longer sentences than adults for similar offenses? April Garcia, age 21, was just sentenced to 24 years in prison for killing two highway patrol workers while she was driving drunk. Contrast that with Dietrick Mitchell, who struck a pedestrian while driving. Prosecutors said it was deliberate, and he said he had been drinking and rubbing his eyes. Sentenced at age 16, Dietrick is serving life without parole. In adult prisons, juveniles like him have no protection from sexual predators, no hope and no rehabilitation. That's not justice.Clearly there is something wrong with Colorado 's system of trying juveniles as adults and sentencing them to long terms in adult prisons. Human Rights Watch recently released a report condemning the fact that there are 46 [or more] juveniles who are serving life without parole in Colorado ; about one-third didn't commit an actual murder.Since prosecutors can "direct file" against juveniles in an adult court, they alone can determine within a short time, 72 hours of arrest, that a juvenile could serve their sentence in an adult prison and not in a juvenile facility. The judge and jury have no say in the matter, and the age of the offender makes no difference.Some juveniles who commit serious violent offenses should serve long prison terms. Yet, the number of the "worst of the worst" is far fewer than prosecutors admit. Prosecutors get elected because they are "tough on crime," influencing their decision on how to charge a juvenile. The public spat between staff prosecutors and the new District Attorney in Garfield County shows how political DA's offices can be.In its recent decision in Roper v. Simmons , the U.S. Supreme Court banned executions of juveniles, explaining that "the reasons why juveniles are not trusted with the privileges and responsibilities of an adult also explain why their irresponsible conduct is not as morally reprehensible as that of an adult." Juveniles can't sign a contract, vote, drink, and buy cigarettes. Yet, somehow juveniles as young as 12 years old are "adults" when a prosecutor thinks so?Kids are impulsive and susceptable to peer pressure. Scientific research now shows that the frontal lobes in the brains of juveniles are not fully developed until their early 20's. The Supreme Court recognized this limitation on critical thinking, stating that juveniles have "diminished culpability" compared with adults.While the system of dealing with violent juvenile offenders has been getting more punitive and less rehabilitative for years, the watershed was the so-called "Summer of Violence" in 1993, when due to the proliferation of guns, gangs and drugs nationwide, the steady increase in juvenile offenses neared its peak. Since 1994, serious violent offenses committed by juveniles have been on the decline. A study conducted by Prof. Paul Colomy at D.U. and Dr. Laura Ross Greiner showed how even though there was a small increase in violent offenses from 1992 to 1993, the media made the issue a sensation. This caused the legislature to enact harsh laws which are still in effect today, yet only one of the seven high-profile incidents frequently cited as the cause of the hysteria was clearly committed by a juvenile.Until 1979, a person convicted of a Felony 1 in Colorado could be eligible for parole after 10 years, in 1985 the parole minimum was changed to 20 years, in 1989 the parole minimum was changed again to 40 years, and in 1991, it was changed to life without parole. Perhaps eligibility for parole after 10 years was too little for such a serious offense, but clearly mandatory life without parole is also too punitive and unjust in the case of juveniles.The cumulative effect of these unjust and costly laws governing juveniles tried as adults must be reevaluated. That is why the legislature passed the bi-partisan HB1109, a proposed task force to study the issue. We urge Governor Owens to sign it and to consider reform-minded legislation in the future.There are alternatives to today's system. Until the early 1990's, juveniles in Colorado who had been convicted even of murder were frequently placed in a juvenile facility, Lookout Mountain. Juveniles who commit serious offenses are far more likely to be held accountable in a juvenile facility than an adult facility. There has been almost no recidivism by the few dozen who were rehabilitated by the program.In Texas , most juveniles who have committed serious violent offenses are sent to juvenile facilities, not to adult jails like in Colorado . The person who formulated the Texas juvenile system was then-Governor George W. Bush. Juveniles there usually serve 4-6 years for Felony 1 murder, whereas in Colorado , they frequently serve life without parole or what amounts to a life sentence. In Texas, if the juvenile does not get his GED, display progress, meet with victims, and show remorse for his offense, he goes to an adult prison—it is his choice.Colorado can do better with the "least of our brothers." In that spirit, Justice Kennedy invoked the 8th Amendment principle of "evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society." Let's evolve._________
by Paul B. Rosenthal, Legislative Affairs Director Printed in Colorado Statesman, May 27, 2005 .

Pendulum Juvenile Justice was founded in 2004 to build on the work by the Pendulum Foundation. It is a registered Colorado non-profit, 501(c)(4)(pending), seeking to restore judicial sanity to the process of how juveniles are tried as adults. We represent the families of juveniles incarcerated in adult prisons and the juveniles as well.Is it justice when juveniles receive longer sentences than adults for similar offenses? April Garcia, age 21, was just sentenced to 24 years in prison for killing two highway patrol workers while she was driving drunk. Contrast that with Dietrick Mitchell, who struck a pedestrian while driving. Prosecutors said it was deliberate, and he said he had been drinking and rubbing his eyes. Sentenced at age 16, Dietrick is serving life without parole. In adult prisons, juveniles like him have no protection from sexual predators, no hope and no rehabilitation. That's not justice.Clearly there is something wrong with Colorado 's system of trying juveniles as adults and sentencing them to long terms in adult prisons. Human Rights Watch recently released a report condemning the fact that there are 46 [or more] juveniles who are serving life without parole in Colorado ; about one-third didn't commit an actual murder.Since prosecutors can "direct file" against juveniles in an adult court, they alone can determine within a short time, 72 hours of arrest, that a juvenile could serve their sentence in an adult prison and not in a juvenile facility. The judge and jury have no say in the matter, and the age of the offender makes no difference.Some juveniles who commit serious violent offenses should serve long prison terms. Yet, the number of the "worst of the worst" is far fewer than prosecutors admit. Prosecutors get elected because they are "tough on crime," influencing their decision on how to charge a juvenile. The public spat between staff prosecutors and the new District Attorney in Garfield County shows how political DA's offices can be.In its recent decision in Roper v. Simmons , the U.S. Supreme Court banned executions of juveniles, explaining that "the reasons why juveniles are not trusted with the privileges and responsibilities of an adult also explain why their irresponsible conduct is not as morally reprehensible as that of an adult." Juveniles can't sign a contract, vote, drink, and buy cigarettes. Yet, somehow juveniles as young as 12 years old are "adults" when a prosecutor thinks so?Kids are impulsive and susceptable to peer pressure. Scientific research now shows that the frontal lobes in the brains of juveniles are not fully developed until their early 20's. The Supreme Court recognized this limitation on critical thinking, stating that juveniles have "diminished culpability" compared with adults.While the system of dealing with violent juvenile offenders has been getting more punitive and less rehabilitative for years, the watershed was the so-called "Summer of Violence" in 1993, when due to the proliferation of guns, gangs and drugs nationwide, the steady increase in juvenile offenses neared its peak. Since 1994, serious violent offenses committed by juveniles have been on the decline. A study conducted by Prof. Paul Colomy at D.U. and Dr. Laura Ross Greiner showed how even though there was a small increase in violent offenses from 1992 to 1993, the media made the issue a sensation. This caused the legislature to enact harsh laws which are still in effect today, yet only one of the seven high-profile incidents frequently cited as the cause of the hysteria was clearly committed by a juvenile.Until 1979, a person convicted of a Felony 1 in Colorado could be eligible for parole after 10 years, in 1985 the parole minimum was changed to 20 years, in 1989 the parole minimum was changed again to 40 years, and in 1991, it was changed to life without parole. Perhaps eligibility for parole after 10 years was too little for such a serious offense, but clearly mandatory life without parole is also too punitive and unjust in the case of juveniles.The cumulative effect of these unjust and costly laws governing juveniles tried as adults must be reevaluated. That is why the legislature passed the bi-partisan HB1109, a proposed task force to study the issue. We urge Governor Owens to sign it and to consider reform-minded legislation in the future.There are alternatives to today's system. Until the early 1990's, juveniles in Colorado who had been convicted even of murder were frequently placed in a juvenile facility, Lookout Mountain. Juveniles who commit serious offenses are far more likely to be held accountable in a juvenile facility than an adult facility. There has been almost no recidivism by the few dozen who were rehabilitated by the program.In Texas , most juveniles who have committed serious violent offenses are sent to juvenile facilities, not to adult jails like in Colorado . The person who formulated the Texas juvenile system was then-Governor George W. Bush. Juveniles there usually serve 4-6 years for Felony 1 murder, whereas in Colorado , they frequently serve life without parole or what amounts to a life sentence. In Texas, if the juvenile does not get his GED, display progress, meet with victims, and show remorse for his offense, he goes to an adult prison—it is his choice.Colorado can do better with the "least of our brothers." In that spirit, Justice Kennedy invoked the 8th Amendment principle of "evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society." Let's evolve._________
by Paul B. Rosenthal, Legislative Affairs Director Printed in Colorado Statesman, May 27, 2005 .