Sara Kruzan is a child sex trafficking survivor, sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole because at just 16, after years in sexual slavery, she snapped and shot her trafficker. On January 2, 2011, and after a long advocacy campaign involving tens of thousands of Change.org members, Gov. Schwarzenegger commuted Sara's sentence to 25 years to life.
According to Sara's legal team, the Change.org campaign and the support of the over 60,000 members who signed Change.org petitions supporting her had a material impact on this victory. Additionally, Change.org promoted other grasroots efforts from activists to support Sara, inlcuding a social media blitz and holiday cards.
While it wasn't the release many advocates were hoping for, Gov. Schwarzenegger's decision to grant clemency means Sara now has a hope of being released from prison, and for the first time since she was a child, of being free.
Update: On January 2, 2011, Gov. Schwarzenegger commuted Sara's sentence to 25 years to life. While it wasn't the release many advocates were hoping for, his decision to grant clemency means Sara now has a hope of being released from prison. Thank you to everyone who supported her and participated in this campaign.
Sixteen-year-old human trafficking victim Sara Kruzan was sentenced to life in prison without parole when, in a desperate act to escape captivity, she shot her pimp. When Sara met G.G., the 31-year-old man who would become her pimp, she was only 11. G.G. groomed Sara two years before he raped her. By then, his control was complete and he forced her into prostitution. Sara and the other girls who G.G. exploited were out on the streets from 6pm to 6am, every night. Twelve hours a night, seven days a week, for three years, Sara was raped by strangers so G.G. could profit. After three years, she snapped, and she killed him.
Now 32, Sara has spent half her life in prison as a model prisoner, and has asked Gov. Schwarzenegger for clemency. Sara was arrested and tried in 1994, before anyone was using the term "human trafficking" and when the country was still struggling to understand issues like domestic violence and pimp control that give one person coercive control over another. So there was no expert witness at Sara's trial to explain how her years of repeated rape, trauma, and abuse had affected her actions. There was no expert to tell the jury that with counseling, support, and care, Sara could heal from her traumatic past and grow to be a strong and moral woman.
Sara's clemency plea has been submitted to Gov. Schwarzenegger, and the decision of whether or not to release her with time served rests solely with him. Sara Kruzan deserves hope. She deserves hope that she didn't survive being raped and sold for three years for nothing. She deserves hope that the darkest chapter of her life has passed, and a horizon lies ahead. She deserves hope that she can change, grow, and flourish as a woman. But in life without parole, there is no hope.
Tell Gov. Schwarzenegger that human trafficking victims deserve support and care, not prison. Ask him to release Sara with time served.