Juvenile Justice News
November 11, 2013 (The Clarion-Ledger)
Supreme Court ruling could give man, sentenced to life without parole as juvenile, another chance
Paul Murrell Stewart was 17 when he and Edwin Hart Turner, 23, robbed a convenience store. Turner shot and killed two people, was found guilty of murder and executed, but Stewart, now 35, remains behind bars at Parchman. That may change if a jury decides he should be eligible for parole.
Stewart’s attorney, Hiram Eastland III, said he believes the sentencing of his childhood friend, known as “Murrell,” was excessive.
“If you do something wrong, sure, you should get punished for that,” Eastland said. “But life without parole for somebody like Murrell — somebody 17 years old? It just didn’t seem fair to throw a life away.”
According to The Sentencing Project in Washington, D.C., more than 10,000 people have been convicted of crimes before they were 18 and nearly one in four of them were sentenced to life without parole.
November 5, 2013 (The Virginian-Pilot)
Life Times Six
Travion Blount might be serving the harshest punishment delivered to any American teenager for a crime not involving murder, experts say.
The 15-year-old robbed a Norfolk party with two older gang members. He hurt no one. His friends got 10 and 13 years. How is it that he received 118 years and six life sentences for his part in the robbery?
As it now stands, Blount will die in prison. Blount is one of at least 22 Virginia inmates doing life for a nonhomicide crime they committed as teens, according to the state Department of Corrections.
His case, and others like it, are forcing judges and lawmakers to ask: Can a young criminal life be redeemed?
Blount’s advocates argue his six life sentences for an armed robbery violates the constitutional ban against cruel and unusual punishment.
“Nobody’s asking to let him out tomorrow,” said his attorney, John Coggeshall. He wants a new sentence for his client, comparable to the codefendants’. The older defendants – who, according to testimony, led the robbery – pleaded guilty and received the lesser sentences.
October 14, 2013 (The Sentencing Project)
New Publication: Ending Mass Incarceration: Social Interventions That Work
Mass incarceration has resulted from a great imbalance in our national approach to public safety, one that relies far too heavily on the criminal justice system. This has produced excessive levels of punishment and a diversion of resources from investments that could strengthen the capacity of families and communities to address the circumstances that contribute to crime.
September 30, 2013 (The New York Times)
Writing Off Lives
An editorial states that while “the prison population in the United States has declined modestly in recent years after three decades of growth… the number of people in prison for life has more than quadrupled since 1984 and continues to grow at a startling pace. The zealous pursuit of these sentences began in the 1970s, becoming something of a fad; it is past time to revisit the practice.
A new study from The Sentencing Project, a research group, found that one in nine inmates, about 160,000 people, is serving a life sentence. Nearly one-third of these prisoners are serving life without parole. Many of these lifers were convicted of nonviolent crimes or of crimes that occurred before they turned 18.
September 30, 2013 (The Baltimore Sun)
Baltimore forum focuses on long-term incarceration
Kareem Hasan left prison this year after 37 years behind bars. Now that he's free, he sees something that troubles him.
"Every time I go out, I see a bunch of kids in the street," the 55-year-old said.
Hasan spoke at Morgan State University on Saturday during a town hall meeting on Maryland's criminal justice policies. He recalled an evening driving around with his sister when they almost hit a teen who was out playing football.
When Hasan asked the boy why he was in the street, the teen said they had nowhere else to go. Hasan — one of 26 convicted felons released from prison this year after the state's high court found that their trials were unfair — worries that flaws in the state's criminal system are still hurting black youths.