LOST FOR LIFE, a powerful documentary about juveniles who committed heinous crimes and are serving life sentences, asks the question Could You Forgive? LOST FOR LIFE has Colorado connections with two prisoners, Josiah Ivy and Jacob Ind, a victim, family members, and Sean Taylor, who received a life sentence as a juvenile and had his sentence commuted by Governor Bill Ritter.
Editorial:ONCE MORE COLORADO IGNORES THE CONSTITUTION: NO VOTE FOR JUSTICE.Why is it that the voices of crime victims are given greater weight than.the voices of crime victims? Have you noticed that the victims who receive the most press, the ONLY victims many legislators listen to are those seekingvengeance? Those who call for redemption are either ignored or brushed off with, "You forgive so you must be super-human and we can't relate to you.NEXT!" (click to read more)
For opposing legislators and district attorneys and victims' advocates to state during hearings that they "speak for victims" is a LIE. They speak for a subset of victims-not even the vast majority. The "victims" and victims' groups who are singled out during testimony comprise 1% of the criminal justice movement. They simply purport to speak for the 99%. COVA and VOV, the two victims' groups who inevitably oppose any relevant legislation, DO NOT speak for the victims of these young lifers. There is only one group, VOMI, that does. COVA and VOV work primarily with ADULTS; VOMI exclusively with the families of the 48 prisoners who are serving juvenile life without parole. The U. S. Supreme Court has repeatedly delineated the differences between youths and adults and repeatedly ruled they MUST be treated differently. Can't ignore those rulings just because you don't like them. Oh, yes, I guess you can, but that is disingenuous, not to mention ILLEGAL. In addition, COVA and VOV are speaking on behalf of victims to whom they have never spoken! Since we are currently dealing with those Forgotten 48, the pool of survivors is mercifully small. While it should be manageable, only VOMI has made a concerted effort to contact ALL those directly affected. COVA and VOV have also made the erroneous assumption that when a victim remains silent or fails to provide contact info they must automatically be AGAINST any related bill. Not true. Those "silent" survivors may have maintained a low profile for a variety of reasons other than that they are ignorant of supreme court decisions or pending legislation and if they knew they would rush to the capitol or their cellphones in order to protest. Some victims may not want to be involved in any way with this issue; they may be neutral on pending legislation; they may have healed and choose not to re-open old wounds; they may quietly support the issue but decline to publicly speak out. It is disrespectful to lump all victims into one mindset-theirs. By denying survivors their individuality, their humanity and their voice, these victims' groups are treating them the same way courts did before the inception of the victims' rights movement.Because of their rigid stand against criminal justice reform, COVA and VOV have defended or instigated policies that have decreased public safety, cost our state millions of extra dollars in increased prison sentences, reduced programs that could have lowered recidivism rates, and caused more private and state prisons to be built, some of which now sit empty and which YOU, the taxpayer continue paying for. These victims' spokespersons ask rhetorical questions such as "What about the victims?" Which seems to be code for "Drop your critical thinking skills and do whatever we want you to do." And pass more tough laws that all studies show do NOT work and that are helping bankrupt states. The organized opposition to our efforts, which includes, some (certainly not all) prosecutors, and COVA and VOV, insist on being "consulted" during the crafting of legislation. I've been involved in this process for more than a decade, and I've never known a bill they haven't dismissed out of hand. The only compromise they believe in is "You have our support to kill your bill." Before introduction of any legislation, prosecutors demand "time" to contact victims, when they've had years to do so. Indeed, it is part of these victims' groups' mission, and certainly part of prosecutors' obligation, to stay in touch with these families 365 days of the year--not merely during legislative sessions. Or the opposition purrs, "There's always clemency," Knowing Governor Hickenlooper abolished the juvenile clemency board, hasn't had an active board during his term and a half, and will NEVER commute the sentence of one of these juveniles, no matter how compelling his case. Throughout the past 15 years, arguments to any and all legislation have remained exactly the same, regardless of changes in the law. In this case, Miller v Alabama clearly states that Colorado's 48 young lifers are serving unconstitutional sentences which constitute "cruel and unusual punishment." Those sentences must be re-visited and new sentences imposed that would, in most cases, provide a "reasonable opportunity for release." Doesn't matter whether you like the law, Mr. Prosecutor. The rest of us don't like a lot of laws but if we don't obey them we're thrown in jail. But we're just peons, right! Apparently YOU can pick and choose which laws you'll enforce. Following the U.S. Supreme Court decision, you simply dusted off the same stale talking points. Forget the constitution! Forget that you are ignoring the U.S. Supreme Court! Do NOT address the issue at hand, which is that YOU are charged with upholding the law for ALL Colorado citizens. And that includes those 48 former children who continue to rot behind bars. I remain shocked and stunned that hundreds, even thousands of voices who called and emailed members of the judiciary in support of HB-1292, as well as a broad cross section of advocates and community organizations, not to mention the U.S. Supreme Court, were ignored because a handful of prosecutors and two victims' groups, who get much of their funding from these self-same D.A.s, disapproved. By ignoring this issue for THREE years, Colorado's legislature has abrogated its responsibility. While legislators have passed laws dealing with pot, civil unions, gun control, and have even closed down a prison or two, including a Supermax, for some reason they remain moral cowards when it comes to these 48 who are drowning in a legal and political quagmire.Hoping that our state supreme court, which has publicly chastised them for refusing to discharge their duty by passing sentencing guidelines, will rescue them, our politicians have once again chosen to do NOTHING. I do not understand. Juvenile life without parole is no longer even controversial. Across the political spectrum, liberals, conservatives such as Grover Norquist, Newt Gingrich and Rand Paul, and religious figures like Pope Francis, have publicly spoken out against this barbaric sentence. Even states like West Virginia, not exactly known for a 21st century stance on much of anything, have allowed their young prisoners a chance for parole after 15 years.Colorado remains an outlier.We should be ashamed.