The Denver Post
The message arrived in my e-mail box late on a Friday night. It was an update from Curt Jensen, a good friend and a proud father.
Curt's son, Erik, is entering his junior year in college studying pre-medicine. He is a prolific writer, and will have soon completed his fifth book in an adventure fantasy series. He's engaged to be married, and a leader in efforts to help inmates get out of gangs. He was just featured in a French TV documentary and will soon be profiled in a book written by a best-selling author.
What parent wouldn't be proud? Sadly, key details radically transform the picture. Erik is behind bars for life. Absent changes to current law or exceptional political willpower by Colorado's elected officials, including Gov. John Hickenlooper, or the federal government, Erik will never know a day again outside prison.
Erik is just one of what activists call the "Forgotten 40," a group of Colorado teens sentenced to life without the possibility of parole for crimes committed as teens. Some are there for killing abusive parents, others for cold-blooded murder. A handful, like Erik, were never convicted of killing a person, but instead made life-altering decisions after being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Prosecutors argued that Erik helped a friend attempt to cover up a murder after it had already been committed.
Just this month, the U.S. Supreme Court announced it will consider a set of cases that could ban life sentences for any inmate convicted of a crime committed at the age of 14 or younger. Alternatively, the court could go much further, banning juvenile life sentences altogether, viewing such sentences as a violation of the Eighth Amendment's protection against cruel and unusual punishment.
Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?
Our chief areas of interest include drug policy reform, women in prison, racial injustice, the impact of incarceration on children and families, the problems associated with re-entry and stopping the practice of using private prisons in our state.
If you would like to be involved please go to our website and become a member.
Saturday, November 26, 2011
The Denver Post