Monday, January 7, 2008


If this bill passed, would be a tremendous asset to kids sent to prison AS ADULTS. It would give
them a "fighting chance", to become a "productive" member of society. Far too many children in Florida alone, are in prison for LIFE, and LIFE WITH "NO" CHANCE OF PAROLE, that in itself, is a "death penalty" sentencing for these young children. Juvenile Justice Law Reform is "imperative" to help "save" our American children from "total destruction".

(excerpts)Please read full article

Bill redeems model inmates locked up as kids
A proposed law advocates a chance at parole.

Times Staff WriterPublished January 2, 2008

In Florida prisons, 122 inmates are serving life sentences for crimes they committed before the age of 16. Some of these kids murdered someone. Some weren't even holding a weapon.
They have something in common: They will never get out.

Which raises the question that a team at Florida State University Law School is asking: Shouldn't someone like Kenneth Young be eligible for parole?
This month, the Children in Prison Rehabilitation Act, written by the law students, will be filed in the Legislature. It begins, "Children are different from adults because they have a greater capacity for rehabilitation."
The proposed legislation runs counter to a decade long trend of stiffer sentences, but it is buttressed by a growing body of scientific research, human rights literature and a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court case that prohibited the execution of juveniles because they "have a greater claim than adults to be forgiven for failing to escape negative influences."
Law professor Paolo Annino said his team wrote the bill because "being a teenager is all about copying. We want Florida law to acknowledge this and help get some of these young people get back on track."
* * *
Donna Duncan, 37, a third-year law student on Annino's team, knows firsthand about kids with life sentences. For years, Duncan was a correctional officer at some of the toughest prisons in the state. She saw kids come through, "some tough as nails, some scared to death." Her conclusion: "Some should stay right where they are, but others can be rehabilitated."
A year ago, Duncan met Kenneth Young. Duncan recalls that Young asked her to repeat words and spell them so he could look them up in his dictionary................
* * *
The Florida Parole Commission sees the bill as a way to "help deserving inmates on the front end and save taxpayers money," communications director Jane Tillman said.
But state Rep. Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach, cautions that legislators are reluctant to appear soft on crime in election years.
"We err on the side of locking them up and throwing away the key," Gelber said.

To be eligible for parole under the bill, an inmate has to have been 16 or younger at the time of the offense, spent at least eight years in prison, and have a sentence of at least 10 years without parole. Inmates cannot be considered if adjudicated as habitual offenders or sexual offenders prior to the offense or if they committed a crime after going to prison.
The bill favors inmates who "acted under the domination of another, have shown remorse and have aided inmates suffering from mental or physical conditions." These inmates must have completed educational programs and be free of disciplinary violations for at least two years.

"People need to remember that this new bill makes some inmates eligible for parole. It doesn't mean they'll get it," said state Sen. Steven Geller, D-Hallandale Beach.
But Geller knows the bill needs the backing of Sen. Victor Crist, R-Tampa, who opposed earlier, more lenient versions.
"If you could pull a trigger at 12, you could pull it at 20 or 30," Crist said. "Once a murderer, always a murderer."
However, Crist said he would consider more restrictive legislation this session: "If an accessory was under 17, and was not holding the gun, I might have some flexibility about supporting it."
Annino estimates that Crist's possible flexibility could affect about 20 inmates, including Kenneth Young.
But Young's prosecutor, Curtis Allen, who is now a corporate lawyer, said he is against the bill in any form and stands by the original sentence.
"I would tell anyone that I think Mr. Young is very, very dangerous," he said.
* * *
"All we can do, inside or out," he said, "is be kind and get along."
Times staff writer Meg Laughlin can be reached at or (727) 893-8068.
[Last modified January 2, 2008, 00:49:36

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