Pendulum Foundation Responds to Former DA Piece on Ending Juvenile LWOP

This piece was published on March 9th at A response to Mr. Mangino from Mary Ellen Johnson, Executive Director of the Pendulum Foundation is posted immediately following this article.

With the introduction of HR 4300, a call to end the Juvenile LWOP sentence nationally I suspect the dialogue surrounding this charged issue will be picking up. There are significant, legitimate concerns on both sides of this debate, but so far, positions appear to remain polarized. An attempt to find solutions that address public safety, the victims of the crimes, the age of the offenders at the time of the crimes, the circumstances surrounding the crimes and alternative approaches to rehabilitation do not seem to be a part of the larger discussion. Perhaps that will change. I would like to hope so.

Published:Sunday, March 9, 2008

Matthew T. Mangino

Handle juvenile lifers cautiously

There is a renewed urgency to abolish life without parole (LWOP) for juveniles. In the last several weeks The New York Times, among other outlets, have called for a halt in sending juveniles to prison for life with no hope of parole. With mounting public pressure, policymakers would do well to proceed with caution.

Life without parole is not unlike the death penalty. Paul Wright, a former lifer, told The New York Times, “It’s a death sentence by incarceration. You’re trading a slow form of death for a faster one.” Only three years ago the United States Supreme Court banned the execution of juveniles. The decision in Roper v. Simmons resulted in the commutation of 72 juvenile death penalties; a significant majority of those juvenile offenders were re-sentenced to LWOP.

When the U.S. Supreme Court made the landmark decisions in Roper as well as Atkins v. Virginia, banning the execution of the mentally retarded, the justices cited “evolving standards of decency.” In the analysis of evolving standards of decency the court considers the action of state lawmakers to establish a national consensus. When Atkins was argued, 30 states had banned the execution of the mentally retarded. When Roper was argued, the same number of states had banned the execution of juveniles. Today only eight states have banned LWOP for juveniles. California is considering a bill that would eliminate LWOP and limit juvenile sentences to 25 years to life. Michigan, Illinois, Nebraska and Florida are considering similar legislation, which would make a significant number but not a national consensus.

At the time of the Atkins and Roper decisions death penalty abolitionist argued that LWOP was an appropriate alternative sentence to the death penalty. Today, the same arguments made to abolish the death penalty are being incorporated into the argument against LWOP for juveniles.

Juvenile’s brain

Those who are advocating for the end of juvenile LWOP often cite research suggesting that the juvenile brain is not yet fully developed. Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote in Roper that juveniles are cognitively immature and therefore less culpable. The brain development argument is being used with more frequency in courtrooms across the country.

The juvenile criminal court system is distinctly different from the adult criminal court system. The juvenile system is not punitive. The focus is on rehabilitation and is oriented toward the treatment of young offenders. However, it has been suggested that some young offenders are not amenable to treatment and are so dangerous that only a lifetime of incarceration would protect the public.

Justice Kennedy wrote in Roper, “It is difficult even for expert psychologists to differentiate between the juvenile offender whose crime reflects unfortunate yet transient immaturity, and the rare juvenile offender whose crime reflects irreparable corruption.” He goes on to write that it is impermissible to render an opinion about antisocial disorders in offenders under age 18. That is precisely the point; the diagnosis should be made after the age of 18 with the ability to keep that rare offender with “irreparable corruption” from harming another innocent person.

LWOP for juveniles convicted of first degree murder should be an option for judges, not a mandatory requirement. Sentences, especially for juveniles charged as adults, should be specifically tailored for each individual offender. This could be effectuated by giving judges the discretion that legislatures rushed to take away when getting “tough on crime.”

A juvenile sentenced to LWOP need not be doomed to a lifetime of hopelessness. Governors across the country have the ability to grant clemency. The pardon is a long accepted method of invoking fairness and justice.

States would do well to follow the lead of Colorado and establish juvenile clemency boards. The board would be charged with reviewing antisocial disorders in offenders now over the age of 18 who were sentenced to LWOP as juveniles. The legislature could establish parameters for consideration and guidelines for recommending clemency to the governor.

The question is not whether some violent juvenile offenders deserve to be locked away for life, but rather, do law abiding citizens deserve the protection that total incapacitation of dangerous offenders affords. Policymakers should not blindly rush to abolish an appropriate sentencing option, without first considering judicial discretion and executive authority.

X Matthew T. Mangino is the former district attorney of Lawrence County. He is a featured columnist for the Pennsylvania Law Weekly. He can be reached at .

The following response was sent to Mr. Mangino by Mary Ellen Johnson, Executive Director of the Pendulum Foundation.

Subject: Response to your article: Handle JLWOPS Carefully

Mr. Mangino,

Just a few words in response to your thoughtful article. The Pendulum Foundation, the head of the CO DA’s council, and a CO legislator agreed on a juvenile clemency board in response to several years of bruising legislative battles dealing with kids serving life. The board will soon have its first two candidates (a juvenile can be serving less than life to apply.) Iremember at the time Governor Ritter signed the executive order that defense attorneys said, “Watch what he does. He NEVER has to grant a commutation but it sure makes him look good.” I thought the attorneys were being cynical.

In a few weeks two young prisoners will have their cases heard. Not being an attorney but merely an advocate, I have to admit I no longer  have much faith in the system either. The board is stacked with law enforcement. The head of the board is a former prosecutor who testified against and prosecuted several of the young men and women who will be seeking a pardon or commutation. Despite the fact that Colorado ranks 5th in the disproportionate number of minorities serving juvenile LWOP, no African-American is represented. Even though The Pendulum Foundation conceived the very idea of the juvenile clemency board originally, we are not allowed to have any interaction with the board. We had hoped to be able to suggest a certain set of criteria most suited to juveniles.

Upon entering the system young offenders have MANY different problems from those who are incarcerated in their twenties or thirties. One major difference is gang involvement. Kids going into the adult system WILL join a gang for protection. Only after they’ve been inside for a while will they feel confident-and safe enough–to find their own friends. That involvement often sends them directly to a control unit. More than half of our kids have spent up to 8 years in our Super Max. They can’t apply for a commutation – and they can’t work their way back out into general population. The reality is so very different from the theory and from the tidy declarations of the board that the dominant emotion among many of us is simply despair.

The liaison between advocates and the board assures us that our voices will be heard via my emails and that we must give the board a chance. However, when we look beyond the board to the governor, we ask: If I were Governor Ritter, would I give ANY of these young men and women a clemency or commutation? No, not when they get no programs or therapy or any sort of rehabilitation. So The Pendulum Foundation has offered extensive cognitive behavior therapy, beginning with young LWOPS who are mandated by law to receive programs,  to all  Colorado prisoners.

Cost to the state: ZERO.

We’ve received lip service and no actual interest. So we wonder, does anyone really care about lowering recidivism? Does anyone really want to slow the growth in the three-quarters of a billion Colorado corrections budget? (With less than 3% of that budget going to any sort of programs.)  IS the juvenile clemency board just for show? It’s too early to tell but you know that in the best of times, clemency and commutation are seldom granted. One CO governor granted 4 for battered women years ago. Needless to say, there is no such outcry on behalf of battered children – of whom we have two serving life sentences for killing their abusers. I will end this too long letter with another thank you for addressing this difficult issue. I suspect that we can both agree on one thing: the implementation or dismissal of a juvenile clemency board will not fix a very fundamental problem. The real problem is with the devolution of our justice system, and more deeply with the shifting in the American psyche away from redemption and rehabilitation to a mindless embrace of retribution.


Mary Ellen Johnson, Executive Director



7 responses to “Pendulum Foundation Responds to Former DA Piece on Ending Juvenile LWOP

  1. Mr. Mangino said: “The question is not whether some violent juvenile offenders deserve to be locked away for life, but rather, do law abiding citizens deserve the protection that total incapacitation of dangerous offenders affords. ”

    The juvenile offenders that he claims we need protection, are not in the equation. The QUESTION IS about allowing juveniles to serve life without parole that deserve a second chance. SO, he is essentially saying in order to protect John Q, we must keep all juvenile criminals locked up until death, just to be on the safe side. You aren’t protecting the public, you are appeasing the public by keeping all these children locked up. Mary Ellen is right that the average citizen has to change their vindictive mind set and find solutions to alleviate the problem! There is no black and white…there is a lot of gray and most people, as Mr. Mangino, are color blind

  2. All i know is that i am in the same situation with my husband, and we know that with the right people in your corner an the help of God, YOU CAN CHANGE TO BE A BETTER PERSON!!!
    My husband has, he was a hard core gang member and the best drug dealer in the prison. He is now the most loving, kindest and givning person. He has grown up in prison, he went in as a child and is now a man with responsablities waiting for him. He is married, and has a daughter. He deserves to have a chance to be a husband and a father. I along with many of his supporters agree, he is not a danger to society. In fact the world is missing out on a lot by him being in prison, he has so much to offer the world. thanks

  3. Christine Henze

    Are you all nuts? Forget this corrupt society for a moment, how dare we lock up innocents when we are so corrupt ourselves. I am appalled that Erik and Nathan are in jail and without the possibility of parole. I think this judge Owens should be tried and hung up by his balls and see what it feels like! How dare he…as for Erik and Nathan, they need to be released TODAY! Governor Ritter, where the hell are you? What the hell are you doing or thinking? How can you allow these 2 to rot in jail? Come on!!!Get with it and get these 2 out! I am sickened by this and I will not support this Governor if he does not let them out today!!!

  4. Christine Henze

    I feel that the people of Colorado need to band together and DEMAND that Governor Ritter grant these 5 Frontline boys, as I call them, a clemency. They should be released and so should the other thousands of children who are in jail – making more of a burden on the taxpayer and society than need be. People need to come together! Let’s do it and make a DEMAND to this pitifully, corrupt system and people who control it.

  5. Hi there,

    I agree that the abolitionists are not really interested in LWOP. >
    I send this e-mail so you know the disastrous results that has resulted in Spain further legal reforms proposed by the liberals:“It was not the first time they killed. And he did not need to be put to the eyebrows to know that perhaps need to use the huge machete which accompanied the gun blanks decorativa also carried on Tuesday with his nephew when he entered the jewelry in the basement of the municipal market Castelldefels.Ya stuck with him 18 years, almost two decades ago, a shot in the head to lift a trader Barcelonan booty amounting to 1,000 pesetas and then some sneakers.
    When leaving uncle and nephew, on the floor of the jewelry Royo lay the owner of the establishment, Jose Luis Royo, his wife Rosa Maria Alonso and Carlos, one of their children.
    The alleged perpetrators of the crime were arrested three minutes later. Juan Antonio Hernandez Sanchez is 20 years and, despite having committed at least a dozen robberies, has not put one foot in prison or a detention center until now. Fernando Sánchez Medina, the man who knew death is 37 years, and has an extensive criminal history. The two are neighbors in the slum of La Mina de Sant Adrià del Besos. Fernando is the uncle of John.
    The cruelty of the murderer did the researchers think that the criminals had acted under the influence of drugs or withdrawal syndrome. They are not escaped, of course, that were committed against two politoxicómanos.Pero was not the case. Apparently, Sánchez Medina does not need to get wild horse.
    JUNE 1985 / disorder AND DAMAGE
    The first arrest of Sanchez Medina came in June 1985 for public disorder, damage to a trade in the city. He counted 16 years. Failed to enter prison. Neither took the train when the July 22, 1987 was arrested for a robbery with force, including Barcelona.No was armed, which helped to achieve his lawyer’s release.
    His first offense of blood occurred two days after this latest incident. On July 24, 1987, Sánchez Medina came along with his two buddies, Pedro Alberto, and Vicente, both aged 17, a shop in the street Pujades Barcelona. He was 18 years. It was not the first club to beat all three together. But that would leave there with his first fatality in the … ¿Conscience?
    The owner of the trade, Enrique Jaen, resisted. He blew the head with a shotgun cut canyons. He lives for some sneakers and 1,000 pesetas. A botín.Seis days later, the three murderers were arrested in a stolen car. Tried to avoid capture, but a police officer shot and blew the wheels of the vehicle.
    Medina Sanchez then hit a first jail. Entered the model of Barcelona, one of the oldest of his stay there España.Durante before trial played an escape attempt. Hearing Barcelona sentenced to sentences totaling 27 years and four months for robbery with homicide.
    FEBRUARY 1993 / robbery
    For the five years of their admission to prison, came out on parole because he suffered a “serious illness with incurable illnesses, according to Article 60 of the old prison rules, then set aside for AIDS patients. Quickly return to crime. In February 1993 he was arrested for robbery with violence in Barcelona. Not entered the prison, but days later he was again arrested for injuries and returned to prison. It weighed on an arrest warrant.
    Only two parts were written in the three incidents in prisons that has been entered: the Model, Ponent and Quatre Camins.Uno in 1997: one was requisitioned a leek. Neither rechistó.Un years later, got stoned in the laundry. It imposed a small fine.
    The Criminal Code of 1973 allowed for the reduction of sentence for good behavior and Sanchez Medina knew. In 1999 came out on parole. He married and has since lived on the streets of the Levant mine with his wife and daughter three years.The police are reviewing recent unsolved robberies perpetrated in Catalonia because they suspect that, with or without the help of his nephew, not may have been last Tuesday to do what it takes without doing all their lives.”
    Clear that after abolishing death the “reformers” would seek to attack LWOP next, then any long prison sentences.

    Best wishes,

  6. abolition life imprisonment without parole(lwop) for juveniles; spanish experience‏
    Some of the most harrowing of the Law of Minors
    ————————————————– ——————————
    The entry into force of the Juvenile Penal Law 13 January 2001 marked the release of 1515 persons who had committed serious or extremely serious crimes, including murder, which was retroactively. Many associations and institutions and ideologies of all kinds called an initial review of the law, leaving the victims vulnerable and almost no punishment for criminals and murderers simply because they are minors.

    (Libertad Digital) The trial begins Monday for the murder of Sandra Palo. The body of Sandra, a young man of 22 years with mental retardation, was charred on May 17 on the road in Toledo, Leganés height. She was raped, repeatedly hit and burned alive. Police arrested four persons, three of them minors, in connection with the murder. If they apply the Law of Minors, those under 14, 16 and 17 years could be released soon.

    Remember that some cases have caused alarm for his brutality:

    “THE MURDERER OF CATANA”. Rabadán Joseph, aged 16, killed his parents and his sister with Down syndrome on April 1, 2000, with some 70 coups CATANA at home, while they were sleeping. The prosecution and defense agreed on 6 years in an internment center, therapeutic treatment, and after four years of probation. He was released after completing 6 months of interim measures, pending trial. Rabadán was sentenced on June 1, 2001 to the rehabilitation of 12 years of confinement in a treatment center for the three murders, with the legal limitations of 8 years, to be followed by another 2 probation.

    CRIME OF SAN FERNANDO Iria, 16, and Rachel, 17, wanted “to become famous” and “know what it felt to kill a person.” So one day caught Clara Garcia, 16 years, led by deception at night to a clearing in the town of Cadiz and San Fernando settled 32 stabbed and slaughtered. The judge found that both children knew what they were doing and had the capacity to discern between the licit and illicit rioja, rioja rioja moral and immoral, and that the killing was with premeditation and conspiracy. But the sentence is 8 years in an internment center, subject to review after five years and 4 probation. Were released when they turn 6 months of relief, re later.

    CRIME OF THE OLYMPIC VILLA Carlos Javier Robledo of 22 years was killed by M. Valentine 9 guests and leaving a nightclub under the guise of an argument over a jacket. He burst the duodenum, the testes and the left skull. Valentin M. andalusia missing two hours to meet 18 years, it was martial arts expert, was to kill as explained in detail above. Convicted of murder, assault and robbery, will be a maximum of 8 years in an internment center, subject to the 4, and five probation. He was released while the ruling was not final when they turn 6 months of relief.

    CRIME AND THE RAMÓN CAJAL Luisa Maria Dominguez, a lady of 64 years, was murdered at his home on December 19, 1998 by three children, 15 and 17 years to conceal a theft of £ 150,000. The sentence tells that the crime was brutal and ruthless, with a machete 60 dealt the two of them stabbed in the heart of the child 15 years after the trial had a measure of 2 years in an internment center. The other two were sentenced to 8 years and 18 months respectively in the centers.

    CRIME ALGECIRAS boy 10 years, José Luis Moreno, was found dead from asphyxiation in services offices in September 1999. They were later arrested two persons under 16 and 17 years for this murder, who confessed that he brought his head in the toilet until he drowned because he refused to do fellatio. They were released when they turn 6 months of relief. Comply with a penalty of 5 and 2 years respectively.

    CRIME Olive. The child of 11 years Antonio Carrillo, was raped and murdered in an olive grove in Spain in late September of’98. The two responsible for his murder, lower EC and A.A. who were their neighbors, sodomized and stabbed 28 dealt andalusia small. The maximum confinement that meet the Act is 8 years, and revised his sentence in half.

    CRIME low. A small 6 years Jacob Yanes, was assassinated by a young man of 17 years, MMM, which had escaped 11 times from the center of lower half. He nailed a pair of scissors 16 times and smashed his head with a stone of 20 pounds after sexually assaulted. He was sentenced to 8 years of confinement and five probation. In half of the sentence will be reviewed their situation.

    CRIME OF MINES Riotinto Sergio B.V. murdered his parents when he was 17 years. He was sentenced in 1998 to 24 years in prison, but with the entry into force of the Juvenile Law was revised and his sentence was 8 years of confinement and three probation. In half of the sentence to 4 years, the measure will be reviewed.

    CRIME OF THE PALO Manuel Lara, a neighbor of 33 years, was killed on May 14, 2000, by the lower Rafael FR, aka The Cachulo. After scolded for disturbing another couple in a bar, he threatened his victim with a pistol and a CATANA subsequently dealt him 8 stabbing that caused his fall to the ground where he finished with four stab wounds. He stated that he had been killed because “he gave the point.” He was sentenced to 8 years of confinement and five probation. He released over time measures. A half of the sentence his situation will be reviewed as the law prescribes

    According to the Platform for Reform of the Law of Minors in the past two years (2000-2001) have been arrested 139 juveniles allegedly responsible for murders, for crimes of 1963 injuries per 631 sexual assaults, robberies by 8531 with violence and other crimes to a total of 53,610 detainees. Children under 14 years, responsible for 5 murders, 125 injuries, 97 sexual assaults, 662 robberies with violence and other crimes to total at least to 3984 (data from the Internal º F) were placed under the guardianship of parents to be out of Juvenile Law.

    (Article made with information from the Platform for the Reform of the Juvenile Law)
    Libertad Digital

  7. I think you need to be very careful who you release from jail.Some of these kids are just no good. If a kid can cold bloodly kill a relative or anyone else for that matter then there are some bad genes and I doubt the kid will ever be right. I would definitely be afraid of someone like that and never trust them. You don’t just set your mother or father on fire or kill them over a simple argument. They should go away for life.

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