Category Archives: Pendulum Foundation

News Story About Jacob Ind on Colorado Springs KKTV 11

I’ve posted a number of Jacob Ind’s essays on serving life without the possibility of parole. KKTV Channel 11 in Colorado Springs aired a story yesterday on the Jacob Ind case and asked their viewers the question, should juveniles who commit murders before the age of 18 be sentenced to life without parole.

It’s interesting to note that the judge in Jacob Ind’s case felt the sentence was too harsh and although the Colorado Attorney General felt that Jacob Ind and Gabriel Adams’ cases should have been tried in adult court, he would not have been opposed to sentencing them to prison terms that afforded the possibility of parole.

Colorado stopped sentencing juveniles to LWOP in 2006, but the change was not made retroactive for the 46 juveniles sentenced to LWOP in Colorado prior to the change.

The news broadcast can be seen here.

National Organization of Victims of Juvenile Lifers

Several weeks ago, I spoke with Jennifer Bishop-Jenkins of Illinois.victims.org after she commented on a post I’d done that she felt had portrayed murder victims’ families as vengeful.

That hadn’t been my intent, but after speaking with Jennifer, I realized that my reference to victims’ families in the post had been insensitive.

My stated purpose for the creation of this blog is to create a dialogue, but doing so has proven easier said than done.

I realized that with very few exceptions, there was no conduit for meaningful dialogue between the advocates for eliminating the sentence of Juvenile Life without the Possibility of Parole and the living victims of those inmates serving LWOP for crimes committed as juveniles. Continue reading

What I Learned in Supermax, a Guest Post from Mary Ellen Johnson

Mary Ellen Johnson met Jacob Ind a few months after he killed his parents at age 15. She’s the director of The Pendulum Foundation, which serves kids serving life. She alternately thanks and curses Jacob for providing entree into a world she never knew existed.

“Something went horribly wrong.”

Jacob’s letter arrived a week after Limon Correctional Facility had been abruptly locked down. Continue reading

Categorically Less Culpable

On February 13th, the Illinois Coalition for Fair Sentencing of Children released a new report, Categorically Less Culpable: Children Sentenced to Life Without Possibility of Parole in Illinois.

The Northwestern Law website has links to more information related to the report. The following is a summary of the coalition’s recommendations to the Illinois legislature:

– Pass legislation that abolishes the sentence of life without the possibility of parole for children

– Apply this new legislation retroactively

– Include victim notification provisions in any legislation passed

It’s interesting to note that the executive summary of the report notes that in 2006, Colorado outlawed juvenile LWOP outright. What the summary fails to note though is that Colorado failed to apply the elimination of juvenile LWOP retroactively.

This inequity has to be righted. Across the country, there is momentum to eliminate juvenile LWOP. In Colorado we’ve made some progress, but we have to continue to fight for retroactivity for the 46 inmates remaining for whom retroactivity was not extended.

If we believe LWOP is unfair for juveniles yet to be sentenced, it’s unfair to those already sentenced.

Sara Kruzan

I think Sara Kruzan is an example of a young woman who deserves a second chance. There is no question that murdering anyone, even someone apparently as despicable as her victim was, is wrong. Punishment is necessary, but so is rehabilitation and the possibility of a chance to start over. What do you think?

Upcoming Event in Boulder

When Kids Get Life

February 13th 2008

6:00 pm

Eaton Humanities 135

CU – Boulder

The Pendulum Foundation will be showing the PBS FRONTLINE documentary “When Kids Get Life.” The U.S. is one of the very few countries in the world that allows children under 18 to be prosecuted as adults and sentenced to life without parole. Currently there are more than 2000 of these young offenders imprisoned for the rest of their natural lives. In the rest of the world, there are only 12 juveniles serving the same sentence, according to figures reported to the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child. This documentary is the story of five of them in the state of Colorado.

Established as a non-profit in 2001, the Pendulum Foundation is dedicated to educating the public about the issue of children in adult prisons, and in transforming the lives of all those youthful offenders who are currently behind bars. Mary Ellen Johnson, the Executive Director of the Pendulum Foundation, will be answering questions after the screening of the documentary.

The event is free and open to the public.

The event is sponsored by the University of Colorado Law School, the Department of Philosophy of the University of Colorado – Boulder, the Center for Bioethics And Humanities at University of Colorado – Denver, the Center for Values and Social Policy, and the Pendulum Foundation.

~

For directions:

http://www.colorado.edu/campusmap/map.html?bldg=HUMN

For the official website of the PBS FRONTLINE documentary:

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/whenkidsgetlife/

For the Pendulum Foundation’s website:

www.pendulumfoundation.com

 

 

Colorado Governor’s Juvenile Clemency Board Application is Available

When I decided to start this blog, I told myself that the best thing I could do to participate in the dialogue about juvenile cases and juvenile sentencing would be to learn about the law, about the impending changes and about the cases, but I wanted to keep a distance from those who’d been convicted of the crimes. I thought that getting to know the human beings behind the newspaper articles and the case files and the sentences would be too difficult on an emotional level.

I’ve found that separating this issue from the people is not as easy as I thought it would be. The Frontline special, “When Kids Get Life” put five real faces and voices on Jacob Ind, Nathan Ybanez, Erik Jensen, Trevor Jones and Andy Medina. I read Mary Ellen Johnson’s book, “The Murder of Jacob” to learn more about his story. I’ve written and received two letters from Jacob, each exchange bringing me to a deeper understanding of who he is today and what his life is like. The Rolling Stone article about Nate Ybanez provided a far more detailed history of his story. I learned about Cheryl Armstrong on The Pendulum Foundation site and subsequently spoke with her mother.

Today I received a letter from Cheryl Armstrong and she has become very real to me. I will talk more about this in a future post.

When I began writing this blog, I had assumptions about how the judicial system worked, but I never understood how gray so much of what happens is. The cases that caught my attention are all high profile, highly publicized cases because of the age of the offenders and because of the nature of the crimes.

I’ve learned that the justice system and the laws that govern it can be profoundly impacted by politics, perceived public opionion and of course by the media.

I’ve learned that most of those who’ve been locked away as children have been largely forgotten. The lucky ones have one or two people who stand behind them and support them. The unlucky ones have been forgotten by even their families.

This brings me to the Colorado Governor’s Juvenile Clemency Board. It was widely publicized when in August of 2007, Governor Ritter established the Juvenile Clemency Board. It’s difficult for someone like me, without a background in politics or the law to piece together how these things work, but I’ve learned that each state governor establishes his or her own approach to clemency. Each new governor creates his or her own criteria, and each offender who is eligible may apply for clemency, which can result in a number of possible outcomes.

The new application and the criteria to apply to the Juvenile Clemency Board are available for download here.

If a prisoner is granted clemency, it may result in a pardon and immediate release. This is very rare. What is more likely is that a prisoner may be granted commutation of a long sentence, which may or may not result in release or conditional release.

This sounds good, but someone serving a life sentence may have his sentence commuted to forty years before possibility of parole. Forty years is better than life, but not much.

What are the chances that a clemency application might be approved? Nobody knows. Each board is newly formed and reinventing the wheel, so to speak. There are no precedents. There are lots of concerns about applying for clemency, especially about going first. Nobody wants to be a test case. Governor Ritter is a former Denver District Attorney. Is a prisoner who was convicted while Governor Ritter was the prosecutor less likely to be granted clemency than a prisoner who was tried by another DA? Jeanne Smith, a member of the clemency board is a former District Attorney for El Paso County. If she reviews a clemency application that she also happened to prosecute, would that have an impact on how that offender’s application for clemency is handled?

Offenders and their family members have to weigh many questions that have no clear answers. Is it better to wait to apply for clemency under a new governor if you were convicted by the current governor?

Is the risk of having a sentence commuted to a lower, but still excessive number of years too great to risk applying for clemency?

Most of the offenders are indigent and cannot afford to retain attorneys so these are decisions they’re left to work through on their own.

I was foolish enough to think I could become involved in this issue without allowing myself to care about these people who now are trying to determine how to approach an application for clemency. The sad thing is that I’m not qualified to help them. I don’t even know who can.

Victims and victims’ families have the opportunity to present information urging that the governor deny clemency during this process. Supporters of the offenders also have the opportunity to speak on their behalf.

I’ve scoured the internet and there is no paper or article that I can find that talks about the pros and cons and issues that an offender should consider prior to applying for clemency.

If you’ve got any thoughts or ideas about things the candidates for clemency should consider, please comment or email me.