There have been interesting recent events both nationally, and for me personally. First of all, the Supreme Court held hearings concerning Juvenile Life Without Parole in two very important cases. The question is whether or not JLWOP can be imposed when held against the constitutional standard of "Cruel and Unusual Punishment". These are very important cases and the Justices are faced with a difficult decision.
Secondly, there has been much publicity surrounding these hearings and many organizations and media have taken advantage of this time to publicize their views (www.endjlwop.org). I recently had the privilege of hearing a young man named Dwayne Betts (A Question of Freedom Penguin Publishing) speak. It is not the first time I have heard his story, but this speech was even more compelling. He told the story of how he landed in prison, what he did to further himself in prison through the influence of other inmates, and what he has become outside of prison. Most looked at him as some kind of hero and he doesn't like that. He wanted everyone to know that he was not special, he was not the exception, he was just lucky enough to receive a sentence that afforded him a life after prison. He wanted us to know that inside prison walls there are men just like him. They made mistakes, they caused harm and they are sorry. They are sorry. They don't have the chance that Dwayne had. Most will die in prison.
I got to hear Clarence Thomas, Speaker of The Colorado House, remark that what we need to start providing is a way of redemption. "When one of our children is beyond reach, we have failed as adults". And another quote that was equally as provoking "It is easier to raise good children than to repair broken men. "
I had the opportunity to listen to my very good friend, Mary Ellen Johnson (The Pendulum Foundation), speak to a class at an alternative high school. She made room for me so that I could speak to them as well. Our final statements to these young people were about how much we needed them and that they had the power to change this nation through their voices and their actions.