She Is Focused

October 22, 2009

Juveniles Serving Life Sentences: Should Our Justice System Be Reevaluated?

Filed under: Chat 'bout — Felicia @ 11:05 am

I’m not an attorney nor have I attempted to take the Bar Exam, just someone who has done minor research in Legal Studies.

I was recently caught up in my daily Facebook perusing when I came across a video a friend posted. Often the content of videos posted on Facebook are of a silly nature and are mainly just for kicks and laughs, but this one was of a more serious matter. CuffedIt was a video of a young woman from California who was sentenced to life without parole, plus four years at the age of 16. After watching this video I felt the strong sense of wanting to look further into laws from different jurisdictions concerning the sentencing of juveniles to life without parole. While committing crimes of any nature from anyone including minors deserves reproof, sentencing a minor to life without parole in my non-legal opinion is a bit callous.

 Amnesty International is a non-governmental organization which conducts research and generates action to prevent and end grave abuses of human rights and demands justice for those whose rights have been violated. AI refers to the United States as “the only country in the world that does not comply with the norm against imposing life without parole sentences on juveniles”. In other words minors, children under the age of 18, can be sentenced to life; even if there was no murder or homicide involved in the crime in some cases. The state of Florida sentences the most juveniles to life sentences for crimes not involving murder or homicide. There are roughly 2,500 prisoners serving life sentences for crimes committed when they were minors in the United States.

In regards to the video I watched on Facebook it was pertaining to a young woman named Sarah Kruzan, a young woman from California who is currently 13 years into her life sentence. 

Sarah KruzanSarah who grew up with a mother who was addicted to drugs and a father behind bars fell into the hands of a pimp who introduced her to a life of prostitution at the age of 13. In addition to the physical abuse he inflicted he held a power over Sarah that she has mistaken for a person who could grant her solace from her broken home. After 3 years of abuse and using her body for 12 hours of daily sexual exploitation, Sarah murdered her pimp and at 16 was sentenced to life in prison. “Life without parole means absolutely no opportunity for release,” says Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco/San Mateo). “It also means minors are often left without access to programs and rehabilitative services while in prison”.

I’m a strong believer in punishment for any wrongdoings committed, including from minors. However at such a young age when children are still developing emotionally and have not fully developed brain maturation,  giving them life in prison is completely and wholeheartedly giving up on our children. It’s instant dismissal of their worth and contribution to society. In the case of Sarah Kruzan, she was never afforded and opportunity to be that contribution. She was instantly dismissed at age 16. According to Senator Yee who is also a child psychologist, “children have an extraordinary capacity for rehabilitation”. Naturally with this information as a proven science, minors should not be given a sentence of life without parole in my opinion; even in cases where murder or homicide was involved. Instead these children should be given the opportunity to fully develop through rehab programs and be given the chance to fully mature so they can understand their misdeed.

Please don’t confuse my passion on this matter for my insinuating that children should not be punished. By all means murder, homicide or any crime should warrant justice for the parties affected, I just don’t see giving a child life without parole a means of showing them their errors. Senator Yee introduced legislation to abolish the sentence of life without parole for youth offenders. SB999 would make the maximum sentence twenty-five years to life.

No society should strip another human being of a chance at redemption especially at a time in their life where they’re not fully adept of their actions. More over not allowing them the opportunity to develop through rehabilitation while incarcerated. This is a subject that now has my undivided attention and I will most definitely follow-up with the latest.  

The United States leads the world in the practice of sentencing juveniles to life without parole, claiming 99.5 percent of all youth globally serving this sentence. In fact, there are only twelve such cases outside the US. The oldest human rights treaty to which the US is a party, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, prohibits this sentence. Nationally, eleven jurisdictions have prohibited this sentence including New York and the District of Columbia. – National Center For Youth Law.


  1. how can we help her?

    Comment by Jasmyne — October 22, 2009 @ 1:56 pm | Reply

  2. Great story Fel. This is absolutely insane.

    Comment by Marty Mar — October 25, 2009 @ 3:10 pm | Reply

  3. My name is Angela and Admin to GWSSF this is for all health problems around the world on face book and care2.

    we also have a group called Mens Boots Hurt Us for Domestic Violence.

    and we are also campaigning for Sara to be a free women now we feel she served her time for her crime.

    but the saddest part of all of is she never stood a chance from the day she was born.

    and where was social services for her and the police to remove this scum bag off the streets who was a child abuser she was the victim here
    not him.

    please come and join us and lets get her free she deserves a brand new start after the applauding treatment that she been through.

    Comment by ANGELA HIGGS — December 29, 2009 @ 5:02 pm | Reply

  4. OMG I know this girl! I was in prison with her, and from what I seen she was quiet, and no trouble maker.. I firly believe that she should be given a second chance at life.. People do things in self defense! She just didn’t decide one day hey imma kill some random man! NO HE BEAT HER DOWN! HE ABUSED HER WOMAN HOOD! HE USED HER NEED FOR LOVE AND SECURITY, TO SELL HER BODY! COME ON NOW, HE WAS A TOP MODEL CIVILIAN EITHER! FROM WHAT I KNOW SHES BEEN INCARCERATED MORE THAN 10 YEARS AND WELL I THINK THAT IS AMPLE TIME. She has suffered enough!!!!!

    Comment by Lisa — November 4, 2010 @ 12:19 pm | Reply

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