For Immediate Release:  February 9, 2009

Contact: Allison Conyers,   757-870-8749   or aconyers@fairsentencingofyouth.org

Note:  A petition on behalf of Sara Kruzan was filed in Riverside, CA Monday, February 8.

Statement by Jody Kent, Director and National Coordinator of the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth

“Sara Kruzan is just one of more than 2500 people in the United States sentenced to life without the possibility of parole for crimes committed when they were a teenager.  No other country imprisons children or teenagers for the rest of their lives without hope for release.

A deeply troubled teen, with a drug addicted mother and an absent father, Sara defied the odds by excelling as a student. But at the age of 13 she was raped and forced into prostitution, three years later she shot her pimp.  Like Sara, the majority of young people sentenced to life without parole are first time offenders.  Science tells us that young people act impulsively without considering the consequences of their actions, and they are less culpable.  However, the same immaturity and flexibility that makes teenagers susceptible to outside influences also makes them strong candidates for rehabilitation.  Therefore, it is irresponsible and immoral to sentence youth to die in prison.

Unlike Sara most of the 2500 young people who are serving this harsh, irrevocable sentence will never again have their cases considered by a judge, jury, elected official or even an attorney.  They cannot afford legal representation, have no recourse in court and fail to get pardons.

We should not be in the practice of giving up on troubled teenagers who commit serious crimes.  A review of sentences later in life will give young people an opportunity to prove whether or not they continue to pose a risk to society.  We need age-appropriate, science-based policies in place that focus on rehabilitating young people, such as Sara, who are convicted of serious crimes.  This will ensure that youth, who we know are capable of change and growth, may one day return to our communities as productive citizens.”

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The Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth is a national campaign dedicated to ending the practice of sentencing youth to life in prison without the opportunity to prove remorse and rehabilitation.