The Massachusetts Coalition for the Fair Sentencing of Youth (MAFSY) is encouraged that Gov. Deval Patrick entered the debate on the fair sentencing of youth by releasing his plan to address Massachusetts’ unconstitutional sentencing structure for children and teens who are convicted of murder.
The Governor’s proposal responds to last June’s U.S. Supreme Court decision in Miller v. Alabama, which prohibits mandatory sentences of life without the possibility of parole for juveniles. Massachusetts is one of 26 states that continue to sentence juveniles to mandatory life without parole and has the harshest sentencing scheme in the country.
In addition to sentencing reform, the Governor’s proposal seeks to protect young people by ensuring that anyone under 18 be tried in juvenile court. Currently, a 17-year-old arrested in the Commonwealth on any charge, no matter how minor, is considered an adult.
Although the Governor’s proposal allows for a judge to set parole eligibility for young offenders when appropriate, it does not include the support necessary to assist young offender’s rehabilitation and earn a reasonable opportunity for release.
The Coalition understands that if children continue to be sentenced to life without parole, too many will continue to grow up, grow old and die in prison when there are better alternatives available for them and for society. MAFSY looks forward to working with the Administration and the Legislature to address this and other issues to make this legislation a comprehensive solution that will serve Massachusetts and become a model for the nation.
Mothers for Justice and Equality (MJE) salute Gov. Deval Patrick’s efforts to reduce incarceration rates of juveniles in the state of Massachusetts.
We believe that it takes courage to stand up against perceived norms. We believe our children should not bear the burden of societal failures. America’s loss in the war on poverty has left many families dealing with the aftermath of economic inequality that has led to an increase in incarceration and murder rates of children living in urban communities across our nation.
In many cases the children are either the perpetrators or the victims of violence. In other cases they are the survivors that are left behind to deal with the nightmares and emotional scars of losing a friend or loved one to violence. Sometimes the symptoms of trauma-related stress can go undiagnosed or untreated for years before the individual commits a crime.
As mothers raising children in urban communities, we are often left to ponder the question: What is justice to mothers who could lose a child to violence or incarceration of life with no chance of parole?
We are both mothers who are mutually joined together with the loss of a child and we are both left behind to mourn silently and watch hopelessly as others experience a similar fate.
We believe that incarceration is not the only answer. We must embrace restorative justice practices, invest in stabilizing our families and rehabilitate our children.
Merva Chambers, a mother who lost her son to violence in 2010, says it best: “Justice for me is making sure no other child is lost to senseless violence.”
If we, mothers who have lost children to violence, can forgive, others can too.
Thank you Gov. Deval Patrick for taking a stand for our children for our future.
Mothers for Justice and Equality (MJE)