I am giving this space to my friend and fellow advocate, Mary Ellen Johnson. Mary Ellen just took a trip to DC for the opening of this very special film. Here is her report.
Just returned from the world premiere of LOST FOR LIFE in Washington D.C. Joshua Rofé has been working on LOST FOR LIFE for 4 years and began with a shoestring budget. You would never know from the quality of the 75 minute film. Masterful. Powerful. And controversial.
LOST FOR LIFE doesn’t have any easy answers but it does ask the question, COULD YOU FORGIVE? The film starts with Brian Draper, who along with fellow Idaho 16-year-old, stabbed to death a 16-year-old student. The teens filmed pre and post murders.
Extremely brutal and difficult to watch.
But Joshua Rofé is not really interested in the details of the crime or issues like direct file, brain development, etc. Instead he focuses on the personal – the teens who commit the crimes, whether they give more than lip service to remorse, and to their families. Who takes responsibility? Who is in denial? Does it matter when a death is involved, particularly a death as brutal as that of Cassie Jo Stoddart, whether the killer is remorseful or simply in denial?
Josh never directly intrudes himself in the film, but rather lets the story speak for itself. We see the death of loved ones through the eyes of two different victims, Jennifer Bishop Jenkins, whose web site with its domain name “teenkillers.org,” succinctly states her position, and Sharletta Evans, who has not only embraced forgiveness of the killers who took the life of her three-year-old son, but asks that other young lifers be given a “first chance.”
Colorado is well represented, in addition to Idaho, though the issue is a national one with more than 2000 serving mandatory life sentences. The other young prisoners featured are Colorado lifers, Josiah Ivy and Jacob Ind. It is interesting to contrast Jacob Ind’s reflections after 20 years inside with those of Brian Draper and Torey Adamcik. Those teens have been imprisoned for 5 years and are now only 21. (Brian and Torey illustrate very clearly the truth about brain development and maturity. Re-visit in 10 years. The responses, the level of self-reflection, will be very different.) Sean Taylor, whose sentence was commuted by Governor Bill Ritter, shows that redemption is possible, and that those who kill can honor their victim by living a life of service. May never be enough, but some strive to honor the life they took the best way they know how, whether inside or outside prison.
The United States Supreme Court has ruled that mandatory life without parole for juveniles is unconstitutional. Thus, LOST FOR LIFE and this issue will remain relevant for years to come.
Mary Ellen Johnson
Here is Josh’s website, which includes a link to first trailer, press kit, and more: http://www.snagfilms.com/lostforlife/
Feel free to post on Facebook and share with the world.
A new film documentary will be premiered in Washing DC later this month that focused on both sides of the dialogue concerning life and virtual life prison sentences for juvenile offenders. This film takes an objective viewpoint of this topic and then leaves you with the question....Could You Forgive?
As a minister and person of strong convictions, I have witnessed the devastation that comes on all who are involved. The offender, the victim, the victim's family, the offenders family, their communities and even the officers of the court. There is no "winning" in these situations. That is why I have always been a proponent of restorative justice. Yes juvenile offenders should be accountable for their actions and the cost of those actions but they are not beyond rehabilitation or redemption....they are just kids who take miscalculated risks, who cannot think through the reasoning of cause and effect and are easily persuaded. I also know that a victim of crime who cannot come to terms with the loss can become bitter, angry and vengeful which effects health, families, relationships and jobs. So I work and hope for healing....otherwise we as a society will continue to degrade into hopelessness, despair and anguish. Join the conversation, join the movement towards healing and restoration. If we will do that for a park or an animal, can we not do it for the broken?
Lost For Life By Joshua Rofe'
Lost for Life, a new film from director Joshua Rofé, produced by Ted Leonsis, Rick Allen, Mark Jonathan Harris (director of three Academy Award-winning films) and Peter Landesman, is a searing documentary about individuals who have been sentenced to life without parole for crimes they committed as juveniles. The film tackles this contentious issue from multiple perspectives and explores the complexity of the lives of the affected individuals. Lost for Life refuses to give easy answers, but prompts many questions, and forces us to consider what we mean by justice, punishment, mercy, redemption and forgiveness.
And this conversation is vitally important. As many of you know, on June 25, 2012, the Supreme Court issued an historic ruling in the companion cases of Jackson v. Hobbs and Miller v. Alabama, holding that mandatory life-without-parole sentences for juveniles constitute cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Moreover, because the Court made no specific recommendations concerning how those serving automatic life-without-parole sentences would be resentenced, relief has been hard to divine. For example, in an apparent attempt to circumvent Miller, a number of Governors have indicated their intention to replace mandatory life-without-parole sentences with mandatory prison terms of 65 or 70 years.
Despite the recent Supreme Court decisions, most people are unaware of how we treat juveniles who have been convicted of serious crimes. While this difficult topic is easy to ignore, justice can only be based on common societal answers to key moral questions. For this reason, Lost for Life is an essential film. It is our responsibility to determine the standards of decency for our society. After watching this film, that responsibility becomes impossible to ignore.
We hope that you will join us at the premiere and in raising the profile of this incredibly important issue. The screening will be followed by a panel discussion on the issue moderated by Professor Steven H. Goldblatt, Director of the Supreme Court Institute at Georgetown University Law Center. For more information and promotional materials for the film, please visit http://www.snagfilms.com/lostforlife.
Not a head line that we are used to seeing and maybe we wouldn't believe it even if we did. For a nation that stands for the civil rights of all people, the need to protect animals, water, trees, bugs and old buildings.....we FAIL when it comes to our children. We fail miserably! At the end of this article will be a video of children and Richard Ross (photo journalist on conditions in juvenile detention in America) in solitary confinement.
It was the hope of many juvenile justice advocates, attorneys and families, to see drastic reductions in sentences for those juveniles sentenced as adults and serving time in adult prisons. So far this has not been the case. yes, laws have changed in many states and sentencing structures have changed. On average sentences have gone from life without the possibility of parole to 25 years to life. SERIOUSLY?!?! The first opportunity these young people will receive is at 20 years. Take a fifteen year old youth with that kind of sentence and he will have served more time in prison that he had been alive at the time of the crime. He will have been educated and matured in prison which is destructive not reformative.
Where are our moral values? Why do we give more protection and attention to animal abuse then we do to the welfare, education and rehabilitation of young people? Why do we care more about the health and treatment of waters, parks and trees than we do our youth? Why are we not paying attention?
Have you looked into the eyes of these young people? They have endured pain, suffering, abuse and neglect. They have been raised in harsh places with insurmountable odds and given no survival tools that insures their future success. Are they not worth our time and attention? Aren't they our future? How can any human being with any kind of compassion and understanding of the need for conservation, renewal and human rights, stand by knowing that this happens to children everyday?
This nation is the laughing stock among civilized nations. We point our fingers at their misdeeds concerning Human Rights and they thumb their noses at us......knowing that we don't really care or we would take care of our own house first. It's just lip service....we don't care about our kids.....not in this nation.
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