The national spotlight is on Colorado this week concerning Juvenile Justice Policy Reforms and specifically juvenile life without parole. The Colorado 48 who are serving life without parole are awaiting decisions in their individual cases and the first Colorado Supreme Court decisions after hearings this past June. While many think that it is a difficult and complex issue I want to present another view.
I believe that the reason Colorado legislators are dragging their feet has more to do with politics than it does adhering to the constitutional rulings of this nation's Supreme Court. Colorado legislators have always bowed the knee to aggressive prosecutors and lobbyists. Legislators will seek (and are more concerned with) the opinion of prosecutors and back down from any legislative reform if it appears they will meet opposition. Colorado legislators and the Governor are more concerned with the political climate than they are with the law, with justice and with the lives of the people who are impacted by their decisions.
The changes that have been made in California to their incarceration, rehabilitation and juvenile justice policies came as a result of three reasons: California was broke and so were the people, their prisons had reached dangerous capacities and the people DEMANDED change.
While the Supreme Court rulings in the state of Colorado are supposed to be based on case law and the constitution, we have seen examples in other states where the law and constitution was of no consequence. HOWEVER, we CAN require that juvenile justice reforms and just sentencing practices that adhere to the recent constitutional rulings DO become policy by DEMANDING CHANGE.
I want to thank Campaign For Youth Justice, National Juvenile Justice Network, Colorado Juvenile Defender Coalition, The Pendulum Foundation and all those who are working tirelessly to bring reform to this issue. The change will come.....but it will take all of us standing and requiring that our government DO it!
Please read this article from Law Week Colorado to understand the battle that is happening in this state for juvenile justice reform Two Years, No Cert, More Confusion
As a follow up to the article posted previously Prescribed Drugs Kill I wanted to post this article from Alternet. It seems that more information concerning the use of antidepressants and antipsychotic drugs is being revealed through more sources...such as court rooms.
The large drug companies have been campaigning for your dollars via false advertising and false claims about the ability of its drugs to do anything but harm the people who take them. The drugs themselves cause a host of physical problems and even death while knowing that these drugs are completely ineffective for the treatment of depression, PTSD or behavioral issues. The next problem comes when the patient tries to quit taking the drugs. Their perception of reality has been altered, their physical withdrawal from these drugs is so painful that they believe there is something wrong with them. These drugs are addictive and damaging to the body and the minds ability to cope with everyday circumstance.
The most devastating information that has been released is the deaths caused in the elderly from these drugs and the health and behavior issues that are caused in the CHILDREN that are given these drugs.
Please read the previous article listed above and the article referenced in this post. These drugs are very dangerous, unproven and part of a very large marketing plan which has caused our nation to become addicted and are responsible for the death and destruction of countless lives. The ads for Abilify fill our television screens. Believe the experts when they tell you it is not the answer.
The Most Popular Drug in America Is an Antipsychotic and No One Really Knows How It Works
It has been a few years since the Supreme Court of this nation began handing down rulings that were SUPPOSED to forever change the landscape of juvenile justice. In Colorado we are still holding our breath. The elections are over. The stage set with all the players, the appeals have been submitted, the arguments have been given and we are still holding our breath....
The justice system in the United States does not move "swiftly". It takes years to make it through the appeal process to have even a portion of a case overturned. It takes years to make it to the Supreme Court of the United States and then years longer to change policy. It is taking a very long time to undo the harm of harsh criminal justice policy and return to reasonable practices.
We have 48 young men and women in Colorado serving the sentence of Life Without The Possibility of Parole, something the US Supreme Court calls cruel and unusual punishment. We have 2000 young men and women in this state serving sentences longer than 40 years for criminal violations that happened while they were kids. The fate of these men and woman and the reputation of Colorado is at stake. And we are STILL holding our breath.....while the young men and women grow up, get older.....in prison.
The United States has long taken stands against the inhumane practices of other nations. The United States has pointed it's long ugly finger at other nations who allowed egregious human rights practices and has even gone to war (if only economic) with these nations in protest of these practices. This week the United States had to answer for it's own violations of the global UN Convention Against Torture.
Several separate issues were addressed by the panel investigating the United States including the torture at Guantanamo and why the facility has not been closed; the kidnapping of people from the European Union by the CIA for questioning; the police brutality and militarization of police departments; the use of solitary confinement; prison rape and prison conditions; and the closed door policy of the US to allow access to facilities by UN council investigators.
The United States can no longer declare that it is the "land of the free". It can no longer stand with finger pointing and declare that the rest of the world should meet their standards regarding human rights and conditions. The nation is failing at upholding ANY standard of human rights, even stooping to a new low by criminalizing poverty and the charitable actions of those trying to help their brothers.
The torture endured by those held at Guantanamo will forever be a black mark on the history of America but even worse was the fact that the same torture meeted to prisoners at Guantanamo (labeled terrorists) was being imposed on citizens of this country in prisons all across America. Yet the acting legal advisor for the Stated Department had the gall to say, “There should be no doubt, the United States affirms that torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment and punishment are prohibited at all times in all places.” I wonder if the woman continually raped by prison guards would agree.
The US was pressed to disclose what it was doing to address the issue of police brutality like the situation in Ferguson Missouri and the death of the young black man at the hand of an officer? The US responded with: David Bitkower, deputy assistant attorney general with the U.S. Justice Department’s criminal division, told the panel that the department’s civil rights division has opened over 20 investigations “into systemic police department violations over the past five years.” He added, “We have prosecuted over 330 police officers for misconduct.”
The most poignant issues of prison abuse, the overuse of solitary confinement and the inhumane practices of US prisons was met with the most untruthful statement of all: "Bitkower said the Justice Department “is continuing to work to prevent, detect and respond to abuse in U.S. prisons.” He said the Justice Department last year found that Pennsylvania’s use of “long-term and extreme forms of solitary confinement” violated U.S. law and noted that U.S. federal courts “have interpreted the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution as prohibiting the use of solitary confinement under certain circumstances.”
But the U.S. delegation also said in its report to the commission that “there is no systematic use of solitary confinement in the United States.” You can read more Here
The investigation should go further by including the United States violation of it's own constitution against "Cruel and Unusual" punishment. The United States incarcerates more people than any other nation in the world. The US has some of the harshest sentencing practices, no prison oversight or accountability, no regard for humane treatment or conditions, no rehabilitation and current structure of prisons promotes violence and torture. The United States condemns children to die in prison even though the highest court of the land has found this practice to be a violation of the constitution.
The final statement concerning the systematic use of solitary confinement is a blatant lie to the esteemed UN council and should be treated as aggressive behavior by a nation towards all the other nations of the world. It is time the government of this nation was called to account for the treatment of it's citizens. The people of this country have tried with no success. Maybe the UN council will have better luck.
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