By Robert Saleem Holbrook and Dr. Kristi Brian
The movements struggling for the abolition of prisons received a much needed glimpse of optimism on June 25, 2012 when the United States Supreme Court’s ruling in Miller v. Alabama and Jackson v. Hobbs finally struck down mandatory life without parole sentences for juvenile offenders. This long-awaited first step towards the elimination of one of the most unforgiving tendencies of mass imprisonment has created a hopeful stir. Yet in Pennsylvania, which has more juvenile lifers than any other state, much has yet to be determined. There still exists a vocal and aggressive opposition comprised of vengeance-driven right wing victim rights advocates and “law and order” politicians who are afraid of being labeled soft on criminals. As a result, they vow to maintain the sentence in spirit by attempting to deny the retroactive application of the ruling to the hundreds of juvenile lifers in Pennsylvania and seek to enact draconian sentences that would require juveniles to serve a minimum of 40 years in prison before being considered for parole.
Salim's sister Anita presenting on JLWOP at the Stopmax conference in 2008.
As requested by State Senator Steward Greenleaf
Monday, September 22, 2008, 9:30 AM
In Hearing Room #1, North Office Building, Harrisburg, PA
Juveniles Sentenced to Life without Parole in Pennsylvania
Good morning Senator Greenleaf and Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. My name is Anita Colón. I am the sister of Robert Holbrook, a man currently serving a life sentence in Pennsylvania for a crime he was convicted of participating in at the age of 16. First, I would like to thank you, Senator Greenleaf, for holding this hearing on the issue of sentencing juveniles to life without the possibility of parole in Pennsylvania and allowing me to testify before you today. I praise both your concern about this issue as well as your willingness to step forward to address it.
My brother Robert was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole for a crime that occurred on his sixteenth birthday. That day, lured by the promise of $500 made by a neighborhood drug dealer, Robert agreed to serve as a lookout for four adult males for what he thought was going to be a simple drug deal. My brother soon found himself in the midst of a robbery of a drug dealer’s young wife inside her home. Although he desperately wanted to run once he realized what was happening, he was terrified of the drug dealer that had ordered him to stay, and oblivious to the consequences that would await him if he remained.
J.C. Lore III is a clinical associate professor at Rutgers Law School, Camden
The United States leads the world - by far - in sentencing children to die in prisons. It's the only country in the world where children are serving life sentences without the possibility of parole, and Pennsylvania leads the 50 states in the category.
At least 2,380 American prisoners - 450 of them, or nearly one-fifth, in Pennsylvania - were sentenced as juveniles and will never be considered for release. They will never have the opportunity to demonstrate that they have been rehabilitated. They are effectively guaranteed to spend their entire lives behind bars for things they did as children.
For being a traitorous friend, Stacey Torrance was thrown into jail for life.
Torrance was just 14 when an older cousin convinced him in 1988 to lure a rich kid to a North Philadelphia corner, where the cousin and an accomplice kidnapped and later shot and strangled him.
Legislation brings US into compliance with its international treaty obligations
WASHINGTON - September 11 - Today, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security is scheduled to hold a hearing on a bill that would help end the practice of sentencing children to life in prison without the possibility of parole and provide grants to states to improve the quality of legal representation for youth charged with an offense that could lead to a life sentence. In a letter to Representatives Robert C.
Fed Up, the Pittsburgh chapter of The Human Rights Coalition recently interviewed Anita, Saleem's sister for their 2.3 million and rising radio show on Rustbelt Radio. Check it out by clicking below:
by Robert L. Holbrook
In response to a perception in the rise in crimes committed amongst juvenile gangs in Philadelphia in the late 1960s and early 1970s as well as to serve as a deterrent to other juvenile offenders, Pennsylvania’s legislature embraced the “Adult Crime, Adult Time” slogan to adjudicate juvenile offenders charged with murder. The rationale behind the slogan was that if a juvenile offender commits an adult crime (i.e. murder) he/she should do adult time. In theory the concept seemed to be an effective way of punishing the “worst of the worst” juvenile offenders and also to send a message to other juvenile offenders that such crimes would not be tolerated. How else could society punish juvenile offenders that committed the ultimate crime and deter others from doing the same? Treat them like adults. The fact that their mental state is not of an adult does not matter. The act takes precedence over the mental state of the offender,