Thursday, January 24, 2008

Beyond FINESSE: Lisa Kenney at Eudaemonia and Compassion in Juvenile Sentencing

I’m lucky to call an inspiring Denver blogger and writer, Lisa Kenney of Eudaemonia and Compassion in Juvenile Sentencing, a good friend. I’m also happy to help spread the word about her new important endeavor as publicist for the Pendulum Foundation, a Juvenile Justice Advocacy Organization established in 2001.

Pendulum “is dedicated to educating the public about the issue of children in adult prisons and in transforming the lives of youthful offenders who are currently behind bars.” Based on a determined belief in redemption rather than retribution, the foundation provides programs and educational opportunities designed to “transform the lives of young men and women inside adult prisons, exiting prison, and serving time in juvenile facilities.”

Children serving disturbing LWOP (life without parole) sentences constitute a major focus of the foundation. According to Pendulum, Colorado alone has 50 (!) juveniles serving LWOP, many of whom were victims of extensive abuse throughout childhood. The foundation also notes “a disproportionate number of minority youth serving life. While 4.4% of Colorado’s population is African-American, 26.7% of those serving life are black. We have kids as young as 14 serving LWOP.” Colorado houses many of its juveniles serving LWOP in adult prisons, where they’re much more likely to be beaten by guards and sexually assaulted, and to commit suicide.

The Pendulum Foundation also works toward prevention and intervention by helping troubled children and teens to keep them out of the penal system; bringing “restorative justice and life skills programs into juvenile detention centers and adult prisons;” and working on federal and state levels to provide a “comprehensive prisoner re-entry program.” Pendulum is also developing an Arts in Prison program to benefit young LWOPs and other incarcerated youth.

This is a complex, emotional cause that Lisa holds dear, and for good reason. As she puts it, “Regardless of the circumstances of the crime, the thought that children as young as fourteen or fifteen would be locked up with adult violent offenders, without therapy or any form of rehabilitation [is] incomprehensible to me.” Rather than simply become upset when she learned about this issue through the Frontline special “When Kids Get Life,” Lisa opted to take action. Despite the demands of her job and her determination to complete a novel this year, she recently accepted the challenge to work with Pendulum to help raise awareness of the fate of juvenile offenders in adult prisons in Colorado and across the country. Visit her new website Compassion in Juvenile Sentencing as well as the Pendulum Foundation site to see what you can do to help give young people with literally no hope for the future a glimmer that might save their lives.

Photo © PBS.org

4 Comments:

Anonymous twoblueday said...

LWOP for kids, what a concept!
I wonder, what is the age of the youngest child ever given this draconian sentence in the U.S.

As a society, you'd think we could do better.

6:02 AM  
Blogger Sustenance Scout said...

Good question, Gerry. I'll see what I can find out. K.

6:15 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Karen,

I am beyond stunned. I was checking the blog stats on the new site and found your post on the Publisher's Marketplace web site and here. I am so surprised and happy that I'm crying! Thank you so much for caring.

I'll see if I can find out from Mary Ellen Johnson, Executive Director of the Pendulum Foundation what the age of the youngest child to receive an LWOP sentence is. I believe children as young as 10 have been held in adult prisons.

Pendulum puts a lot of focus on the juvenile LWOPS, but there are many, many more juveniles serving excessive sentences in adult prisons. I spoke to with the mother of Cheryl Armstrong, a young woman who was sentenced to 96 years in prison when she was 16. Cheryl was driving the vehicle used in the commission of a crime in which another individual shot and killed someone. She is not eligible for parole until she's 63 years old. There was a famous case here in Denver not many years ago about Lisl Auman, who had been sentenced to LWOP. She has been released and I hope to interview her/have her guest blog soon. I'll have a post up about Cheryl Armstrong this weekend and Mary Ellen is working on a post about Tim Masters and about the number of juvenile LWOPs who have always maintained their innocence. In all likelihood, at least some of them are.

Thank you so much for caring Karen!

5:51 PM  
Blogger Sustenance Scout said...

Woops Lisa, I put a comment on your blog and thought you'd see that but should've emailed too to let you know this post was up. Glad you found it!

Yikes, a 10 YEAR OLD in an adult prison!

Looking forward to reading your interviews; what a good idea. Best of luck!! K.

6:16 PM  

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