Justice Advocates Fight to Change Juvenile Sentencing in Minnesota

According to the Campaign for Youth Justice, youth in adult jails and prisons are at a higher risk of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse than their peers in the juvenile justice system. 

Feven Gerezgiher reports:

 

According to the Minnesota Department of Corrections, there are currently 137 people incarcerated who were juveniles certified as adults at sentencing. Given scientific research showing that youth are fundamentally different from adults, justice advocates in Minnesota say juvenile sentencing needs to change. 

 

A grassroots group called Juvenile Sentencing Reform MN held an event in Minneapolis earlier this month where Myon Burrell spoke about his experience being sentenced to life at the age of 16.

 

“You see your family, your loved ones, your friends, everybody fall off. Everybody disappears. So that’s where that hopelessness comes in. That’s what that place breeds, is it breeds hopelessness,” said Burrell. “And you see many broken human beings in there, so many children that become broken, because they’re told this is where they’re going to die at.”

 

According to the Campaign for Youth Justice, youth in adult jails and prisons are at a higher risk of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse than their peers in the juvenile justice system.

 

In 2012, the Supreme Court ruled mandatory life without parole unconstitutional for juveniles. They cited research that youth use a different part of their brain for decision making and don’t fully understand the consequences of their actions. Since then, legal advocates nationwide have pushed for more rehabilitative approaches.

 

Avra Anagnostis founded Juvenile Sentencing Reform MN after years of seeing her childhood friend incarcerated. She wants to see all juveniles eligible for review for release after 15 years in prison.

 

“It’s heartbreaking to see a person that you love so much having everything stripped from them, having their humanity stripped from them really. And especially when they were a child,” she said.

 

Anagnostis encourages community members to read stories of people incarcerated as juveniles on Juvenile Sentencing Reform MN’s social media. The group hopes to pass legislation next session.

Photo Credit: Phil Ward

 

 

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