Kids With 47 Years is a campaigning organisation which is working to open up parole rights to all prisoners in Mississippi. We are particularly concerned about young adults sentenced to life imprisonment, who are currently denied access to parole.
Why are we campaigning
Mississippi law excludes large numbers of prisoners from seeking parole. This includes prisoners sentenced for life or for very long sentences. They will have to spend decades in prison, even though they have changed, reformed, turned their lives around. Even though they could now lead constructive worthwhile lives in the community, without posing risks of further crime. Even though their imprisonment is costing the taxpayer many millions of dollars per year, tearing apart families and communities, and serving no social purpose.
Why ‘Kids with 47 Years’?
Suppose an 18 year old and a man of 50 both get life sentences for a violent crime in Mississippi. Same crime, same day, same judge, same law. For the teenager the life sentence – meaning no chance of release until they reach 65 – will involve a minimum of 47 years in prison. Almost half a century.
But the 50 year old could be out after just 15.
Is this what how we actually want sentencing to work? That a teenager should be sentenced three times as severely as a man of 50? The younger the offender, the harsher the punishment? This is the inevitable consequence of the (labyrinthine) legislation that denies to these prisoners the opportunity for parole.
We’re not talking about prisoners whose exceptional crimes have resulted in the courts imposing a sentence of ‘Life without Parole’. As the Supreme Court has clarified, life sentences without that restriction are intended to be lesser sentences. But the current ‘no parole’ laws make nonsense of the distinction.
Greg and Chris, pictured above, both committed their crimes as teenagers, and they’ve each spent 20 years in prison – all but a few months of their adult lives. They aren’t criminals now. They’ve reflected, reformed, grown up. They’ve worked to prove themselves. They’ve been GED tutors, supported other prisoners, tried to use their time well, taken the few chances of rehabilitation that are offered in Mississippi.
As Chris says, “In twenty years there’s no violence in my prison record. And there are many guys like me in here – violent offenders who are not violent. But no matter how we prove ourselves in prison, there’s no second chance for us.”
What are we trying to achieve?
We’re trying to wake up the Mississippi House and Senate to fix these anomalies.
We’re trying to promote real justice by getting back the possibility of parole for prisoners who have served a decade of punishment. Just that. Not automatic release, not letting out offenders who still pose a danger – just giving prisoners the chance, if they turn their life around, to put their case to the parole board, to present evidence of their reform, and ask for a second chance.
Ten years is a long time. For a teenager, whose offenses were driven by a brain not fully formed, ten years is time to grow up, to get an adult understanding, to understand – really understand – about right and wrong and responsibility and consequences. Even for older offenders, ten years can be life-changing.
The denial of parole means that reform cannot be recognized or acted upon. It means that the state must go on paying to incarcerate the offender, through years or decades that serve no purpose.
How we are working and how you can help
We are working through our website, social media, direct contact with individuals, and through news media to promote discussion about parole in Mississippi.
Please join the discussion, engage with us on social media, or get in touch.
We are running a general public petition to encourage and record public support for legislative change in this area.
Please sign our general public petition
We are seeking to engage with professionals involved at every level of the Criminal Justice System, including the judiciary, lawyers, related academics, corrections personnel, law enforcement personal, and other professionals involved in this area, to promote and encourage their support for legislative change. We are encouraging them to record this support through our Professionals Petition.
Professionals – please make contact and sign our professionals petition
We hope to engage church communities by promoting discussion and awareness, and gain their support for this cause
Please let us know of any contacts in churches who might share our literature
We aim to use these expressions of support to influence Mississippi lawmakers to initiate positive changes in this area.
We are keen to make contact with anyone involved in the political process
We work to support prisoners and their families by providing reassurance that they are not forgotten, and that we are working to give them hope
Please use your networks to spread the word to prisoners and their families
We seek to engage with individuals and organisations (both locally and around the world) who are campaigning for criminal justice reform. We want to join forces with all those who are campaigning to end the cruel culture of mass incarceration in the USA.
Please make contact with us if you are involved in such campaigns
Get in Touch
Twitter – @kidswith47years
Facebook – Kids With 47 Years
Send Us a Message
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