Giving child offenders a chance
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
I was deeply moved by former senator Alan K. Simpson's Oct. 23 Washington Forum commentary, "A sentence too cruel for children," although I might be an unexpected person to be so moved. Twenty-three years ago, my daughter, then pregnant, was murdered by two 15-year-old boys. But in the years since her death, I have come to believe that sentencing teenagers to life in prison without the possibility of parole does not serve victims, offenders or public safety.
There is no reason to deny child offenders the opportunity to have their sentences reviewed after they have served a significant amount of time to see whether they have changed and matured. Only those who have demonstrated their growth and proved they are rehabilitated would be considered for parole. As Mr. Simpson's personal story shows, the potential for growth is enormous.
My family experienced unimaginable loss, but I still believe that young people -- even those who have done terrible things -- can be reformed. A permanent sentence should not be imposed on children whose characters are still forming.
And thank you to the senator for his candor in writing on this issue. His courage has served to strengthen my resolve to keep speaking out on this important matter.
Linda L. White, Magnolia, Tex.
The writer was among the signers of a friend-of-the-court brief in Sullivan v. Florida and Graham v. Florida, the two Supreme Court cases regarding the sentencing of juveniles.