POPE FRANCIS RESPONDS TO HUNDREDS OF U.S. YOUTH SENTENCED TO LIFE WITHOUT PAROLE
A letter from the Pope will be read during a Sunday special Mass at juvenile hall in Sylmar
Members of the Archdiocese’s Office of Restorative Justice and advocates for fair sentencing for youth will join incarcerated youth during a special Mass on June 8 from 8:30-9:45 a.m. at the chapel of Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Hall, 16350 Filbert St., Sylmar 91342, where a letter from Pope Francis will be read. The Mass will be celebrated by Jesuit Father Michael Kennedy, letter recipient and the juvenile hall’s co-chaplain.
About 500 youth, sentenced to life without parole, from across the United States wrote letters to Pope Francis asking his intercession for fair sentencing for youth. The letter writing was led by the Washington, D.C.-based Campaign for Fair Sentencing for Youth, whose national director Jody Kent will be presented with the Pope’s letter during the Mass. A former incarcerated youth, sentenced at age 13 to 25 years to life, will share his testimonial. He was released after serving 13 years in prison.
“Their plea that this form of sentencing be reviewed in the light of justice and the possibility of reform and rehabilitation moved me deeply,” wrote the pope in the letter dated May 7, 2014.
“The pope’s letter is strong and clear. He believes our youth deserve a second chance. His leadership should influence our political leaders to make the necessary changes so that kids can be treated differently than adults,” said Father Kennedy.
The United States is the only country where children are sentenced to die in prison. California has led the path for change by passing laws, SB9 and SB260, in the last two years that give a second chance to people who were under 18 at the time of their crime and sentenced to life without parole.
For many years, the archdiocesan Office of Restorative Justice has advocated for a just, rehabilitative, restorative and redemptive prison system as opposed to the current punitive system that condemns children to die in prison.
For more information visit www.fairsentencingofyouth.org; www.jrji.org; www.orj-la.org.