Crime

Is trying juveniles as adults cruel and unusual?

The Denver-based Pendulum Foundation has made some significant progress in challenging the laws that can send juveniles to adult prison, serving life without parole for violent crimes committed when they were fifteen- or sixteen-years old -- a wrenching issue Luke Turf explored in his 2005 feature "Headed For Trouble." Now, a related blog has been launched to mobilize opposition to what Pendulum executive director Mary Ellen Johnson considers the root of the problem -- the "cruel and unusual practice" that allows district attorneys in Colorado and many other states to direct file against juveniles in adult court, without a hearing first.

The new site, StopDirectFile.org, bills itself as an education campaign by "a group of committed Coloradans." It has some interesting links, newsletters and feeds, as well as some heartbreaking case histories. Particularly compelling is the clip seen above of Sara Kruzan, which found its way to the site via Demi Moore's Twitter feed. Kruzan, 29, has been serving life without parole in California for the past thirteen years; at sixteen, she killed the pimp who raped her and introduced her to prostitution three years earlier.

Kruzan's judge told her that she "lacked moral scruples." She had to look up "scruples" in the dictionary. "I definitely deserve punishment," she says. "How much, I don't know."

For more, check out the clip -- and the site.

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Alan Prendergast has been writing for Westword for over thirty years. He teaches journalism at Colorado College; his stories about the justice system, historic crimes, high-security prisons and death by misadventure have won numerous awards and appeared in a wide range of magazines and anthologies.
Contact: Alan Prendergast