Here, There and Everywhere

No Parole for Children

Dear Gabriel,

Locked up for life at 16. No possibility of parole. Christi Cheramie is living a nightmare.

When Christi was 16 years old, back in 1994, she couldn’t vote, drink alcohol, serve on a jury, or buy lottery tickets. She was considered a minor — a child. But that didn’t stop the state of Louisiana from giving this 16-year-old a sentence of life without parole.

Ask Louisiana’s governor and the state Board of Pardons to grant clemency to Christi Cheramie.

Only in the U.S. — where children as young as 11 have faced life in prison — are such harsh sentences against juveniles allowed. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child prohibits life without parole for offenses committed under the age of 18. This is not about excusing or minimizing the consequences of crimes committed by children, but about recognizing that children are not yet fully responsible for their actions and have special potential for rehabilitation and change.

Christi, now 33 years old, has spent more than half of her young life in prison. She’s earned her high school equivalency diploma and an associate’s degree in Agriculture Studies, and teaches classes to her fellow inmates. A prison warden who oversaw Christi considers her a “model inmate” who has grown into a “remarkable young woman” deserving of “a second chance in society.”

But if we don’t act, a mandatory sentence of life without parole means that Christi will die in prison. A victim of sexual abuse and depression, and caught in the web of an aggressive and controlling older fiancé, Christi found herself at the grisly murder scene of her fiancé’s great aunt. She was charged with murder just for being there — even though it was her fiancé who wielded the knife.

The victim’s closest family members are sympathetic to Christi’s case. But Christi’s fate is now in the hands of Louisiana’s governor and Board of Pardons.

Our 2011 Write for Rights campaign highlighted Christi’s case, and thousands of letters have already poured into Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal’s office. Next week, the Board of Pardons will meet to decide whether or not to move forward with Christi’s clemency application — a decision that the governor can influence. We must keep the momentum going from Write for Rights — and the time to act is now!

Christi has already changed people’s lives through her work at the Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women, but she will never be able to realize her full potential — and society won’t benefit from her potential contributions — if she spends the rest of her life behind bars.

It’s time for the U.S. to join the rest of the world and end the cruel and unusual punishment of juvenile life without parole. People convicted of crimes while still children — like Christi Cheramie — should be given a chance at rehabilitation. They shouldn’t be left to grow old in a jail cell.

You can make a difference in Christi’s case. Sign our petition now calling for clemency for Christi Cheramie.

Thank You,

Michael O’Reilly
Senior Director, Individuals at Risk Campaign
Amnesty International USA

Comments on: "No Parole for Children" (2)

  1. Amy Robinson Bourgeois said:

    I was incarcerated when Christian came to jail for this crime. I remember how scared and fragile she was, my heart went out to this young girl. Couple of years later I went back to jail…I remember when Christian saw me returning, how she said people come and go I can’t get that chance. It broke my heart. I got out of jail for the last time in Dec 1999., I just saw all of this going on with Christi. I believe she deserves a second chance. Of there is
    anything I can do to help please let me know. I would really like to speak to someone about this situation. Please email me

  2. Hi Amy. Sorry to say, but Christi is one of many kids put in jail for life in the U.S. If you get a chance read “Just Mercy” by Bryan Stevenson – “A story of justice and redemption”. Contact the Equal Justice Initiative, and/or find people or organizations where you live who are working on these issues. Thank you for expressing your concern for Christi.

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