Although we are working to abolish life without parole (LWOP) sentences in Florida in favor of a 20-year cap until parole, we wish to acknowledge the victims, their families, and friends. We realize that the crimes committed by these people are serious and warrant punishment. We know that in some cases, lives have been lost and families destroyed, and it can never be reversed. We have the deepest, heartfelt sympathy for all those affected. Most of the people serving LWOP sentences referred to as ‘lifers’ are remorseful and wish, more than anything, that they could turn back time and erase the terrible things they have done. Many lifers committed their crimes when they were young men and women, at less than twenty-five years of age. After decades in prison, they have grown and changed.
Many lifers can be described as intelligent, helpful, and mature despite growing up in prison. They know that you can never forget and do not ask that you do, but they do ask for your forgiveness. Most of the lifers who have been locked up for decades have turned their lives around and want to give back to their communities. Many ex-offenders are already doing that in their communities through non-profit organizations helping kids, veterans, the homeless, and fellow returning inmates. Some of our volunteers are returning citizens helping us in their spare time as a way to give back to society.
It is our hope that you can find a way to collectively forgive the person who caused you or your loved one harm. We hope that you will see that after serving at least twenty years of their life sentence, many lifers are remorseful and not likely to commit another horrific crime. We hope that you agree that these people deserve a second chance at being good citizens in society. We are suggesting a twenty-year cap on sentences at which time a parole hearing will occur, except in the very worst of cases. We understand that there are some crimes that are so heinous that they are worthy of more severe punishment. We also understand that not all people who cause harm should be released automatically after twenty, hence the reason for a parole hearing.
There are no excuses for committing a felony crime that takes or destroys lives. However, in most cases, there are mitigating factors that contributed to the possibility. Many lifers are themselves victims of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. They were not raised in safe, stable, or nurturing homes. Many are victims of systemic racism, poverty, and broken homes. Their own families become victims in the same systematic way, due to a single-parent home and the cycle continues. Our goal is to get to the root cause of this breakdown to restore those who have caused harm and transform communities back to their true definition. We are hoping that you can think of this reform as a way to honor the memory of your loved ones by restoring hope in a much-needed place.
We would like to recommend some documentaries that exemplify the outcome of turning something negative into a positive in prison.
Survivors Guide to Prison (Netflix):
2018 documentary film directed by Matthew Cooke explores the United States prison system, largely through the lens of two wrongly convicted men, Reggie Cole and Bruce Lisker.
The Redemption Project (Netflix):
An American television series hosted by Van Jones that goes to the forefront of the criminal justice system and the restorative process.
Shakespeare Behind Bars:
Following an unlikely troupe of Shakespearean actors -- comprising 20 inmates from Kentucky's maximum-security Luther Luckett Correctional Complex -- filmmaker Hank Rogerson reveals a world in which "the play is the thing." As the cast of child molesters, murderers, and other felons prepares for a prison-based performance of "The Tempest," the show's themes of redemption, forgiveness, and humanity suddenly seem more relevant than ever. https://www.shakespearebehindbars.org/documentary/