Last year I gave a Kol Nidre sermon spotlighting our nation’s shameful practice of sentencing juveniles to life-without-parole. Now less than one year later, I’m thrilled to announce that the US Supreme Court has just recognized the fundamental unfairness of mandatory death-in-prison sentences that don’t allow sentencers to consider the unique status of children and their potential for change.
This decision has very direct bearing on the case of Adolfo Davis – one of the prisoners whose life I described in my sermon. It also has the potential to affect the case of Jacqueline Montanez, who has been in prison for 20 years and is the only woman in Illinois serving Juvenile Life Without Possibility of Parole. Adolfo and Jacqueline are two of nearly 2500 young people in the United States sentenced to life without the possibility of parole before their 18th birthday. As I mentioned in my sermon, the United States is the only country in the world that sentences children to life without possibility of parole.
At this critical moment, I’m asking you now to lend your voice in asking Governor Pat Quinn to join the Supreme Court in this tremendous decision and ask him to grant executive clemency to Adolfo and Jacqueline. This past April their cases were heard before the Illinois Prisoner Review Board, with petitions seeking clemency. The final decision to grant executive clemency is now in the hands of our Governor and is not guaranteed or ensured by the Court’s decision.
You can voice your concern by signing both Jacqueline and Adolfo’s online petitions, which can be found here and here. In addition to signing the petitions, please consider contacting the Governor with your concerns through the State of Illinois website or by writing a letter to:
Governor Pat Quinn
c/o Era Laudermilk
Associate General Counsel
Office of the Governor,
James R. Thompson Center
100 W. Randolph, Suite 16-100
Chicago, IL 60601, United States
Fax: +1 312 814 3806
If you have the time, please send copies of your letters to Adolfo and Jacqueline so that they will know of your support. Letters may be sent to:
Children and Family Justice Center
Ms. Toni Curtis
Bluhm Legal Clinic, Northwestern University
School of Law, 357 East Chicago Avenue
Chicago, IL 60611, United States
Thank you in advance for your support of this important and critical human rights issue. It is my personal dream to some day invite Adolfo, Jacqueline and Cedric Cal to High Holiday services in the very near future so that we may all celebrate the joy of justice finally realized at long last.