Jajuana Calloway On Losing Her 14-Year-Old to a 30-Year Prison Sentence

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At the age of 14 my son was sentenced to 30-years in prison without the possibility of parole.

My boy, Christopher, was convicted and sentenced under a set of laws passed by the Georgia Legislature in 1994. This package of misguided legislation popularly known as “the Seven Deadly Sins,” was an effort to lock up juveniles without any meaningful opportunity for rehabilitation and without any possibility of parole.

He is not, I’ll make clear, an innocent victim. We are responsible for our own actions. But the circumstances of his crime did not then and do not now warrant destroying his life with a 30-year sentence.

A group of older teens put him up to robbing a woman and stealing her car. During the ordeal, she was tied up, understandably terrified, but not injured. After my son and the others were arrested, the older ones put the blame on Christopher. With the help of their testimony, he was convicted as an adult and is currently serving the 30-year mandatory sentence without the possibility of parole.

 

He has already served 14 years to date, and has been incarcerated with men who have lighter sentences for more severe crimes. Even if he had received a life sentence for his actions, he would now be eligible for parole after serving 14 years.

 

For the last two years, I’ve been aggressively advocating -- not only on Christopher’s personal behalf -- but for all juveniles who find themselves in the middle of a very unbalanced and harshly brutal method of sentencing. It is indeed my most earnest hope that I can lend my voice to an effort to create equal justice in our judicial system.

 

Abraham Lincoln said, “He who sees cruelty and does nothing about it is himself cruel.” I feel this statement is so applicable to the current judicial system, which requires lengthy mandatory sentencing for juveniles as young as 14, with no opportunity for parole.

 

As I began this tumultuous journey on behalf of my son, I was saddened to discover that the public is largely ignorant of Georgia’s and the nation’s laws governing juveniles, and therefore truly unaware of these issues and injustices within the juvenile system. Many are in the dark as it relates to these appalling harsh realities that so many of our nation’s young people, all under the age of 18, are enduring as they are being tried as adults and serving disproportionately long sentences in violent adult prisons.

 

I am troubled as I dig deeper in my research and engage in dialog with other mothers, fighting their way through to make sense of such an unjust system. This fight has forced me to take a more aggressively active role in sharing this story and educating the masses about this horrendous, unjust judicial system.

 

While Christopher and others must accept the consequences of their actions, only an inhumane and unjust system would apply Georgia’s laws (SB 440 & SB 441) to children, removing them from the juvenile justice system and placing them in an overly populated adult prison system, where the chance of rehabilitation is almost non-existent.

 

After two years, Christopher was placed under a 24-hour suicide watch after slitting his wrist. Being incarcerated from a young age with deviates, murderers and hardened criminals can extract that kind of emotional toll on a young teen. He has, to say the least, been emotionally damaged.

 

Mixing men and children together in prisons creates the perfect school for debauchery. I was devastated to discover that he was physically and emotionally assaulted as a prison guard turned a blind eye during these disgusting incidents.

 

My son and other young inmates do not belong in an adult prison where other seasoned inmates prey on their weaknesses, innocence and vulnerabilities. We need to do away with draconian laws that oppress and humiliate our children. Instead, they need a system that will give them the help they so desperately need.

 

My son is currently enduring a living hell and this hell will last until he is forty-four years old.

 

During these 14 years of serving his sentence, Christopher continues to express his genuine remorse about his choices as a teenager and continually expresses repentance for his actions. However, he can do little else to make restitution while in prison.

 

Recently, Georgia's new governor, Nathan Deal, has quietly indicated that he may be willing to reassess SB 440 and 441. It is still a long way from becoming reality, but reforming the 1990s-era laws could provide my son the opportunity to be heard in this life. As an advocate, it also provides me a chance to help change these horrific, unjust laws that so detrimentally effect all youth.

 

As Christopher’s mother, I want his story to be yelled from every rooftop. I want him and others like him to have an opportunity for restoration, rehabilitation and a safe reintegration into society.

 

I want them to be given a second chance to have a productive life.

 

 

7 thoughts on “Jajuana Calloway On Losing Her 14-Year-Old to a 30-Year Prison Sentence

  1. Maybe you have heard about the Scott sisters. They were recently released from prison for robbery they allegedly committed years ago. There case was very aggregious like your son’s. A public outcry and media elevated the case to national attention and Mississippi’s Governor released the women. Here’s a site on the net about their story: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2011/01/07/sisters-share-kidney-released-prison/ — I cannot help but believe racism is involved in these sentences, especially where the victims were white. I am so sorry that your son has been subjected to such unjustice! I pray that he will be released soon. I will do what I can to help and share this information with others.

  2. HI Jajuana, my heart goes out to you and your son.My son Chris was arrested at age 16years, but they gave my child life without parole. He was tried as an adult, never given the opportunity to utilize the juvenile facilities programs. I really feel the judicial system is the worst place for anyone to be, but placing youth in an adult system, sentencing a child to life in prison, is inhumane. I work with The Campaign for Youth Justice: http://www.campaignforyouthjustice.org. We have monthly conference calls, several topics are brought to the table.I just began advocating in Feburary because I had no idea of the programs and organiztions that are out there that are pushing for juvenile reform. If there is anything I can do to help let me know. We are in this this together…Take care..Lillian

  3. I would like that very much. Any assistance would be most appreciated.

    JC

  4. Thank you so much for reaching out to me and the cause that I am representing. Your response was much needed.

    Be Blessed,

  5. Advocates for Abandoned Adolescents (A.A.A.) is to bring National awareness to the Juvenile Justice Laws across the USA.

    Our mission is to end the practice of wavering/adjudicating, sentencing and incarcerating youth under 18yrs in the adult Criminal Justice System, to put faces and stories to victims of these laws by exposing the truth of what happens to children when they are held to an adult standard in the Court room and sent to adult prisons, eliminating Life Without Parole for children and to reduce the harm caused to children in the adult system by supporting 2nd Look Legislation.

    ‘2nd Look’ means youth serving long sentences get their sentences reviewed at some point in their incarceration. Would you consider 2nd look Legislation?

    A.A.A. Mission is to introduce concerned citizens to effective ways of which they can contribute to the reformation of the US irresponsible Juvenile Justice Laws.

    To create chapters of A.A.A. in every State coast to coast, to have local minds and hearts within every State endeavouring to bring empathy and responsability to Juvenile Justice Laws and to co-ordinate a National march in every States Capital on the very same day and unified under the A.A.A. banner/agenda

    As a society we have reached a level of sophistication which permits us to adjudicate, better educate and protect adolescents in a responsible way.

    Our Mission is to do better!

    Message to volunteers
    We are currently looking for serious minded people to zealously embrace state coordinator postiions. One per state. Coordinators are responsible for:
    1. Raising awareness about the irresponsible juvenile justice laws and polices in their respective states.
    2. Recruiting local/statewide volunteers
    3. lead local/statewide volunteers in the creation f Advocate for Abandoned Adolescents(AAA) support programs for statewide incarcerated children in adult prisons.
    4. Fundraising
    5. Organize statewide volunteers in order to particiapte in the AAA national protest/march. (On all 50 state capitals in unison).

    If you currently do not have enough spare time to devote into a state coordinator position, please go to Advocatesforabandonedadolescents.com and make a donation, and or help spread the word about AAA’s mission.

    All new members with an Interest in Juvenile Justice are welcome..,
    Thank you for your time and attention.