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Letter: “Cruel and unusual”

I am an inmate who is serving consecutive life without parole sentences. I was arrested at 17. Do I believe what I did was fair, right or just? No. What I did was terrible, tragic and reckless. Should I be punished? Yes. Do I believe juveniles deserve life without parole? No.

Since my incarceration I’ve obtained an education from independent sources and taken advantage of the programs extended to me by the system. I took advantage of the help of volunteers and services afforded to me in spite of the daily challenges of living with two life (and death) terms in prison.

After 20 years of prison I reflect back and see poor choices I made in prison and how lack of real life experiences blocked better judgment. However I have no violence on my record and am constantly reminded by ex-cons that my life has and does make a difference in the lives of others.

I’ve worked with criminal justice students, at-risk youth and spent 10 years as a peer counselor for the state’s drug and alcohol treatment program. I’m not the snap judgment drug/alcohol-induced decision of a 17-year-old. At some point, I’d hope all the effort and money spent on helping juvenile lifers like me will be at least reviewed by a parole board to see if maturity has occurred.

To say no amount of change will ever result in a review robs juveniles of any hope of a better future and isn’t anything but a prolonged death sentence — a sentence our nation abolished for juvenile offenders. Always forward, never back.

— William S. Walker

Piedmont Correctional Institute

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