Is our justice system just? – Clemency for Sara Kruzan

The story of Sara Kruzan is complicated and compelling.

Growing up in Riverside, California, Sara’s life was plagued by abuse: she was molested by several men, gang raped by neighbors, and emotionally and verbally abused by her mother. Despite this abuse, Sara excelled in school, sports, and a social life. Her life changed when, at age 11, Sara met 31-year-old G.G., a man who became like a father-figure to Sara and won her trust and affection. G.G. preyed upon Sara’s vulnerability and began “grooming” her for a life of prostitution. He raped her and sexually abused her, brainwashed her into believing she should sell her body, and eventually put her to work out on the streets as a prostitute. Sara was just 13 years old. For three years, Sara was forced into the sex trafficking industry-forced to have sex with men two, three times her age.  Sara suffered from this emotional, physical, and sexual abuse until age 16 when she killed G.G., her pimp.

Although the California Youth Authority found Sara to be amenable to treatment and rehabilitation in the juvenile system, Sara, a juvenile, was sentenced, as an adult, to life without parole plus four years.  It has been researched and proven that juveniles do not have the same mental capabilities as adults when it comes to decision-making and impulse control.  It has also been shown that juveniles who commit crimes have a greater chance at rehabilitation than adults and are more likely to reform their behavior.  To date, Sara has served approximately 16 years in adult prison.  During this time, Sara has been a model inmate, she has completed her college education, and earned the Honor Dorm “Woman of the Year.”  Has Sara changed? Does Sara deserve the opportunity for a second chance?  It is undeniable that Sara committed a terrible crime, but does her punishment fit the crime, a crime committed when she was a 16 as a victim of human sex trafficking?

Currently, there is a clemency petition to commute her life sentence without parole to time served pending before Governor Schwarzenegger in California.  You can show your support for Sara Kruzan by writing a letter to Governor Schwarzenegger.

If you would like to learn more about Youth Sentenced to Life Without Parole, please visit: http://www.hrw.org/en/node/75357/section/1

To hear Sara Kruzan’s story in her own words, please see: Sara Kruzan–Human Rights Watch

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