Erik Jensen made a mistake. At the age of 17 years old, he walked in as his best friend, a 16 year old who had been continually abused physically, sexually and emotionally, killed his abusive mother.
Erik had tried to help his friend over the past year and, along with a third young man, helped to clean up the crime scene. After his best friend was caught, Erik was arrested and charged with accessory after the fact.
The third friend then made a deal with the prosecution which implicated Erik in the murder and subsequently walked free. Erik was charged with first degree murder alongside the abused young man.
“Erik’s trial was held a few months after the Columbine massacre, where two young men from the same area in Colorado, as well as the same age as Erik, killed several classmates at their school. This act greatly influenced the country, especially Coloradans, view of kids and violent crime. Needless to say, Erik was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole along with Nathan.”
Even if he had been involved more in the murder, the question arises whether a crime committed by a juvenile should be life without parole. Even when extenuating circumstances are involved such as abuse, is it correct to impose no possibility of a second chance?
Erik Jensen has been in prison now for over 10 years. He is described as a “model prisoner” and “a tremendous human being.”
Should he receive a second chance? Isn’t there a better solution than for a young man, not yet an adult, than to spend the rest of his life in jail?
Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (@alonshalevsf).