Pathway to Freedom by DarRen Morris



Juvenile Redemption Bill

DarRen Morris


In the past 10 years the US Supreme Court has made two rulings that the state of Wisconsin should take notice of and use as guiding lights to reform/transform the laws and application of laws in this state.

The US Supreme  Court  has  stated it is unconstitutional to allow the state to execute adults who may have committed the crimes they were convicted of while they were persons under the age of 18. In a recent ruling our nations’ high court has stated that giving juvenile offenders life sentences is  also unconstitutional.

In the late 80’s up through l990 the state of Wisconsin along with several other states took notice of the rise of reported cases by juvenile offenders as a result of a get tough  on ‘kiddie criminals’ campaign was launched. Now our state correctional system is full of men who committed crimes before they became adults. Many of which have been sentenced to die within the correctional system. A loop hole in the death penalty – instead of placing a needle in the veins of our kids and executing them with a combinations of chemicals that will end their suffering in a matter of minutes, we opt of a less humane way to kill them. We place them in cells, with the knowledge that at the age of l6 or l7 they will sit there until they someday die in that cell. Given the life expectancy this means for most at least 60 years of mental and emotional torture no matter what they do, they will die in our correctional system. There are others whose fate is not so grim. They will serve enough time to where upon release, the first time outside the correctional wall since being a teenager they will range in age from 60 to 90 years old. At this age they’ll be expected to adapt to the use of modern technology and culture and somehow find a meaningful employment, and establish a stable home.

The judges in our state have gotten the hint that it’s okay to sentence juvenile offenders to the Wiscosnsin version of the death penalty.

In l994 Darren Morris, a hearing impaired juvenile with diagnosed major mental and emotional health issues was convicted for his role in the stabbing death of innocent victim Johnny Fish. Darren from day one never denied his involvement, only denied that he did kill the victim and that witnesses under the threat of gang members pointed the finger at Darren, thus allowing the gang member who was a party to a crimes to get off with a lighter sentence. Darren was waived into adult court, convicted of party to a crime of 1st intentional homicide. During his sentencing Judge William Atkinson sentenced Darren to the Wisconsin version of the death penalty. He told Darren “someday you will die in a cold dark prison cell with no family or friends around.” Darren had been given  life and parole eligibility date was set for 2095, 100 years from sentencing. This was the first time in Brown County when a judge had given anyone that harsh of a sentence to anyone let alone a juvenile offender.

Again keeping in mind the Supreme Courts’ ruling this is an issue that needs to be addressed. Research demonstates that some juveniles ,even those who commit serious offenses can grow up to be well adjusted adults. In a paper published by the psychology department of Utah University on the issues on human development-‘Developing Moral Agency Through Narrative” is quoted as follows: “There is no question that teenagers who commit Serious crimes should be held accountable and punished, and that society must be protected from young people who are violent and dangerous. But Studies show that the vast majority of juveniles who commit crimes –even very serious crimes-grow up to be law abiding adults, and that it is impossible to reliably predict which juvenile offenders will become career criminals. Absent our ability to do this and in light of what developmental science tells us about the capacity for adolescents to change, it makes no sense to lock up any young offender and throw away the key.”

Those are not the words of a transformed juvenile, or some compassionate sympathizer. This is information compiled by uninterested persons, who speak based on “science.”

But morality and conscience should be held at a higher standard  than “science.” In the interest of morality and clean consciousness,we , the concerned American citizen of Wisconsin, propose the following Juvenile Redemption Bill, in the interest of what is fair and just:



(Premise of Juvenile Redemption Bill and who it will apply to)

It will be a retroactive bill applying to individuals who by law were defined as children during the alleged commission of their charged offenses, and were waived into adult court, convicted and now seving time in the adult correctional system. The bill will help relieve pressure on the over crowded correctional system .  It will serve as an incentive for individuals who had little or no hope of ever getting released from prison, to participate in social and moral rehabilitation.


Once released these individuals would serve as community leaders helping to address the needs of the youths of urban areas, helping decrease juvenile crimes, and , if the prisoner is male, promoting a healthier image of a male, and his role in family settings.


Public interest is one of the factors relied on when a decision to release or to retain in custody is made. Often it is very contraversial to release sonmeone convicted of murder , and can hurt or end political aspirations or careers. To combine all interests, there should be a pool of volunteers from the public , where 12 people are gathered for a hearing allowing the inmate to present evidence and be given a fair opportunity to be heard and considered for release. The panel would be allowed to question and engage the person seeking redemption. One of the goals behind this is that not all growth can be measured by the amount of or the type of certificates a person has. It also gives the panel a chance to really make an informed and unbiased decision. The prisoner will be able to present testimony by family , friends, other prisoner, DOC staff and others to show his/her rehabilitation and presentations of writings and other sources for information will be allowed as well as certificates showing participation in programs. The victim and victim’s family , will also be allowed to testify or write in.


(Legal authority) the bill would seek to reform or expand the language of S.302.11(1) Wis.  Stats and S. 304.06 (1) Wis statute to be applied to all person who were children during the alleged commission of their charged offenses, as defined in chapter 48 for the time period applicable and chapter 938 (both secitons of Wisconsin statutes) for the time period applicable.  Reforming  or expanding the language in S. 320.11(1) and 304.06(1)Wis Statute for Juvenile Redemption, would allow those elligible for Juvenile Redemption to petition for the hearing and  at the conclusion of the hearing, if release is denied, the panel will set the time when the person may repetition for Redemption.


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