Arkansas Cure

Arkansas CURE works to promote rehabilitation for the benefit of the community as a whole, and of the incarcerated individual through meaningful criminal justice reform by advocating for meaningful change through the legislative process.

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I was 14 years old

Apr 28, 2016 | JeanT

In response to an article posted in the Arkansas CURE July 2015 newsletter about Juvenile Life Without Parole.

Hello, my name is John Phillip Ponder. I’m serving a life sentence for a crime I committed when I was 14 years old. Originally charged with Capital Murder, I was facing a mandatory sentence of “Life Without Parole”.

Despite my immaturity as a 14 year old boy, I was charged as an adult. The Prosecutor in my case threatened me with a promise… that if I went to trial I would be sentenced to “mandatory life without parole”. But she offered a way out… just plead guilty to 1st Degree Murder and receive a “life” sentence. I was told a lie that most people would believe, but I’d definitely believe it because I was a child. I was told I’d go home in 12 to 20 years on a “life” sentence. But take it to trial…I was “promised” to get that “life without parole” sentence.

Recently the Arkansas Supreme Court decided that only those juveniles sentenced to “mandatory life without parole” will have a chance to be resentenced. Those who were juveniles like me… threatened with a sentence that has not been ruled unconstitutional (mandatory LWOP) will spend the rest of our lives in prison. Because in the state of Arkansas, “Life Means Life” …as the state likes to brag.

I urge those with a sense of morals and fairness to contact the Arkansas Chapter of the ACLU and Attorney Jeff Rosenzweig about juveniles who were sentenced to life…especially in cases that a sentence of mandatory LWOP was used as a threat of coercion to accept a sentence of “life”.

I assure you that “life” means life. I’m no longer that 14 year old boy. Over 20 years ago I was sent into the worst adult prison system in the U.S. In all those years I’ve never even saw a parole board member. I will die in prison because of lies and threats over sentence that no longer even exists.

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