Latina serving life sentence for teenage crime needs your help (VIDEO)

Sometimes, if we are lucky, we can make a difference in someone's life. That is why I have an enormous appreciation for people that bring important things to my attention, things that I have failed to see on my own. I am hoping that if you haven't heard about Jacqueline Montañez, you will feel the same way I felt when I learned about her.

Jacqueline was arrested when she was just 15 years old for the murder of two young men (rival gang members in her Humboldt Park neighborhood of Chicago) in 1992. She was subsequently sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.


Jacqueline Montañez is the only woman in Illinois currently sentenced to die in prison for a crime committed as a child. Her sentence of juvenile life without parole (JLWOP) violates the basic principles of the juvenile justice system that children should be treated differently than adults. It has been proven time and again that teens act out of passionate and irrational motives and that they have more of a capacity for change.

After 20 years in prison, Jacqueline is a mature, caring woman that accepts full responsibility for what she did as a 15 year old. She grieves for the victims and their families, but no judge or jury ever learned what led up to the crime she committed and what kind of upbringing she had.

Jacqueline's stepfather began sexually abusing her when she was 7 years old. He beat her regularly and forced her to help sell drugs for his gang. When Jacqueline was 12 years old, she ran away from home and joined a rival gang. The victims of her crime were members of her stepfather's gang.

There was much more to be said about her story at the time, but the prosecutor reduced it to a "gang-related killing" and the media demonized her. No one, including her defense attorney, knew about the rape and the abuse from her stepfather at the time of her trial. And due to the nature of the charges, Jacqueline was automatically tried in the adult criminal system and received a mandatory sentence of life without parole.

Her arresting officers, Ernest Halvorsen and Reynaldo Guevara, have a documented history of coercing confessions and lying under oath. After Jacqueline was arrested the detectives drove her to the turf of the rival gang and threatened to leave her there unless she confessed. The detectives never contacted Jacqueline's mother (whom made repeated attempts to see her) and prosecutors refused to let her talks to her daughter until they got a signed confession.

The Children and Family Justice Center at Northwestern University Law School are working diligently to obtain clemency for her and Amnesty International is supporting the plea.

Jacqueline has now been in prison for 20 years. Now a 35-year-old woman, she is a talented poet who has earned her GED and is enrolled in college courses. She dreams of one day being able to help younger kids and take the message of the danger of gangs to young girls and boys on the streets of Chicago.

To learn more about Jacqueline, please visit her Facebook pages. To support reconsideration of Jacqueline's sentence, please sign her online petition.You can also download a FACT SHEET about the case. See the video and sign the online petition, it will take little of your time. Urge your friends, family and colleagues to sign it too.

I am asking all of you Mamás Latinas to do this one for Jacqueline's mother, who was never able to help her daughter and was the victim of racism and a broken system.

And as mothers we should all raise our voices for her, because she deserves a second chance.

Topics: supreme court  latinos in america  gangs