OP-ED: Looking Back on Five Years of Hope from the Graham Decision

Arrested in 1991 at age 17, my oldest son Ralph was the youngest person swept up in a Florida drug ring led by adults. His unfathomable fate was three life-without-parole sentences.

For almost 22 years, he endured numerous denied appeals, and his situation appeared hopeless. During that time, it was impossible for me to fully celebrate most holidays. Despite the pain, I held on to hope, and encouraged Ralph to do the same.

Finally, five years ago, that hope became more than just a glimmer. On May 17, 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Graham v. Florida that life-without-parole sentences imposed on youth convicted of nonhomicide crimes violate the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment. That ruling gave long-awaited hope to the numerous people convicted as children and serving life-without-parole sentences in state and federal prisons. My son was one of them.

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By Esi Mathis May 14, 2015