Statement of Byran Perotti in Support of SB114
My name is Byran Perotti. I was 16 years old in 1989 when I pled guilty to first-degree murder and was sentenced to 99 years of incarceration. I was extremely young and immature when I committed this crime and did not appreciate the magnitude of the act I was committing. When I was sentenced, I acknowledged my guilt, and I asked the judge to give me a sentence that did not throw me away with no hope. He chose not to do that and sentenced me as a worst offender. This decision determined the entire attitude I had going forward with my time.
At the age of 16 I had no hope of ever being released. When you are that young the concept of your life extending into your 80's is ludicrous. I was just a kid facing a life in prison after the court had determined that I was beyond rehabilitation. There is no possible way for anyone to make that determination about a child's future. We are not soothsayers. We cannot tell the future. Yet our juvenile justice system is based upon a premise that a child should be thrown away without the reasonable possibility of revisiting the question of that child's ability to rehabilitate himself and grow into someone that can contribute to society.
This state has long needed a release valve to reevaluate the progress and prospects of its juvenile offenders when they are waived to adult status. The maturity and decision-making capabilities of juveniles is well documented as being inadequate and unformed in their brains. The recognition of this fact should be reflected in our criminal justice system's treatment of these offenders.
I make no excuses for the crime I committed. It was a terrible act that I cannot take back and that I had to be punished for. But I was not sentenced to 99 years because of what I did. I was sentenced to this enormous amount of time because the court decided that I could not be rehabilitated, ever.
Admittedly it took many years for my brain to mature. I attempted to escape several times. I finally did escape from Seward in 1994 at the age of 21. Fortunately, nobody was hurt in the process of that escape. But, for that act, I was kept in solitary confinement for 9 years. I had to wait for the then Director of Institutions to retire before I could be released from segregation.
Despite all this I did manage to grow. I was extremely fortunate to have the support of a loving family, something many juvenile offenders do not have. I educated myself in many subjects, including the law. I made myself a better person. I proved the court and the judge wrong in its assessment about my prospects for rehabilitation. But this did not matter because the system had already thrown me away by then.
I have sat in this system for over 32 years now. I have watched these kids our state sends to our prisons make their life choices based on that perception of being thrown away, being without hope. There is no incentive for those children to decide to save their futures. A child cannot conceive of a life over the horizon. But it matters to anyone, especially a child, if they can even see the horizon in the first place. Being able to see a horizon will dramatically affect how the juvenile offenders in this state conduct themselves and the life choices they make about what kind of people they are capable of being.
This Bill will not change anyone's sentence, but it will put the decision of rehabilitation in the hands of people more capable of assessing such progress years after the fact, rather than asking our courts to be soothsayers and oracles. A mature society like we purport ourselves to he must acknowledge the very lack of maturity in the youth we produce. Rehabilitation is a process that is greatly affected by many things including the hope one has of participating in his own future. This Bill would provide the prospects for that hope a child must have in his future while not compromising the safety of the public in any way.
This legislation is a good step towards the goal of saving these kids and turning them into productive members of society rather than casting them out before society has even had the chance to see where they could possibly contribute.