tv America Tonight Al Jazeera May 8, 2015 10:00pm-10:31pm EDT
last thing i see there's the whole beautiful world out there and in here, it's like a nightmare. >> the legal system offered a second chance but he's still behind bars. is his the face of juvenile injustice? thanks for joining us, i'm joie chen. we begin with a thought about bad early decisions and the hope of second chances. sentencing young offenders to life in prison without the possibility of parole is banned everywhere in the world. except for two countries. somalia and the united states. the supreme court drew the line against mandatory sentences for juveniles a few years ago but it is up to each state to decide whether old sentences warrant a second look. "america tonight's" christof putzel on the case being watched now as a bellwether in this case
of juvenile justice. >> in october 1990 three members of chicago's began sisters disciples setchicago's gangsters set out. >> my destiny was written when i was born into a chaotic family. >> in the turf war that followed two rival gang members were shot dead. he was tried as an adult and convictof double murder. the law was clear and uncompromising. if you are part of a group that commits a murder, you're a murderer. the sentencing rules were just as unforgiving. the guidelines forced the judge to sentence the most severe,
life without the possibility of parole. >> i didn't think that mend i was going to die in prison. >> reporter: davis sits behind bars in crestville, illinois. now a nationwide movement to rethink the juvenile just of justice system and right old wrongs. >> i'm always going to have hope that you know my day will come. >> reporter: in the summer of 2012 davis found a new reason for hope. buried under news of the presidential campaign in the case called miller versus alabama, the u.s. supreme court issued a landmark ruling. mandatory life without parole sentences for juveniles were declared unconstitutional. the real question was whether it was mandatory or whether the judges and juries should be allowed to consider mitigating factors like a person's role in
a crime or a person's upbringing. patricia's son works for loyola center for juvenile policy and his supervising attorney. >> no court considered the youth, the characteristics that come with youth the facts of the offense the specific role they played in the offense. >> on this point the court was clear. a child's circumstances matter and it is cruel and unusual punishment to impose mandatory life sentences on them. >> the question of illinois court is whether it applies retroactively, whether it applies to all these old cases. >> davis's case, his lawyer fought to get his case reheard. >> a couple of courts have come down on the side of retroactivity, a couple of
courts have come down on the side that miller isn't retroactive. ultimately this is an issue of how much we want to undue wrong that we did in the 1990s. >> it used to be a vibrant community. >> father david kelly met a young davis whether he was locked up at 14, barely five feet tall and 100 pounds. >> what was your impression? >> he was scared, a strong little guy but one on one there was a level of fear of what this all was going to mean. >> kelly heard about his troubled home life, davis's grandmother became his primary caregiver. his first brush with the law was when he was nine years old. >> i snatched the bag of food because i was hungry, she held onto the bag but she dropped 75 cents and $3 in food stamps.
that's where the police caught me eating food. >> there wasn't food, there wasn't all the things that a little kid growing up needed so he started to find that on the outside. little by little he started to hang around with older guys who were in the gang and they took care of him. >> i was eating every day i was getting $350 for looking out for the police first. so i'm like man it was like heaven for me. >> davis's unstable family life was welt documented by the illinois department of children and family services. but that didn't stop him from being sent to adult court and sentenced in adult prison. he stride to negotiate prison the only way he knew, he stuck to his gang. while many 20-year-olds were beginning to graduate college davis was preparing for four years in complete isolation.
>> it's like reality sunk in. everything slowed down. and my life just hit me like bam. so -- >> why, what happened? >> i was able to think. i was able to clear my head of all the false realities that i done fed myself throughout the years. >> he had the policy of good seeming core despite that really horrible background and upbringing. >> jo stevens was joe's therapist during the entire time in isolation. >> it boggles my mind that anyone would choose illinois's limited resources to keep him in prison. you cannot recreate due process in law for cases that are decades old. >> many victims of violent crime are taking a stand that cases can now be reopened. jennifer jenkins was motivated
by a case, her pregnant sister and brother-in-law were murdered. >> i was completely retraumatized by the fear of this offender possibly being released and having to face him again, going through two years of the legal proceedings in his case was devastatingly overwhelmingly difficult. >> the illinois supreme court first ruled on davis's faith in 2014 deciding on reresentencing. >> make no mistake about it, judge. this was a shooter. >> lawyers on both sides painted two different pictures of the now 38-year-old man. >> you'll hear others testify that he is known for his optimism his authenticity.
>> the judge delivered a blistering judgment, that adol foa davis would be resentenced to life in prison without possibilities of parole. >> callous disregard for human life, far beyond his tender age of 14. >> saying the murder was premedicated. she acknowledged davis had shown some signs of rehabilitation but not enough to overlook his earlier problem behavior in prison. >> the defendant's repeated attacks to other people with repeated threats to hurt and maim those around him. ing repeatedly indicates that the sentence was the right one. >> for now davis is headed back to his cell.
as a child in prison he said his biggest fear was dying behind bars. almost a quarter of a century later that fear remains. >> i don't want this to be the last day i see you know, it's a whole beautiful world out there and being in here is like a nightmare. >> christof putzel, al jazeera cresthill, illinois. >> next, an angel of mercy with a cell phone at hand. >> last august there were 17 boats at sea and eight were calling my mobile. >> why even solid ground doesn't guarantee safe haven. >> and a stunning idea of homelessness in the last place you might expect.
>> you've liabilities seen the stories of the massive refugees braving escape across the mediterranean, fleeing turmoil at home. al jazeera america's new program, sheila macvicar's compass, many turn to an invisible railroad, a secretive path north. sheila found the angel who leads them on their way. >> halo, halo. >> i remember the first time i got an sos at sea. >> in sisly even across the sea migrants know noel sufi as the voice of the mediterranean. her phone number in their pockets, as they begin their perilous crossing.
to the italian coast guard. >> last august there were 17 boats at sea and eight were calling my mobile. eight and they were each calling 20 or 30 times until they were all rescued. >> an arabic speaking italian dedicates her life to helping the thousands of syrian who crows the mediterranean each year. >> it's not easy. many days i don't sleep. but my life is simply nothing. it is something i simply have to keep doing. i cannot stop. >> reporter: and she's there to greet them when they arrive at the local train station. intercepting before they are preyed upon again by human traffickers. each one of these refugees has
paid thousands of dollars just to make it this far. the going rate is about $2,000 a head. regarding of age. and there are smugglers lurking here now look for more refugee money. the syrians including so many small children noel has gathered at the catania train station were rescued the same day as the deadly shipwreck ton mediterranean, hundreds of migrants drowned. >> translator: what we're trying to do is give the help that public institutions are not providing. all you need is your hands your feet and your heart.
>> reporter: what noel is doing is pushing the boundaries of the law. she has been investigated by the police accused of aiding and abetting illegal immigration. charges later dismiss. >> they understood i am a human rights activist not a human trafficker. >> reporter: for would be asylum seekers the mediterranean crossing is just one stage of their journey. for those who make the journey there's no question that crossing the mediterranean is the most perilous part of their trip but by no means is that the end of the voyage. for many of those especially the syrians what they want is to get out of italy and get to northern europe where they have family and friends. and in order to do that, they have to leave italy undocumented without having their fingerprints taken. and that sets off a gang of cat and mouse.
>> sheila, the voice of the mediterranean, she sounds very determined. >> she is a remarkable young woman. when syrians get on board these boats leaving libya or egypt they may have two phone numbers in their cell phones. one will be for italian coast guard and the other will be for noel's phone number. she told me at the heart of the conflict there were 17 boats eight of them were calling her begging her to talk to the italian coast guard because they were sinking. >> how do they know about her? >> this is a community that is organized around social media around facebook around text. these smugglers have facebook pages, it is a completely social media driven and directed world. so her name gets passed her phone number gets passed and when she can she meets refugees
the syrian community is the community she focuses on and she tries to keep them out of the hands of the smugglers. they've already paid smugglers to get them across the mediterranean, what she tries to do is keep them out of the hands of the smugglers as they move around europe and there are smugglers everywhere. >> noel focuses on these syrian refugees but it's not just syrians. >> that's a direct result of four plus years of war in syria that have left 4 million outside the borders of syria and making their way to a more permanent and secure area outside in europe. and eritrea outmigration is enormous. and then there are africans from all over the continent and other
refugees from all over the world. >> many of them might seek to come to north america. >> in four years of war the u.s. has issued 600 vee is is visas for -- >> only 600? >> 600. they say they're going to increase that number but there are still obstacles in the way of people seeking new life and new shelter to get to this country. >> is there a feeling that the united states is doing everything it can? after all we know there's a situation in syria that is dire for so many of these people. is the united states doing everything it can? >> i think that's the question we asked u.s. ambassador robert ford. there hasn't been a u.s. ambassador in damascus for four years. there are many divisions, there are many actors in syria many
patron states with individual armies. the united states is about to train another one and as ambassador ford says, that is just going to further muddle the waters. >> there is a serious concern that u.s. authorities have about freely opening the gates. after all the united states does have a long history of taking in and offering refuge to people from war torn history. >> a great history yes. >> but this situation is different in part because of the fears of security. >> there is a real fear of security and that is a fear that is also being discussed in europe. because these people travel many of them across europe without ever being identified, without ever being properly fingerprinted until they get to the country they want to reside in, there is not much known about them. you can see many of them are families, they take a terrible journey with very small children with pregnant women but mixed in with those people no one knows who everyone is. and for intelligence agencies in
europe for intelligence agencies in the united states, for those who are concerned about security, this is a big issue. >> the program is compass with sheila macvicar. thanks. next week on "america tonight" the slow step back of u.s. forces from afghanistan and away from the afghans who stood by them. "america tonight's" sheila macvicar on how the americans from the u.s. mission now find themselves abandoned. that's next week on "america tonight". just because i'm away from
my desk doesn't mean i'm not working. comcast business understands that. their wifi isn't just fast near the router. it's fast in the break room. fast in the conference room. fast in tom's office. fast in other tom's office. fast in the foyer [pronounced foy-yer] or is it foyer [pronounced foy-yay]? fast in the hallway. i feel like i've been here before. switch now and get the fastest wifi everywhere. comcast business. built for business.
>> even in the seat of america's power, washington, d.c poverty is a long standing problem on any given night thousands are in shermts many lie unsheltered on the streets. there are surprises in d.c.'s homeless story too having a good job may not be enough to protect these folks and as "america tonight's" lisa fletcher found they might find
themselves much closer to the issue than they thought. >> reporter: around the corner from the nation's most famous residents, charles gladden wakes up before sunrise to the sounds of the morning commute. >> people on your way to work, commuters, when they come into the subway they don't want to look in my direction. they drop their head or turn their head. and you know, like walk past and then hurry up down the stairs or on the escalator. >> reporter: gladden is one of nearly 8,000 homeless people living in the nation's capital. he spends most nielts nights outside this downtown metro station. >> i sleep two blocks from the white house. and the president doesn't even have a clue. >> reporter: but unlike many in his situation gladden has a job at one of the last places you might expect. >> i work in the capital in the office building of the u.s.
senate. the nation's lawmakers. and i'm out here in the street. panhandling, asking for nickels and dimes. >> reporter: his day starts before dawn. >> thank you very much. >> when a metro worker tells gladden and his neighbors to move out for day. >> i wake up, take care of my little area, trying to keep it clean, so the guy won't, you know stop us from sleeping there. i eat a sandwich and a cup of coffee then i go to work and i start my day over by bathing. you know, freshen myself up. i go in and wash my face first thing in the morning. i'm a diabetic with poor circulation getting to my toes and they amputate three of my toes. a little limp and my shoes keep
coming off because of the amputation. i guess they think i'm drunk walking down the street because i stumble a lot because i be putting weight in areas where there's no support. >> reporter: behind these gleaming marble walls gladden says are dozens of other senate contract workers who don't make a living wage and some lawmakers who don't seem to care. >> these are the people that make laws and they're the most powerful people you might as well say in the world. you know their influence goes a long way. and at the same time, they don't even acknowledge the people that service them. say i just clean the bathrooms sweep the floors and mop and sweep the cafeteria area. >> during a good week, gladden takes home about $350, barely enough to pay for his food, clothes and the medication he
needs for his diabetes. >> i'm an embarrassment to the nation. the greatest nation in the world, every country in the world citizens wants to make it to america because they looking at the american dream. you know, the apple pie and street paved with gold, you know. and then you get here, and it is, i'm working for those who sets the law. and i'm sleeping in a subway station. i made plenty of mistakes coming up. i made plenty of mistakes because i came from a broken home. i the things that i regret, stealing cars, slipping cars stealing tires and things that i would never do again. >> reporter: these guys, gladden is worried about being a victim of crime. that's why he settled here, outside this metro station. he says it's actually safer than some local shelters where he's been robbed in the past. >> the guys act like -- most of
them act like animals. they steal my medication, go to the bathroom go to take a bath, your stuff is gone. >> during the eight years that gladden has worked in the capital, things have changed a lot. most dramatically he said when the federal government privatized senate food service jobs. before a typical food service employee brought home about $37,000 a year. now contract workers are lucky to make half that. last year, president obama issued an executive order that established a minimum wage of $10.10 an hour, for federal contract workers. >> not only is it good for the economy, it's the right thing to do. >> but gladden says, 10.10 seasonality enough. >> he's a good president. i support him 100%, i even voted for him you know. but he has not done enough. he cannot stop there. he must follow up. has to be a better way.
that's why we was asking for a union and a $15 minimum wage. >> reporter: taking a cue from the people he served for last eight years gladden says it's time to put the democratic process to work. >> hey hey ho ho 10.10 is way too low! >> we went on strike. we went through capital here and tried to draw the attention of the media. the president. and everyone else. to get involved in what was going on. >> reporter: since the protests gladden has stepped out of the shadows hoag that his voice may eventually change his circumstance. but for now gladden's daily journey remains the same. the familiar path between the world's symbol of power and opportunity and the subway station he calls home. lisa fletcher, al jazeera
washington. >> since gladden shared his story he's received more than $20,000 in donation. that is enough to get him off the streets. but gladden's story is hardly an exception. al jazeera america's new stories, hard earned profiles more hardworking americans and their challenge to make it. their stories begin here on sun at 10:00 p.m. eastern on al jazeera america. tell us what you think at aljazeera.com/americatonight. that's it for tonight's show and come back for more of "america tonight".