Voice your support for Jacqueline - sentenced to life in prison aged 16
'I did what they said I did, [but] I’m not who they say I am' - Jacqueline Montanez
Jacqueline Montanez was raised by her step-father - a brutal gang 'enforcer' who groomed her to be his 'soldier'. Her childhood was one of physical, sexual and psychological abuse. Aged just 9 she was already taking drugs and drinking alcohol.
By the time she was 15 Jacqueline had joined a gang of her own. In May 1992, shortly before her 16th birthday, she and two other women shot and killed two members of a rival gang.
Under a year later Jacqueline was tried in an adult court. She was sentenced to life imprisonment without even the possibility of parole. None of her life history was taken into consideration when sentencing.
This shocks me so much I hope it hardly needs pointing out that imposing such a sentence on a person who was a child at the time of their crime is a violation of international law. In fact, it is a law that we believe the USA is alone in breaking.
‘I was sentenced to life in prison and it feels like I’m buried here, this is where I’m sentenced to die’ – Jacqueline Montanez
Jacqueline has already spent nearly half of her life behind bars. If her sentence stands, she will die there. She will die there no matter how good her behaviour or steep the progress of her rehabilitation. She will die there because when she was 17 the court decided that she would never be outside of prison walls again. Ever.
'Not a day goes by that I don’t wish it were me [who was dead]. They were human, they were somebody’s father, they were somebody’s child.' - Jacqueline Montanez
Jacqueline is now 36 and in an adult prison. She has spent almost half of her life behind bars.
In that time she has worked hard. She has completed almost all available education and vocational programmes. She has become a certified trainer of service dogs for disabled people. She tutors and mentors younger inmates. And she is very active in the chaplaincy programs offered at her prison. She believes she is a very different person.
If you're on a smart phone or laptop all you need to do to show Jacqueline your support is hit the record button below and say your message. The prison only allows cassette tapes in, so in the new year we'll be collecting all of your messages together and sending Jacqueline a tape. An example message might be:
I’m [first name] from [town] and my thoughts are with you Jacqueline. Sending you all my best wishes.
Whatever you choose to say, please keep your messages short – no longer than 20 seconds – and remember we are not calling for Jacqueline’s release. We are calling for clemency and for her sentence to be reconsidered. Anything else may damage her case. Ready? Let’s go:
Here are some messages we've already received as inspiration
Can't leave Jacqueline a voice message? Send her a card instead
Jacqueline would love to receive a card from you with a message of support. Please just make sure that you:
- Write in English or Spanish
- Address it to Jacqueline Montanez B47331
Post it to
Jacqueline Montanez B47331
Dwight Correctional Centre
23813 E. 3200 North Road
And include a return address. If you'd prefer not to include your own address, feel free to use ours:
Human Rights Action Centre
17-25 New Inn Yard
London EC2A 3EA
It can be difficult to think of what to say. If you’re stuck, we suggest something like:
I oppose the sentencing of children to life without parole. Sending you best wishes. In solidarity.
The regulars among you will know we sometimes ask you to refrain from mentioning Amnesty or religion in your cards. In Jacqueline’s case, you can:
- Send a religious card or message
- Send an Amnesty card or mention Amnesty
- Include your name and address
We’ve also produced some materials that might help you, if you want to get a group together to all write to Jacqueline or hold a card-writing event:
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.