Archive for June 20th, 2013


could you forgive?

Lost for Life


by Mary Ellen Johnson

When Joshua Rofé first called me and asked if I’d be willing to be interviewed for his documentary film about juveniles serving life in prison, I agreed without hesitation. I also suggested other advocates, victims and prisoners, as well as people who might oppose us. We were warned not to cooperate with Josh, that he might not be “for us,” but I’ve always believed that if we are afraid to show all sides of a very painful issue, then we don’t have a very strong case. And I believe we do.

Josh met with many people across the United States and interviewed several of Colorado’s young lifers. I am not surprised that Josh developed a special affinity for my friend, Jacob Ind, who has served 20 years of a life sentence for killing his abusive parents. But I do know that, even with Jacob, he expected thoughtful answers to tough questions. Maybe that’s why Josh was impressed with Jacob—because Jacob can be brutally honest about himself. No talking points; no clichés. As a seeker of truth,  which may present itself in some troubling guises or permutations, Josh has no patience with simplistic answers. Which is the reason I was so excited to see the question posed on LOST FOR LIFE’s poster: Could you forgive?

That’s at the heart of this, isn’t it? Can we forgive these kids, some of whom have committed horrible acts, and say, “Yes, they are worthy of a second chance?” Can we forgive them, truly forgive them—not some knee jerk pseudo-Christian lip service—and still believe they should die in prison? Are there a certain number of years behind bars that can equate to the value of a human life?  If a mother who lost her beloved three-year-old child can forgive, are the rest of us required to follow in her footsteps?

These are questions I suspect Josh struggles with in LOST FOR LIFE.

I do not know all of the Colorado people I will meet on the screen when I attend the premiere at the AFI DOCS Film Festival on Saturday, June 22, in Washington DC (The ticket link, if you can join us, is:

I expect to reunite with many friends: Sharletta Evans, who will answer, “Could you forgive?”, Sean Taylor, whose sentence was “forgiven” by Governor Bill Ritter, and family members like Amber Ivy whose brother Josiah, serving life, will speak publicly for the first time.  And of course, Jacob.

Can you forgive Jacob? Can you forgive the rest of those who will be presented in LOST FOR LIFE?

I do not know. But I do thank Joshua Rofé and LOST FOR LIFE for asking.


Mary Ellen Johnson is the Executive Director of The Pendulum Foundation, a non-profit that serves kids serving life. Mary Ellen is also the author of several published books, including The Murder of Jacob, about a 15-year-old who killed his abusive parents, Listening to Jay and the Americans, Walking in the Rain. She is the “godmother” of The Redemption Project.


Groove of the Day 

Listen to Ari Hest performing “I Forgive You”