Honorable Mention, Grade 7-9 Division, 2006
By: Maya Katrel Little – won Second Place as a Sixth Grade Student in 2003
Maya came back to assist at the celebration ceremony in 2010.
Grade 9, Dunbar Pre-Engineering HS
Teacher: Ms. N. Puffet

In my opinion justice is being fair in all matters, no matter the situation or circumstance. As a young African American student living in Washington, DC, I witness injustice every day. Sadly, this has become a way of life for all people, but especially for African American people.

Of all the unfairness that I have encountered, one situation has lingered in my mind and left a wounded space in my heart. My thirty-three year old African American brother is now incarcerated, serving a mandatory fourteen-year sentence that I think is a miscarriage of justice. My bother has recognized the illegal act that he committed, but he also feels that he is a victim of injustice and that this mandatory sentence is excessive.

A mandatory sentence is a sentence that requires a judge to give a sentence to an individual convicted of a crime, regardless of any other mitigating circumstances. A mandatory drug sentence is based on three factors: the type of drug, the weight of the drug and the number of prior convictions. This mandatory requirement has definitely been a factor to my brother’s sentence. I strongly disagree with the sentence that was given to my brother, as the judge was not able to research my brother’s background. Before his drug-related activities he had graduated from Dunbar Senior High School with one of the highest G.P.A’s in his class and was a star player on the Varsity Basketball Team. After my brother’s graduation he continued his education at University of North Carolina. My
brother was also a loyal father to his eight-year-old son and a full-time worker who fulfilled his responsibilities to his family and provided support to his friends.

The laws of the United States of America are injustice sentences that are given to people that commit criminal acts are not always imposed fairly. More focus is on inner city drug enforcement that on preventing drugs from entering the country. In order to stop this drug trade, the drug lords need to be caught and punished. Yes, I do agree that it is wrong to sell, and use drugs, but in order to contain the appetite for drugs, there should be more public rehabilitation programs throughout the country. If more rehabilitation centers were available in communities, there would be fewer drug users. If there were more drug programs to educate youth about the dangers of selling and using drugs, there would be fewer opportunities for injustice in inner city communities.

Even if the judge were to reverse my brother’s excessive fourteen-years that has already stolen five years from his life. I don’t think anyone could ever repay my brother for the years that he has spent incarcerated.