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Michigan bill introduced to ban life without parole for convicted juveniles

By Rayvin Bleu and Hannah Mose

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    LANSING, Michigan (WNEM) — Legislation has been introduced that would allow a convicted juvenile to be eligible for parole after 10 years in Michigan.

“After 10 years, give them a chance to go before the parole board to be considered, to be considered for a second chance,” said Representative Amos O’Neal of Saginaw.

State lawmakers have introduced legislation that would ban judges from giving out life sentences without the possibility of parole to anyone under the age of 18. O’Neal said this legislation would follow federal sentencing guidelines.

“When you think about the developmental minds of, you know teenagers, the data supports that they’re not developed fully and so kids do things, you know, at 14, 15, 16, 17 that you wouldn’t think about doing at 40,” O’Neal said.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that mandatory life sentences for juveniles was cruel and unusual punishment and therefore unconstitutional.

The new legislation would allow a maximum sentence of 60 years in prison with the possibility of parole after 10 years. O’Neal said if the legislation passes, it will not automatically open the doors for those in prison.

However, that is not good enough for opponents of the legislation.

“I do stand for second chances. I stand for the concepts like expungement and the ability for individuals to move on from the public justice system. But taking a life is a whole other level,” said Representative Graham Filler of Dewitt.

Filler said he fears the legislation impacts victims’ families.

“Every time there’s a resentencing and every time there’s a parole board review, you’re re-victimizing victims because the parole board calls the victim’s family and they say, ‘Tell us about the act. Tell us what you’ve suffered, tell us what you know about the killer,’” Filler explained.

He said he believes someone who commits murder should not be allowed the opportunity of freedom.

“When an individual is sentenced, all factors are considered by the judge, and things like youth, things like experience, things like were they coerced into the act. Different factors are considered as the judge decides to grant life without parole or a term of years. And so, I don’t see a problem with that being a continuing practice,” Filler said.

If passed, Michigan would join 27 other states and the District of Columbia on banning life sentences without the possibility of parole for people under 18.

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