VICTORY: Federal Judge strikes down Michigan parole statute condemning youthful offenders to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
In February of 2012, the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Michigan filed a lawsuit on behalf of nine Michigan citizens who were sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for crimes committed when they were minors.
This lawsuit challenged a Michigan law requiring that children as young as 14 who are charged with certain felonies be tried as adults and, if convicted, sentenced without judicial discretion to life without parole. Judges and juries are not allowed to take into account the fact that children bear less responsibility for their actions and have a greater capacity for change, growth and rehabilitation than adults.
In a ruling issued in September, the court declared that all prisoners in Michigan who committed crimes as children and were sentenced to life now have a right to parole. Additionally, the court correctly held that the Michigan statute that condemns youth to life without parole violates the 8th Amendment's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. The Court also recognized that the right to parole must provide a meaningful opportunity for release based on an individual's demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation.
Today, a federal judge ordered that all Michigan prisoners who are serving life sentences for crimes committed while children must be provided a "fair, meaningful and realistic" opportunity for parole. The judge gave the state until December 31, 2013 to implement a parole process that comports with his order.