In 2012, our United States Supreme Court ruled that it was “cruel and unusual” to sentence juveniles to life in prison without parole possibilities. The reason, according to the justices, was that forcing a juvenile to spend the rest of their life in prison is actually unconstitutional and violates the Eighth Amendment. This particular amendment is part of the Bill of Rights and makes it unlawful for the government to impose excessive bail, excessive fines, or cruel and unusual punishment. So what’s going on with Michigan’s juvenile lifers?
Why should teen criminals be treated differently than adults?
The thinking behind this logic was that the teenage brain has not fully developed, and therefore cannot be treated as an adult. Also, the argument was that younger people have a higher chance of rehabilitation. In 2016 the Supreme Court doubled down on this ruling, stating that it should be applied retroactively. Which meant that the almost 350 prisoners serving life sentences in Michigan, which they received as juveniles, were then eligible for resentencing hearings. But that was seven years ago, and more than half of those lifers are still sitting behind bars, waiting for their chance to be resentenced.
Michigan is taking years to resentence our juvenile lifers!
Part of the difficulty with this ruling was that SCOTUS left the application of the ruling up to each state, so there is very little agreement on what the resentencing process should look like. For example, Philadelphia County in Pennsylvania, which had almost as many juvenile lifers as the entire state of Michigan, now has only a handful remaining, all of which will be completed by the end of the summer. And while almost every one of those lifers has been resentenced, not one has received a new life sentence – which means they’re all looking at a release in their futures! But Michigan is dragging its feet…
Why is Michigan having such a hard time committing to the process?
Some of the delays could be attributed to the former Attorney General Bill Schuette, who was openly opposed to the entire idea of resentencing juvenile lifers. In fact, prior to the decision, Schuette appealed to the Supreme Court, requesting that they deny sentencing options to any convicted juvenile lifers in Michigan. His reason? The resentencing hearings would be too traumatic for the victim’s families. However, a longer look reveals it’s more than just the former AG’s resistance that has delayed the process in Michigan.
Teens accused of crimes in Michigan have a rough road ahead!
Michigan is one of the states where a juvenile can be charged as an adult for a serious crime, despite the fact that research has proved teens’ brains aren’t fully developed or matured yet. This has been a source of major contention here in the Great Lakes State, and for parents whose kids are facing very serious criminal charges, it can be a very challenging time. However, The Kronzek Firm has spent decades successfully defending juveniles and adults accused of serious crimes, and helping their parents navigate the complex legal system surrounding the juvenile justice system. If you need help, call 866 7NO JAIL and discuss your case with one of our experienced and aggressive criminal defense attorneys. We can be reached 24 / 7 by calling 1 866 766-5245.