Members of the Michigan Senate and House of Representatives are scheduled to convene on August 27, 2013 to discuss House Bills 4806, 4807, 4808, and 4809 that would give Miller v. Alabama, 132 S.Ct 2455 (2012), retroactive application to cases that exhausted their appellate review prior to the high court ruling. In its decision the U.S. Supreme Court ended the imposition of mandatory life without parole (LWOP) sentences for juveniles nationwide.
Supporters of the bills are urging legislators to include in the final version language that provides judges with discretion to sentence juvenile offenders to a term of years rather than only the options of LWOP or parolable life sentences for each juvenile offender when considering mitigating circumstances. We oppose disallowing judges from exercising their professional discretion when sentencing juveniles and believe that sentences imposed should be rendered on a case-by-case basis.
You are invited to sign this petition which will send the message below to Rep. Joseph Haveman along with your individual state senator and representative. Your legislators will be contacted based on your zip code. You are also asked to share a link to this petition widely via e-mail, Facebook, Twitter and other available social media platforms. Along with your messages and posts you are asked to invite others to re-post and share the link as well.
We want to send a strong message to legislators about the important need to pass this legislation and reform the existing flawed sentencing scheme that condemns children to die in Michigan prisons. Draconian sentencing of juvenile offenders has no place in a civilized nation that prides itself on being a human rights leader in the world.
You can help support passage of these bills by attending the legislative hearing which will be held at the House Office Building, Room 519, on Tuesday, August 27, 2013 at 9:00 A.M. Please encourage as many people to attend as possible and to provide written and/or verbal testimony expressing support for passage of the bills.
It is important to tell stories of growth and maturation after a child makes a terrible mistake. Let legislators know that a second chance, to demonstrate how adolescence affected choices and the unique capacity for growth provides hope, sustains good behavior, and promotes family involvement in working towards rehabilitation and release.
We are asking everyone to continue gathering signatures for this petition until the final vote of the bills which is expected to take place in the Fall.
Click here to e-mail the petition administrator a questions or suggestions regarding the petition, or to be added to a listserv dedicated to ending LWOP for juvenile offenders. You are also welcome to forward copies of any messages you receive in response to your legislator petition e-mails so we can maintain a record of legislative supporters.
Click here to download our petition flyer for people to post at libraries, churches, community centers, in offices, homes, and on college campuses. They can also be distributed at various gatherings and events. You are encouraged to invite web sites, blogs, and the print media to feature the flyer to gain exposure as well.
"In the end we will not remember the words of our enemies, only the silence of our friends." (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.)
U.S. District Cout Judge John Corbett O'Meara ruled on Monday, August 12, 2013 that all prisoners in Michigan who were sentenced to LWOP when they were juveniles are now eligible for parole consideration.
In January 2013 Judge O'Meara ruled that the state's law, MCL 791.234(6)(a), which denies juveniles sentenced to LWOP the opportunity for parole, is unconstitutional. Subsequent to the ruling Attorney General Bill Schuette argued that the judge's order only applies prospectively to a handful of prisoners.
Judge O'Meara made clear in his ruling today that the state is wrong to believe it may "enforce the statute, which the court has declared unconstitutional." He further stated, "When a state statute has been ruled unconstitutional, state actors have an obligation to desist from enforcing that statute."
While Judge O'Meara's ruling strikes down MCL 791.234(6)(a) as being unconstitutional the legislature must still revise the statute to bring it into compliance with the court's order and Miller v. Alabama. It is imperative that citizens continue signing this petition and circulating it widely until the legislation is passed.
Shortcut link to petition: www.TINYURL.com/endJLWOP2013
The package of bills upholds Miller v. Alabama, 132 S.Ct 2455 (2012), a U.S. Supreme Court decision which ended the imposition of mandatory life without parole sentences (LWOP) for juvenile offenders. The bills also extend that protection to prisoners who were already serving mandatory LWOP sentences and exhausted their appellate review prior to high court ruling.
In addition to seeking your support for passage of these bills I ask that you also consider co-sponsoring them and encourage your colleagues to do the same. I also ask that you advocate for the section of the bills that provides judges with discretion to sentence juvenile offenders to a term of years rather than limiting them solely to the options of LWOP or parolable life.
Only providing mandatory sentencing options of LWOP or parolable life is contrary to the spirit of individualized sentencing. It shackles judges by stripping them of the discretion to sentence offenders on a case-by-case basis and abandons the concept of redemption.
No psychological professional has the capacity to predict what a juvenile will be like a year from now, let alone a decade from now. Any teacher, parent or rational adult knows this reality. This is one of several reasons it is better for judges to impose sentences on juveniles that allow the Parole Board to determine when juvenile offenders are ready to be released later in life.
I strongly oppose discarding the lives of juveniles and condemning them to die by a slow form of death-by-incarceration. To deny juveniles a second chance is to reject their humanity and extinguishes all possibility of hope for their futures.
I pray that you will see yourself as a guardian not of an ideological position or office but of a system of law which acknowledges the inevitable need for change of direction reflecting experience and seasoned judgment.
Passage of these bills will not release a single prisoner. It will only provide a meaningful opportunity for release consideration for individuals who demonstrate personal growth, rehabilitation and that they would pose no danger to society if released.
I ask that you turn to your informed conscience and support the sentencing reforms proposed in these bills.
It will cost the State of Michigan over $2 million to incarcerate each juvenile prisoner sentenced to LWOP for their entire lifetime. To incarcerate the 350 prisoners currently serving LWOP for their lifetimes will cost over $700 million, an average of $10.5 million per year.
The vast amounts of money and resources being spent to incarcerate juvenile offenders could be invested in early childcare and K-12 education, with an emphasis on crime prevention rather than focusing entirely on the symptoms of crime. Our current approach to incarcerating young people is ineffective and unsustainable.