January 25, 2016 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that its 2012 decision barring mandatory life without parole sentences for juvenile offenders applies retroactively to cases that had exhausted their appeals prior to the 2012 ruling.
The high court's decision applies to 2,500 prisoners nationwide; 363 of the cases are those of Michigan prisoners. The projected cost to incarcerate these prisoners for their lifetime could cost nearly $1 billion.
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Article 14 (4), which the U.S. is a member party to, states, "In the case of juvenile persons, [court] procedures shall be such as will take account of their age and the desirability of promoting their rehabilitation."
The United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice states that the primary aim of juvenile justice is to ensure the wellbeing of the juvenile and that confinement shall be imposed only after careful consideration and for the shortest period possible.
The United Nations Rules for the Protection of Juveniles Deprived of Their Liberty emphasizes imprisonment as a last resort and for the shortest time possible.
The State of Michigan must now resentence the 363 prisoners who are impacted. The legislature could also revise the state's law to change all the sentences to a term of years or the Governor could utilize his executive authority to commute the sentences to a term of years.
The most sensible, cost-effective and humane remedies are the latter two options. It will cost the state millions of valuable taxpayer dollars to resentence all these prisoners and place tremendous burdens on court systems statewide. Additionally, it will deprive the state of desperately needed resources to do other important projects lacking adequate funding.
Projects include roads, bridges and infrastructure that have been neglected and funding to prevent further school closings in areas predominantly servicing children of color and underprivileged youth.
This also comes at a time when Flint residents have become victims of one of the most devastating and deplorable water crises in the nation's history that is projected to cost hundreds of millions of dollars to fix.
Call to Action
As citizens of conscience we are asking that the legislature revise sentencing guidelines for prisoners who have been sentenced to life without parole for crimes they were convicted of committing when they were juveniles.
Our proposal is to change all the existing life without parole sentences to terms of 25 year minimums to 60 year maximum sentences and giving jurisdiction over the cases to the Michigan Parole Board.
This proposal includes making all the affected prisoners eligible for immediate meaningful parole consideration and providing annual parole reviews to each prisoner until s/he is paroled or dies.
In the alternative, if the legislature fails to make these changes we are calling on Gov. Rick Snyder to issue an Executive Order that will have the same effect as the proposal above.
We ask that you sign this petition and invite other Michigan residents to do so as well. We ask that you also share a link to the petition on social media pages, web sites, blogs and via email.
When you sign the petition a letter supporting our proposal will be emailed to your state senator, state representative, and Gov. Snyder. Change.org automatically identifies your state legislators based on your zip code.
Please lend your voice to this important effort and join us as we stand on the right side of history.