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Michigan bills would make all juvenile crimes eligible for parole

Bills would make life sentences parole-eligible after 10 years

On March 1, Sen. Sue Shink, D-Northfield Township, introduced Senate Bill 120, which would reform the Michigan Corrections Code to make juvenile offenders who are sentenced to life imprisonment eligible for parole no matter the severity of their crimes, provided they have served at least 10 years of their sentence.

Read it for yourself: Senate Bill 120

The bill is tie-barred with four Senate bills and five House bills—all introduced by Democrats. The bills would, taken together, categorically prohibit state courts from sentencing juvenile offenders to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. For any one of these bills to take effect, all must be signed into law.

Michigan considers a juvenile offender to be anyone less than 19 years old when the crime was committed.

The legislation would also apply retroactively, costing the state around $1.6 million for resentencing hearings that would be required.

Michigan could save an estimated $69 million in the long run, since reducing sentences reduces incarceration costs and “juvenile lifer resentencing hearings most always result in a reduced sentence than that of life,” according to the Senate Fiscal Agency’s analysis of the bill.

Criminal repercussions for crimes committed by minors became more lenient within the past decade. Michigan court cases People v. Parks and People v. Stovall, both from 2022, called for ending mandatory life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for juveniles who committed first- and second-degree murder.

U.S. Supreme Court cases from the past decade have also moved toward exempting juvenile crimes from severe sentences.

The most recent, Jones v. Mississippi, held that “sentencing an offender who was under 18 at the time of the crime raises special constitutional considerations.” While the court allowed for juveniles to receive life sentences without parole (as long as the sentence is not mandatory), it said, “Our holding today does not preclude the States from imposing additional sentencing limits in cases involving defendants under 18 convicted of murder.”

States may categorically prohibit life without parole for all offenders under 18, per Jones v. Mississippi. This categorical prohibition is what Senate Bill 120 and its companion bills aim to codify into law, reports Michigan Advance.

The bills have been referred to the Committee on Civil Rights, Judiciary, and Public Safety.

The legislation must advance through the committee before the Democratic-controlled House and Senate can vote.

Therese Boudreaux is a Michigan Capitol Confidential intern.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.