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Juvenile Lifers in Michigan Must Wait for Parole Hearings


Hundreds of Michigan prisoners sentenced to life in prison as juveniles must now wait for the U.S. Supreme Court to clarify a past ruling before they receive a parole hearing.

Earlier this week, the House of Representatives voted in favor of a bill allowing parole hearings for juveniles sentenced to life in prison. But they have to wait for confirmation from the U.S. Supreme Court before they can begin scheduling parole hearings.

In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court declared it was “cruel and unusual” punishment for juveniles to be sentenced to life with no chance of parole. However, the high court’s ruling did not specify if their decision included all juvenile lifers or just current and future cases.

“The only order the Supreme Court gave was to apply this going forward, not retroactively,” state Representative Tom Leonard told the Detroit Free Press. “Many of these victims have had closure for years,” and it would be unfair to make them relive the “terror and horror they experienced years ago.”

However, some lawmakers believe it to be an injustice to give the opportunity for parole to some offenders and not others. “This is an issue that deserves our very best effort to get it right,” said Representative Rudy Hobbs. “We shouldn’t be picking winners and losers. Because the losers here are young men and women who made a mistake when they were young.”

For now, Michigan’s 350 juvenile lifers will just have to wait until the U.S. Supreme Court can rectify the retroactivity question.

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