Long-awaited legislation to reform Michigan laws that currently allow juveniles to be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole, or JLWOP, was introduced in June and is now awaiting action in the House Criminal Justice Committee. The bills have strong bipartisan support. One of the bills in the package, HB 4809, also includes important parole process reforms that would apply to all people serving parolable life sentences.
House Bills 4806, 4807, and 4808 would bring Michigan law into compliance with the U.S. Supreme Court (Miller v Alabama) ruling that a mandatory life without parole sentence for crimes committed by a juvenile is unconstitutional.
HB 4806, sponsored by Rep. Joe Haveman (R-Holland), would permit courts to resentence Michigan prisoners currently serving life without parole for murders they committed as juveniles. The bill establishes a resentencing procedure and requires courts to consider factors related to the person’s age at the time of the offense. The new sentence could be a term of years or a life sentence with or without the possibility of parole.
HB 4807, sponsored by Rep. Al Pscholka (R-Stevensville) and HB 4808 (sponsored by Rep. Margaret O’Brien (R-Portage) would prohibit mandatory sentencing of juveniles to life without parole.
HB 4809, also sponsored by Rep. Haveman, creates parole eligibility at 15 years for JLWOP prisoners sentenced to parolable life terms. The bill also requires the parole board to consider factors related to the person’s age at the time of the offense.
As noted above, HB 4809 includes important parole review process reforms that are consistent with CAPPS’s recommendations. The reforms would address barriers to parole that have kept hundreds of aging prisoners behind bars for decades beyond their earliest release dates, regardless of their risk to public safety.
SB 319 introduced by opponents
Opponents of the provisions in Rep. Haveman’s package have introduced an alternative JLWOP reform bill. Sen Rick Jones (R-Eaton County) introduced Senate Bill 319 and the bill was assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Among its other provisions, SB 319 would require any JLWOP prisoners resentenced to parolable life to serve a mandatory minimum of 45 years before they become eligible for parole.
Watch CAPPS’s website for updated information on the progress of these bills.
Click here for a summary of the bill package: Summary of House Bills 4806-4809, 7-18-13
Click here for Senate Bill 319: SB 319