Federal judge orders Michigan to implement parole process for children serving life sentences

A United States District Court judge in Michigan has ordered the state to immediately comply with the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Miller v. Alabama by making everyone serving life sentences for crimes that occurred when they were under 18 immediately parole eligible if they have served at least 10 years in prison.

In his ruling, U.S. District Judge John O’Meara emphasized the need for parole opportunities to be “fair, meaningful, and realistic,” and included certain requirements to ensure this is the case.  They include:

a)      The state must give notice to all of these individuals that their parole eligibility will be considered in a meaningful and realistic manner.

b)      In making a determination of parole eligibility, the parole board is required to set forth an explanation of its reasoning.

c)       Sentencing judges are prohibited from vetoing parole decisions.

d)      No person sentenced to life without parole for crimes that occurred when they were under 18 shall be denied access to any educational or training program that is available to the general population.

The state is required to submit a program compliant with these requirements by January 31.  If the state fails to do so, the court may appoint a Special Master to fashion appropriate relief.

The decision applies retroactively to the more than 350 people sentenced to life in prison for crimes committed as children in Michigan.

Congratulations to Michigan attorney Deb LaBelle, the ACLU and the ACLU of Michigan for this outstanding win. LaBelle is a member of the CFSY Board of Directors.

Read the statement from the ACLU of Michigan

Read the ruling

Read a news story about the decision