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Michigan prepares to re-sentence juvenile lifers

A picture of Bellamy Creek Correctional Facility in Ionia County, Michigan
Michigan Department of Corrections

Arrangements are being made to return more than 350 Michigan inmates to the courts where they were sentenced. The prisoners will get new sentences under a U.S. Supreme Court decision this week. The court struck down mandatory sentences of life without parole for people convicted of crimes committed when they were juveniles.
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette is advising the state Department of Corrections on how to proceed. He says Michigan will comply with the ruling, but prosecutors will make sure judges are reminded of the crimes the inmates were part of.

“There are victims involved here," said Schuette. "There are real live people-- victims and their families-- who have been impacted by these brutal vicious murders, and so, someone needs to make sure that we speak up for the victims of crime."
The court ruling says judges have to consider a felon’s age, involvement in a murder, and life circumstances as part of sentencing for a crime committed by a juvenile. The state Department of Corrections says eligible inmates in Michigan range in age from 16 to 67.

“What we’ll do is make sure we work with all parties and, in particular, with prosecuting attorneys across the state of Michigan, to make sure the review in court, the sentencing judge, will understand the facts and what happened in these brutal cases," said Schuette.

The American Civil Liberties Union says it will watch the proceedings to ensure re-sentencing hearings are meaningful. The ACLU has also filed a separate federal challenge to Michigan’s juvenile lifer law.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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