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6th Circuit allows challenge to state's juvenile lifer fix

It costs about $35,000 per year to keep someone in prison in Michigan.
Derek Key
flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0
It costs about $35,000 per year to keep someone in prison in Michigan.

A federal appeals court says Michigan is not complying with a U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down prison sentences of automatic life without parole for juveniles.

The Supreme Court ruled four years ago that the practice amounts to cruel and unusual punishment.

Attorney Deborah LaBelle says the state is still not allowing juvenile lifers a meaningful chance at parole.

“Enough,” she said. “The state needs to step up, and do what the Supreme Court and the federal courts have ordered, and give them a meaningful and realistic opportunity to demonstrate that they are rehabilitated and can go home.” 

LaBelle says the state is dragging its feet on adopting a policy that gives more than 350 juvenile lifers a meaningful chance at being paroled.

“Since the courts have said that this is a cruel and unusual punishment, six people – six people – have died while the state fights and fails to provide a mechanism for their release,” she said.

The appeals court is allowing a challenge filed by juvenile lifers to go forward. The case is before a federal judge in Detroit.

There was no immediate reaction from Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette.

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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