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Sentencing reform must involve the big picture

On Behalf of | Jan 29, 2016 | Criminal Defense |

Crime is often viewed as young man’s game. As people age, they become less likely to engage in criminal activities. Punishment of young offenders has become increasingly draconian, as the option to try and sentence juveniles as adults allowed more youth to face potentially lifetime adult sentences.

Research has found that brain development is not complete until the early to mid-twenties, and teens and young adults may have a less developed sense of impulse control and are more inclined to reckless behavior.

The recent U.S. Supreme Court decision making retroactive their previous ruling on the unconstitutional sentencing juveniles to life in prison without parole clarifies their position, which previously had been open to question.

Michigan had refused to permit retroactive consideration of those already sentenced to life without parole based on the Court’s prior decision, but will now have to comply with this standard.

Concerns that “dangerous” criminals will be easily released are unfounded. For one, merely because some of these inmates will become eligible for parole is no guarantee that they will be granted parole. For a life offender to receive parole, they must win a majority vote of the full, 10-member Michigan Parole Board.

This should lead to a discussion within the legislature regarding sentencing in general. The larger question is how does the system prepare the majority of inmates who will inevitably be released when their sentence has run.

If a criminal conviction is seen as a “scarlet letter” and individuals so marked are effectively banned from most employment, it is difficult to imagine how they will avoid returning to criminal activity and eventually the Michigan Department of Corrections.

There are no easy answers in this process, and perhaps that is why legislators appear to prefer simple solutions like longer sentences that merely defer the inevitable day of reckoning to the future when they are no longer in office.

Source:, “Editorial: Rethink how young convicts are treated,” January 26, 2016


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