Should Juveniles Be Sent To Prison For Life? Some Seek New Sentences

DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – Several Michigan prosecutors want to keep most or all of their juvenile-lifer inmates behind bars despite Supreme Court rulings that say the punishment should be banned except for those rare offenders who are beyond rehabilitation.

Defense lawyer Deb LaBelle says that of some 363 such prisoners in the state, 236 are facing new no-parole sentences. She calls it “geographic justice.”

Wayne County is home to the largest number of juvenile lifers in the state. The prosecutor’s office there recommends a term of years -from 25 years to 60 years – in 82 cases while seeking new no-parole sentences in 62 others.

In other counties, prosecutors want new natural life sentences for the overwhelming majority of inmates.

Defense lawyers say this flouts the law. Prosecutors say it’s necessary for public safety.

In 2016 the U.S. Supreme Court said prisoners who have been locked up for years must benefit from a 2012 ruling that outlawed automatic no-parole sentences as cruel punishment for first-degree murder.

It applied to people convicted of murder when they were teenagers.

Sheldry Topp, 72, is the oldest state inmate serving a no-parole sentence for murder as a teen. He’s been in prison for 53 years.

 

(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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