Michigan’s juvenile justice system allows teens to spend the rest of their lives behind bars for murder, even if they didn’t pull the trigger, prompting a move in Michigan and across the nation to abolish life sentences without parole for those younger than 18, reports the Detroit News. Ann Arbor lawyer Deborah LaBelle is urging the change in the wake of her report on the state’s system, which was noted by a United Nations human rights committee. The committee condemned the U.S. practice of sentencing juveniles to life without parole. Though 41 other states offer similar punishment, such sentencing is forbidden in most countries.
Buoyed by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year that said juveniles couldn’t be executed for their crimes, LaBelle is leading a push in Michigan and across the country to abolish life sentences without parole for those younger than 18. According to her analysis, called “Second Chances,” Michigan has at least 146 teens who were sentenced to life in prison when they were 16 or younger. There are more than 150 sentenced to life for murder when they were 17 and at least 2,200 juveniles sentenced to life without parole nationwide.