Some Legislators, Justices Rethink Teen Life Without Parole


Michigan has 352 prisoners serving mandatory life sentences for crimes committed while they were juveniles – the second-highest number in the world, behind Pennsylvania at 444, says the Detroit Free Press. Legislators and the U.S. Supreme Court are rethinking the idea of sending teens away to prison forever. Michigan is among 12 states where legislation has been introduced that would ban the practice, or at least give judges some discretion. Texas and Colorado have banned mandatory life for juveniles.

Oakland County, Mi., Prosecutor Jessica Cooper, whose office tried two of them, Dontez Tillman and Thomas, McCloud, said the boys are exactly where they belong. “These are gut-wrenching, soul-searching determinations,” she said. Tillman and McCloud are among Michigan’s 45,000 inmates. Their days are spent doing chores, watching television or walking in the exercise yard. They will likely never walk free. Their story paints a terrible irony, some defense experts argue. They are boys old enough to be charged as adults under Michigan’s stringent get-tough-on-juveniles laws. Yet they deferred to their mothers for the most important decision in their young lives — a decision that put them behind bars for life.

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