The Michigan Senate passes juvenile sentencing reforms

 he Michigan Senate has unanimously approved Senate Bills 318 and 319, which would let some juveniles convicted of murder avoid life in prison, unless they’re already in prison and have exhausted their appeals.

Instead of life, certain juvenile offenders would be given a term of years with a minimum ranging from 25 to 40 years and a maximum of at least 60 years.
With more than 350 juvenile lifers, Michigan has the second-highest total in the nation. Currently, state law allows mandatory life sentences without the chance of parole for those who were under 18 when the crime occurred.
The bills, sponsored by Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, would bring Michigan into compliance with the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2012 ruling in Miller v. Alabama.
In Miller, the Supreme Court declared mandatory life without parole for juveniles unconstitutional as cruel and unusual punishment. The Miller Court also ruled that “a judge or jury must have the opportunity to consider mitigating circumstances before imposing the harshest possible penalty for juveniles.”
However, SB 318 and 319 would not apply retroactively.  State Sen. Bert Johnson, D-Detroit, proposed an amendment to the legislation that would have added retroactivity, but Jones asserted the language should not be included because Miller did not address retroactivity.
State and federal courts actually differ on the retroactivity question. In Michigan, U.S. District Court Judge John Corbett O'Meara has said that juvenile lifers deserve a “fair and meaningful possibility of parole." However, he hasn’t said exactly what that possibility is.
Meanwhile, State Rep. Joe Haveman, R-Holland, has introduced House Bill 4806 that includes retroactivity for juvenile lifers. That proposal is opposed by Attorney General Bill Schuette and has not advanced out of committee.