Juveniles

Rafael Alicea and Jose Burgos

Update 7/30/18: Jose Burgos has been granted parole. He says his projected release date is the end of October.

"The joy I live with today cannot be described in words," says Jose. "To know that within the next few months I'll get to spend the holidays with my family, [that's] an amazing feeling." 

Jose Burgos says he always felt like dying in prison was probably one of the loneliest ways to die. And  – for nearly 27 years  – that's what he was told would happen to him.

Even after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled all juvenile lifer sentences  –  including Jose’s  – had to be reviewed, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy still recommended life without parole. That's where things stood when we initially did a story about Jose last October.

Morgan Springer

It’s been two years since the U.S. Supreme Court said states across the country had to reconsider the sentences of nearly 2,000 juvenile lifers. But not much has changed in Michigan since that January 2016 ruling for most of those prisoners.

Michigan had the second-largest juvenile lifer population in the country – with more than 360. So far, only 30 percent of juvenile lifers have been resentenced. Antonio Espree is one of them.

 


Thanks to an opinion handed down Monday by the U.S. Supreme Court, some 350 Michigan prison inmates woke up today with a new view on life.

In a six-to-three decision, the High Court ruled that all prisoners who have been sentenced to life without parole for crimes committed as minors should be given a chance to seek parole.

Deborah LaBelle is an Ann Arbor-based attorney and director of the Juvenile Life Without Parole Initiative with the ACLU.

There are bipartisan bills in the Michigan Legislature aimed at changing the way juveniles are sentenced in court. According to the bill sponsors there are about 600 17-year-olds in Michigan corrections system – almost 350 of those are "juvenile lifers."

What if young people could learn effective, peaceful ways of resolving conflicts – ways to settle a dispute without resorting to violence?

Morgan Springer

Juveniles serving life in prison with no chance for parole have a reason to hope. They might get a shot at resentencing.

Up until 2012, juveniles convicted of murder were given a life sentence without the possibility of parole. It was mandatory. Then the U.S. Supreme Court ruled this requirement was cruel and unusual. They said it should only happen in very rare circumstances.

But the court didn’t say whether the ruling should apply retroactively. Some states chose to resentence their juvenile lifers while others - like Michigan- did not.

 


The Michigan Supreme Court says felons sentenced as juveniles to life without parole won’t get new sentences. That’s despite a US Supreme Court ruling that says it’s cruel and unusual punishment.

How do we really get through to kids who are headed down the path to trouble?

There is a group of artists in the Flint area that believes the answer is spoken word and visual art.

The Share Art Project has been bringing artists together with young offenders. It's a collaborative effort among artists at the Buckham Gallery, students and the Genesee Valley Regional Center.

Shellie Spivack is a Buckham board member who chairs the program, and she joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

*Support for Arts and culture coverage on Stateside comes in part from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Life without parole used to be the automatic sentence for juveniles who were tried as adults and convicted of first-degree murder. That was until June of 2012, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that automatic life without parole for juveniles was unconstitutional. But a question here in Michigan remains – what happens to more than 350 juvenile lifers here who were sent to prison before the decision? Thursday the state Supreme Court hears arguments on that question.

‘Rush To Be A Man’

State of Michigan

Former Michigan Governor William Milliken, of Traverse City, says more than 350 prison inmates sentenced to life without parole as juveniles deserve a chance at freedom. Milliken – along with more than 100 law school deans and retired judges and prosecutors -- filed a brief today with the state Supreme Court.

Prison fence.
WFIU Public Radio/Flickr

The U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has put the brakes to an order that the state hold hearings for more than 350 prisoners sentenced as juveniles to life with no chance for parole. The stay means Michigan does not have to meet an end-of-the-year deadline to submit its plan for holding the hearings. That deadline comes from federal judge who ruled last month that Michigan is taking too long to comply with a U.S. Supreme Court decision that said automatic life without parole for juveniles is “cruel and unusual punishment.”

A federal judge in Detroit says the state must give more than 350 inmates sentenced as juveniles to life without parole a chance at freedom. US District Court  Judge John O’Meara says a US Supreme Court ruling that struck down Michigan’s juvenile lifer law and others like it applies retroactively, as well as in the future.

The order also says the state has to offer a “real and meaningful” chance at parole.

Prison fence.
WFIU Public Radio/Flickr

The Michigan Supreme Court will decide whether more than 300 inmates sentenced to life without parole for murders committed while they were juveniles are entitled to parole hearings.