Michigan is one of 19 states that allow children of any age to be tried and punished as adults. Trying youth as adults opened the door to imposing sentences of life without the possibility of parole, particularly in Michigan and 26 other states that have mandatory sentencing.
More than 300 youths have been sentenced to life without parole (LWOP) in Michigan and are serving these sentences in adult facilities. Michigan ranks third in the number of youth sentenced to LWOP and is second only to Louisiana in the rate of juveniles age 14-18 serving sentences of LWOP.
To determine public opinion on the issue, questions related to the topic were included in an annual statewide survey of those 18 years or older. The survey, administered by a public university, was conducted during the spring and summer of 2005.
We found that only 5 percent of residents supported Michigan’s current law regarding juveniles serving life without parole in adult facilities. The majority believed “blended” sentences that included both juvenile and adult sanctions were more acceptable. Moreover, Michigan citizens were strongly opposed to juveniles 16 and younger being housed with adults in correctional facilities and believed that juveniles were strong candidates for rehabilitation.
Michigan residents are unequivocal in their belief that youths should be held accountable for their violent crimes, but that it should be in a manner that recognizes the physiologic, psychological and emotional capabilities of the youths, understanding that these capabilities differ from that of adults. These findings support alternative sentencing arrangements and changes to Michigan’s current policies and legislation.
The above abstract is from the study conducted by Wayne State University School of Social Work. Click here to view the entire study and press release.