U.S. High Court Ruling Gives Some Hope of Parole to Juvenile Lifers

Jun 25, 2012

The U. S. Supreme Court has struck down state laws like one in Michigan that automatically sends some juveniles to prison for life with no chance of parole.

The court’s decision says that’s excessive and violates the Eighth Amendment.

Michigan has more than 350 people in state prisons serving life without parole for crimes committed as juveniles.

Deborah LaBelle is an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union. She says the ruling does not 'prohibit' life without parole for juveniles. But she says the sentence should be very rare now that courts have to take into account factors like how big a role a child played in a murder, age at the time of the crime, and life circumstances.

“What do you do with a child who is trapped in a home in which they are beaten and abused and then they go out and commit a crime?," she asks. "Do you have to take those things into consideration? Yes, you do. They’re a child.”

LaBelle says lifers who were sent to prison as children are now entitled to be re-sentenced and granted a parole hearing.