Safe & Just Michigan

Bills to end Juvenile Life Without Parole introduced to Michigan Legislature
On March 3, bills were introduced to the Michigan Legislature that would end the possibility of sentencing anyone under the age of 19 to a life without parole sentence. The bills are House Bills 4160-4 and Senate Bills 119-123.

These bills would bring Michigan law in line with both Supreme Court rulings at the state and federal levels that have limited the scope of juvenile life without parole sentencing. While the federal ruling disallowed mandatory juvenile life without parole sentencing, the Michigan Supreme Court ruling went even further. It declared juvenile life without parole to be “cruel or unusual” punishment under the state’s constitution.

While no hearings on these bills are currently scheduled, we are hopeful that will happen in the coming months.

Safe & Just Michigan applauds the bipartisan group of legislators who introduced bills in both chambers that would end the practice of sentencing juveniles to die in prison. We urge the Legislature to act with urgency on these bills — dozens of juvenile lifers are still waiting to be resentenced more than a decade after their sentences were declared unconstitutional in Miller v Alabama. The State of Michigan continues to pay for both sides of resentencing litigation even as the Michigan Supreme Court extended Miller in multiple ways this past summer.

Ending juvenile life without parole sentences will bring Michigan in line with 27 other states – from West Virginia to Texas to California – and show that Michigan believes in second chances, especially for children. Holding open the possibility for a young person to redeem themselves and rejoin society incorporates the most recent evidence-based findings in brain development and would bring our state’s laws in line with recent U.S. and state Supreme Court rulings. We urge our state Legislature to move quickly to pass these bills into law.

Catch up on ‘Day of Empathy’

Despite a destructive ice storm the night before, Safe & Just Michigan managed to quickly transform the 2023 Day of Empathy from an in-person to an online-only event on Feb. 23. All of our panelists were able to join us for talks on ending juvenile life without parole sentencing, instituting a second look policy, ending cash bail, and highlighting the work of Nation Outside. We heard from key legislators such as state Sen. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) and state Rep. Kristian Grant (D-Grand Rapids), as well as leading criminal justice reform advocates in our state like Jose Burgos of SADO and Ashley Goldon and Tony Gant of Nation Outside. If you weren’t able to join us, you can still watch the panel talks on our YouTube channel at

Listen to the Voices of Current and Formerly Incarcerated People

Safe & Just Michigan makes a point of prioritizing the voices of people who have been directly impacted by the justice system whenever possible. We’d like to share a few projects we’re working on that center the lived experiences of people who have been incarcerated and who have taken the brave step of sharing what they’ve learned and their opinions with all of us.

Inside Voices is a new column in both our printed newsletter and on our blog. We have asked our readers who are incarcerated to share their opinions with us on topics such as criminal justice reform legislation, the parole process, re-entry concerns, and other things that may be on their mind. Those letters will be shared through the printed newsletter and on our blog. You can read the first two instillations of the Inside Voices blog posts at and

Second, we have added another storyteller to our Life Beyond Life storytelling project. Life Beyond Life supports the effort to end juvenile life without parole, and the storytellers in our project all received that devastating sentence before eventually getting a chance to go home thanks to U.S. Supreme Court rulings. New this month is storyteller Machelle Pearson, who bravely talks about losing her mother at a young age, childhood trauma, and the cruelty of being sentenced to die in prison while still a teenager. Thankfully, she’s home again and finding ways to play an active, positive role in her community. You can learn more about her at

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