CRIME
11/28/2013 04:53 pm ET Updated Nov 28, 2013

Youth Offenders In Michigan Serving Life Should Have Chance At Parole, Judge Says

A federal judge ruled that inmates imprisoned for crimes they committed while they were children must have a "fair, meaningful and realistic" opportunity for parole.

"Courts have repeatedly made it clear that incarcerating children and throwing away the key is cruel and unusual punishment," lead attorney Deborah LaBelle, said in a press release put out on Tuesday. "Today the court demanded that the state of Michigan take action to comply with the Constitution and Supreme Court precedent set almost two years ago."

The case was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union. The decision will affect the 350 people serving life sentences who were convicted as juveniles.

The state had argued the Supreme Court's rulings did not pertain to youths who were already sentenced to life.

"The Supreme Court has made it clear that mandatory life sentences for children are a violation the Eighth Amendment, and Judge O’Meara’s ruling enforces the Supreme Court’s decisions," Ezekiel Edwards, ACLU Criminal Law Reform Project director. said in the release. "At the center of this case is the simple reality that children are different from adults and should be treated as such in the eyes of the law."

Edwards also said the state should set up a thorough parole review process.

"The parole process should undertake a serious and meaningful examination of the factors that weigh heavily on children: their home environment, immaturity and failure to appreciate risks and consequences," Edwards said.

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