Juvenile offenders deserve a shot at redemption

PHOTO CREDIT: Storify.com

Murder is hard to forgive. For those directly affected by the crime, forgiveness can sometimes become impossible.

It’s easy to say that forgiveness is divine, but if you can still say that after a family member or someone close to you has been murdered, then perhaps you have more credibility than most to speak about the virtues of turning the other cheek.

That being said, the Detroit News reported today that “hundreds of killers sentenced to mandatory life without parole while in their teens could be resentenced this year.”

In other words, many of these people could potentially have their sentences drastically reduced, allowing them the possibility of parole which they did not have before.

This development will undoubtedly be extremely unsettling to many – if not most – of the victims of the crimes perpetrated by these individuals. Those who were certain that their personal nightmare finally had some closure now must deal with the possibility that it just might be starting all over again.

There is not much that can be said to someone in this situation. Certainly not ‘calm down’, or even ‘everything will be all right’, because to them that is no longer true.

However.

With all due respect to the victims, and realizing that little if anything can be done to ease their pain and anxiety over this news, it must nevertheless be pointed out that there are certainly two sides to this discussion. In this instance, the side giving weight to forgiveness makes a very strong case. And actually this is not so much about forgiveness as it is about the true meaning of justice and human compassion.

From an MLive article written in October 2015:

“The nation’s highest court, in a 2012 ruling, invalidated mandatory “juvenile lifer” laws in Michigan and other states, declaring the mandatory sentencing schemes a form of cruel and unusual punishment that fail to consider an offender’s age or potential for development.

“But justices did not specify whether the decision applied retroactively to inmates already behind bars, a question that is now before the court. And it’s a big question for Michigan, which is home to more juvenile lifers than all but one other state.

“There are 368 Michigan inmates currently serving mandatory life sentences without the possibility of parole for crimes they committed as minors, and more than 200 of those cases date back more than 20 years.”

Why is it OK that Michigan is home to more juvenile lifers than every other state except one? Even Texas, widely regarded as just about as tough on crime as you can get, has seen the light on this issue. But regardless of that

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette remains staunchly opposed to resentencing hearings for inmates who are serving mandatory life sentences without the possibility of parole for murders or other violent crimes they committed as minors, and he urged the Supreme Court to deny those hearings. Fortunately they did not take his advice.

Because even though murder can be an impossible crime for some to forgive, others might find it equally impossible to forgive a justice system that would snatch any chance for redemption from a wayward child.

 

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