Michigan has sentenced more kids to die in prison than any other U.S. state or country in the world
April 4, 2023
“Michigan has sentenced more children to life without parole than any other state in the United States. Considering that the U.S. is the only nation that permits this barbaric practice at all, this means that the State of Michigan has condemned more children to die in prison than anywhere else on the globe.
“The rest of the world and the majority of U.S. states agree that sentencing children to die in prison is wrong. It is also wrong that 90% of life without parole sentences imposed on children in Michigan since 2012 have been imposed on children of color. It is wrong that Michigan has failed over the past decade to end this sentence despite the fact that polls show overwhelming support against sentencing children to die in prisons.
“But we are happy to report that with the introduction in the Michigan Legislature of Senate Bills 119-23 and House Bills 4160-64, this year our state has an opportunity to right these wrongs.
“We both know a little about righting wrongs.
“We are two of the hundreds of children that were once sentenced to die in Michigan prisons, serving a combined 67 years as we were each convicted of first-degree murder. It pains us to say that when we were kids, we were separately responsible for the loss of lives — lives we can never give back. Our actions are tragic examples of harm committed by children and representations of the ways in which youth with high levels of trauma are more prone to committing serious crimes. Yet today, we stand as shining examples of the ways children can transform their lives.”
In the Detroit Free Press, Leading with Conviction 2023 cohort member Ronnie Waters and co-author Jose Burgos write that no child should be sentenced to die in prison. As the “track record” for the “more than 98.86% of former juvenile lifers [who] age out of crime and lean into a positive future,” Waters and Burgos say the vast majority of these youth help build stronger communities. By passing SB 119-23/HB 4160-64, the Michigan legislature can finally join over half of the country and the rest of the world in banning life sentences for children.