DETROIT, Mich. – U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith ruled today that it is unconstitutional to strip children, who had been serving life sentences, of credits for good behavior. State lawmakers had passed legislation that retroactively deprived these children of this sentence reduction program.

“Today’s ruling is a tremendous victory for fairness in our criminal justice system,” said Dan Korobkin, ACLU of Michigan Deputy Legal Director and one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys in the case. “Hundreds of youth who were serving unconstitutional life sentences will now benefit from good-time credits they earned in prison for good behavior, credits that were taken away from them by mean-spirited retroactive legislation in 2014.”

“Restoring these credits to individuals who earned them will likely save the state millions of dollars, and will give deserving individuals a chance to reunite with their families when they no longer pose a threat to society,” adds Korobkin.

Read the decision.

The ACLU sued the state in 2010 challenging the constitutionality of juvenile life-without-parole sentences.  The U.S. Supreme Court eventually ruled that mandatory life without parole is unconstitutional for children.  In response to that ruling, the Michigan legislature enacted the current law, which required individuals to be resentenced to lengthy prison sentences and took away good-behavior credits they had been earning for years, and in some cases for decades.