Barbara Hernandez was 14 years old when she ran away from home to escape sexual abuse. Like many teenage runaways, she became involved with an older man who pushed her into prostitution and drugs. He eventually manipulated her into luring a man into the house they shared and after Barbara left the room, killed the man. Barbara Hernandez was tried and sentenced to life without any possibility of parole and will almost certainly die in Michigan’s prison system.

Barbara Hernandez is one of close to 350 people in Michigan prisons who, as children under 18, have been given life without possibility of parole sentences. Henry Hill, whose story was told on Sunday in the Detroit Free Press, is another of these young people – disproportionately poor, Black or Latino, cognitively impaired and/or survivors of abuse and neglect – who, under current law in Michigan, simply do not qualify for a second chance.

This Wednesday, May 6, the Michigan House Judiciary Committee will take up several reform bills that would put an end to the mandatory sentencing law that has tied judges’ hands in Michigan since the 1980’s.

By Mary Bejian, ACLU of MIchigan Deputy Director