In Michigan, over 360 children have been sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. In 2011 the ACLU filed a class action lawsuit in federal court challenging the practice as unconstitutional cruel and unusual punishment. In 2013 Judge John Corbett O’Meara agreed with the ACLU and ruled that all juveniles serving mandatory life sentences in Michigan must be given parole hearings. The state appealed. While the appeal was pending, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a different case that juveniles serving life without parole must be resentenced. The Michigan legislature enacted a new law that would allow some youth to be resentenced to life without the possibility of parole, and set a harsh mandatory sentencing range for everyone else. In light of these new developments, in 2017 the Sixth Circuit ruled that we could no longer bring a categorical challenge to all life-without-parole sentences. However, in April 2018 Judge Mark Goldsmith ruled that the new law’s harsh sentencing regime was an unconstitutional ex post facto law because it retroactively took away good-time credits that hundreds of class members had earned while serving their unconstitutional life sentences. In August 2018 the Sixth Circuit affirmed Judge Goldsmith’s ruling, which will give hundreds of prisoners an earlier opportunity for release and will save taxpayers millions of dollars. (Hill v. Whitmer; ACLU of Michigan Attorney Dan Korobkin; National ACLU Attorneys Steven Watt and Brandon Buskey; co-counsel Deborah LaBelle.)
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