House bills 4518 and 4594-4596 as introduced in February of 2009 would amend various acts to prohibit sentencing a juvenile convicted of a crime to life without the possibility of parole and also revise parole eligibility for juveniles sentenced as adults. The bills would forbid sentences of life without parole for offenders who were under the age of 18 at the time of their offenses and extend parole eligibility to prisoners who were under age 18 at the time of their offenses. The bills could create savings for the Department of Corrections, and would have no fiscal impact on local government. As of January 15, 2009, there were 485 prisoners serving life sentences for crimes they committed under the age of 18. The number of these prisoners released and the savings that would follow from that would depend on parole board decisions on prisoners made eligible for parole.
One argument against these bills is the fact that they seek to change a problem that doesn't exist. In the last three years the Wayne County Prosecutors Office has waived 100 life offenders' cases where a juvenile under the age of 17 committed a life offense. And of these cases, only two juveniles were convicted of First Degree Murder and sentenced to life without parole. The two exceptions were very dangerous juveniles who were treated accordingly. Their age and level of violence were considered when charging and plea offers were also made.
Amnesty International would argue differently. Article 37 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child states, "Both capital punishment and life imprisonment without the possibility for release are prohibited for offenses committed by persons below 18 years." Michigan is one of the 26 states that sentence juveniles convicted of murder to mandatory life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. Amnesty International claims that Michigan has more than 300 youths serving life without parole. These bills would eliminate the sentence of life without parole for any crime committed by a child under the age of 18.