A statewide website has received a makeover. The new Sex Offender Registry has debuted in Michigan. Read more
A new program at a prison in Chippewa County is giving a second chance to some homeless dogs and a group of inmates. Read more
A Wexford county man is free today after being exonerated on an arson charge. Victor Caminata served five years in prison for the wrongful conviction. Read more
A federal judge in Detroit says the state must give more than 350 inmates sentenced as juveniles to life without parole a chance at freedom. US District Court Judge John O’Meara says a US Supreme Court ruling that struck down Michigan’s juvenile lifer law and others like it applies retroactively, as well as in the future.
The order also says the state has to offer a “real and meaningful” chance at parole.
Deborah LaBelle is an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, which challenged the juvenile lifer law. She says the state has been too slow to comply with the ruling.
“We can all read what the US Supreme Court said: To put youth in prison for life without looking at them again is cruel and unusual punishment,” she says. “Michigan has to stop imposing that punishment.”
LaBelle says the state’s foot-dragging includes denying juvenile lifers entry into programs that prepare inmates for life outside prison. She says those programs are part of what a parole board considers, so denying an inmate a spot in a re-entry initiative is practically the same as denying parole.
“They can’t even get into rehabilitative programming because the state keeps telling them: ‘You’re going to die in prison,’” said LaBelle.
State Attorney General Bill Schuette has argued in court and the Legislature that the Supreme Court ruling should be narrowly applied to future cases and just a handful of inmates currently serving.
“In every case where a juvenile is sentenced to life in prison, a victim was already sentenced to death – forever. The victim’s family then grapples with the aftermath of post-traumatic stress, depression, unyielding grief, and visits to a grave,” says Schuette’s spokeswoman, Joy Yearout. “Attorney General Schuette opposes re-victimizing these families through unnecessary hearings not required by the U.S. Supreme Court.”
Schuette could try to appeal the order.
There is also an effort underway in the Legislature to re-draft the juvenile lifer law to comply with the US Supreme Court decision.
The court did not rule out life-without-parole sentences for juveniles. The opinion says the sentence cannot be mandatory, and a judge must hold a hearing to decide whether a life-without-parole sentence is appropriate. O’Meara’s order also says the state’s process cannot allow a trial judge or anyone else to veto a parole board’s decision to grant a release.
O’Meara’s order says he could name a special magistrate to supervise the state’s compliance with his order. He set a deadline of January 31 for the state to submit a plan to the court.
A northern Michigan court is one of six to be chosen to participate in a national initiative.
The Michigan Supreme Court will decide whether more than 300 inmates sentenced to life without parole for murders committed while they were juveniles are entitled to parole hearings. That’s just one question the court will consider regarding the state’s juvenile lifer law. Read more
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BY RICK PLUTA
Michigan Public Radio Network
Governor Rick Snyder’s administration and state employee unions are arguing about who should be in the room during contract bargaining. It’s thrown a wrench into talks on contracts that will begin in 2015 for 35,000 union-represented workers including Department of Human Services caseworkers, environmental scientists, and corrections officers.
The five unions would like to bargain as a single unit with State Employer Jan Winter. She is Governor Rick Snyder’s lead negotiator. Coalition bargaining was tried two years ago and, even though the talks went down to the wire, both sides said they were satisfied with the result.
But, this year, Winter said she’d like to have fewer people actually at the bargaining table. She said the presence of bargaining committees made up of state employees makes the negotiations unwieldy, and she’d prefer to deal strictly with union leaders.
“When it comes to coordinating bargaining with more than one union, we believe the process can be made more efficient and effective by meeting collectively with leaders and a smaller number of representatives as we did when the final agreement was reached in 2011 rather than with nearly 100 people in a bargaining room,” said Winter spokesman Kurt Weiss in an e-mail.
The unions said that’s a non-starter with them.
“They’re trying to divide the unions,” said UAW Vice President Cindy Estrada. “Your bargaining committees need to be there.”
Estrada said the members of the bargaining committee can offer immediate feedback on what departmental workers will and will not find acceptable. She said their presence in the talks also make them a valuable resource when it comes time to sell the contracts to the members.
The unions said this also represents a turnaround by the Snyder administration on its commitment to joint union bargaining sessions.
For now, the state will carry on separate negotiations with each of the unions. The unions are United Auto Workers Local 6000, the Michigan State Employees Association, Service Employees International Union Locals 517M and 526M, the Michigan Corrections Organization, and the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Council 25 and Local 5.
Estrada said the bargaining committees will be present for those talks. She said the unions have also agreed to negotiate matching contracts with the state. The Snyder administration needs the contracts wrapped up by the end of the year so they can be incorporated into a 2015 budget proposal that’s due early next year.
Copyright 2013, MPRN
BY SARAH CWIEK
The Michigan Department of Corrections will run the Detroit Detention Center.
Officials call the center “a unique city-state partnership” that will create a more efficient processing system.
Detroit Police Chief James Craig said it should also free up more police officers.
processing detainees by arresting officers has been a very
time-consuming activity. The opening of this facility will significantly
expedite detainee processing for officers, allowing them to return to
the street,” Craig said.
Officials said the facility will also have better conditions for prisoners.
Detroit Police have been under federal oversight since 2003, in part because of poor conditions for prisoners.