Criminal justice reform has been the hot topic, for some time…. as well as being something that desperately requires attention & change. The demands for police reform are visible everywhere right now… by ALL people, in ALL corners of society. But like so many things that are tolerated and allowed to go on… it’s just been 1 injustice after another, after another and so on before it finally got the attention it’s needed all along.

Sadly, society has, all too often, made a habit of closing it’s eyes on the other areas of itself, that aren’t as pleasant or don’t directly affect them. This has begun to change… in part due to the massive coverage by today’s (news & social) medias, usually in an effort to twist it in their own favor. Let it be for political purposes or simply to help establish their individual agendas. Whatever the reason may be, it’s finally casting a light on the problem and the need for a real solution.

But, now, to seek legitimate & complete criminal justice reform, you have to really understand what all it entails. Yes, police reform is a crucial step in fixing this broken & outdated criminal justice system… but you HAVE to include sentencing & prison reform, to make a real impact.

However, one of the greatest obstacles, that prevents the same unified response…. as we see for police reform… is that there’s no unified standard for sentencing within the Nation or from State to State. Which makes it more difficult for citizens of one State or Region, to unite and seek-out the same changes as those of another. This is the reason that these areas have been overlooked and/or tolerated, for far too long!

You have States with Good-time, which allow for early release after 50% to 85% of their sentence (based on behavior) and then you have those States which no longer award Good-time and instead adopted ” Truth-in-Sentencing” which requires 100% or MORE of your sentence, to be served… then you have States where sentences of “Life” can range between 17 and 30 years (still allowing for a chance at rehabilitation) OR (like Michigan) where a sentence of Life w/out Parole is ultimately a sentence of death in prison.

And coming from a State that opposes the Death penalty… a sentence of “Life without the possibility of Parole” is a serious contradiction. Because, no matter the means… the end is ultimately the same. A sentence of Death.

As an example: You can have the same person, with the same record -in 2 separate States- be convicted of 1st degree Murder and they will receive 2 VERY DIFFERENT sentences. This makes no sense to me, when I’m being told that I should be sentenced to die in prison in 1 State… while if I was born a couple miles south, in another State, that my life would be worth having the opportunity for rehabilitation. That’s a harsh, but VERY true statement of the facts!

And because of these differences… of which I can really only give my direct perspective on Michigan’s sentencing & incarceration practices… this will be directed at those areas of the criminal justice system, that are screaming for reform. I implore ALL people to really take a look at it… especially anyone from Michigan… but also if you’re from another State, Region or Country, to take a much closer look into the specifics surrounding the “prison & sentencing” practices of your area.

This is an issue that I think about, pretty much daily… having received a sentence of Life w/out the Possibility of Parole, to be spent within the Michigan Dept. of Corrections (MDOC). If nothing changes within the Courts or if nothing changes by the hand of the Governor (in the form of capping Life sentences or a commutation)… then this is ultimately a sentence to death by incarceration within the MDOC.

I think a lot of this has been weighing on me more heavily than usual, for a few reasons… in the current atmosphere, this is the very best time to see real and impactful reforms. Whether it be for humanity reasons or financial reasons, prison reform has been a topic involved in a lot of discussions and by a lot of people who see that its been past due for some changes. Just a few of the, more than 2 dozen, organizations who’ve been diligently working to bring change are:

  • ACLU of Michigan
  • American Friends Service Committee, Michigan Justice Program
  • Citizen for Prison Reform
  • Detroit Justice Center
  • Hudson-Webber Foundation
  • Humanity for Prisoners
  • Safe and Just Michigan
  • State Appellate Defender Office
  • and many more…

Another reason has been, that I’m preparing to see the Parole Board again… this is a cruel-formality, that all Lifer’s have to endure. After the 1st 10 yrs and then again every 5 yrs, they schedule Lifer’s for a Parole Board Review. There’s always the miniscule chance they recommend you for a public hearing, but again, it’s really a formality in their procedure. Another reason, is that my daughter is pregnant with her 1st child and it’s brought about the thoughts & memories of all the details of her life I missed out on… as well as how I failed her, by not being there when she’s needed me! Those are just a couple of the most current reasons (public & private), why this is even more prominent in my thoughts these days.

But, the real topper to this subject, was that in the midst of all those things above… I was forwarded a message, that was addressing this exact need for criminal justice reform. And it was specifically speaking on sentences of LWOP.

Now, I’ve never been a believer in coincidence… which could only mean that this was a subject, that I needed to write about. How it comes across or how it reads isn’t as important as just having it there to be read! So, I can only hope this is seen and can move even 1 person, to encourage them to become aware and motivate them to join the fight to impact complete criminal justice reforms?!

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