Life can only be understood by looking backward, but it must be lived by looking forward
The juveniles in the Macomb Correctional Facility National Lifers of America Inc. Chapter 1012 would like to respond to Attorney General Bill Schuette’s comments published Jan. 5 in the Detroit Free Press Schuette said the Miller v. Alabama ruling applies only to teenagers sentenced after 2012, and has sought to block parole hearings for the 350 juvenile lifers already housed in Michigan’s prisons on grounds that honoring their constitutional rights would unduly traumatize their victims’ survivors.
We would like for society to understand that we made poor choices as juveniles, and, given the opportunity to ever be released, we would like the chance to prove we have changed.
A life without the possibility of parole eliminates an opportunity of rehabilitation. This is rooted in Michigan’s legal traditions. Under current Michigan law, the most sympathetic 15-year-old accomplice to a felony murder and the most sociopathic adult serial killer will receive the same sentence, without any judicial ability to take stock of the difference between the two for sentencing purposes.
Therefore, we must look at a few important factors to measure any juvenile’s ability to be a productive citizen. Although many of us considered our sentence to be a death sentence we did not lose the desire to change into better people. I think this could be seen by our development and maturity. Many of us have demonstrated that we could maintain employment and be reliable by performing jobs as porters, cooks, clerks, maintenance workers, recreation officials, foremen, prisoner observation aids, electricians and plumbers. These jobs call for being relied upon daily and often. We have taken the very opportunities available for higher education and vocational training by getting involved in self-help classes like Chance for Life, Univeristy of Michigan’s Inside Out program, Custodial Maintenenace Technology Training, Thinking for Change, Ethical Challenges and Moral Values Training, Cage Your Rage, Conflict Resolution Training, Personal Growth and System Adjustment Assault Reduction, Assault Offender Programs, Substance abuse, and so on. We have joined organizations like National Lifers of America Inc. and the NAACP, in which we service our communities by having fundraisers to generate funds to donate: items such as teddy bears and blankets to kids; money to battered women in homeless shelters; and gloves, hats and boots to needy children. We have held seminars to speak to victims of violent crimes’ families in an effort to help them find closure.
We have created programs such as the Juvenile Initiative Program, which interacts with youthful offenders to deter them from going down the same path we did. Many of us facilitate classes for other inmates’ development in moral character and cognitive thinking because we have earned the trust of the staff by proving we could be dependable, responsible and trusted. Many of us have committed our lives to serving our fellow man in an attempt to atone for our reckless and immature actions as teenagers.
Michigan’s current parole system will not provide us with the meaningful opportunity for release. These mandatory sentences are unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and Article I, Section 16 of the Michigan Constitution, therefore a chance for release should be possible.
We are very remorseful for the acts we have committed against the victims and their families. We acknowledge that we are in a lifetime of debt to the victims’ families and our community.
We are not saying that we should all be set free; we are not looking for sympathy or are we saying that a certain amount of years is enough time serve to be set free. We are saying that we just want a chance to show you that we can change and we can be safely released back into society. Our entire lives have been documented in the MDOC — either it be misconducts or certificates for achievements. We believe this is why we should be given a second chance if we earn it.
— James Adrian
National Lifers of America Inc. Chapter 1012