The plight of lifers in the Michigan prison system troubles me a lot.
I was discussing the issue with a retired assistant prison warden a while back, who allowed that the nicest group of prisoners in the state---without question---is that group of inmates serving life sentences. They rarely cause problems, and if they ever do get released, they seldom re-offend.
And that begs the question: Why are they still in prison?
My recently departed theologian friend, Rev. Al Hoksbergen, always contended that the life sentence without parole was “un-Christian.”
But aside from that, there is clear evidence that many of these people would make productive citizens, and that their continued incarceration is a serious waste of taxpayer dollars.
Three cases in point: 1), Dorothy is 50, has been in prison 34 years, has a beautiful record of accomplishment and service to others. She was a teenager when she went to prison. The Parole Board has indicated that it has no interest in her case. 2), Michael is 60, and was also a teenager when he was arrested. He has served 43 years, and the Parole Board not only indicates no interest but says it will review the case in another 5 years. He's not involved in misconduct, and has been on his best behavior. And 3), Steven is 64, and has been locked up for 40 years. He's resigned to the fact that God must want him to work for him behind bars, but there's no earthly reason to keep him there. He has a brilliant mind and a kind spirit.
I'll concede that there are cases where troubled inmates must remain behind bars. But if we are serious about wanting to reduce our prison population, and wanting to rehabilitate well-behaved inmates, we're going to have to re-think the idea of throwing away the key on lifers.