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New Report Makes the Case for Releasing Long Term Prisoners

Photo: / AFSC


New Report Makes the Case for Releasing Long Term Prisoners

Ending Perpetual Punishment takes on MI Commutations Process

Ypsilanti, MI (September 18, 2018) This week, the American Friends Service Committee’s Michigan office released a report titled Ending Perpetual Punishment: The case for commutations for people in Michigan prisons. The report outlines the importance of paying attention to people who are serving life and virtual life sentences and documenting the successes and transformations of men and women who served long time and are now released.

“Ending Perpetual Punishment asks us to rethink how we address violence in our communities,” says Natalie Holbrook, author of the report and director of AFSC’s Michigan Criminal Justice Program. “If nearly a third of the prison population is serving time for violent offenses that land them indefinitely in the system, and if many of the men and women serving the longest time are in all actuality the most prepared – through personal transformation and growth – to come home from prison and help address violence in our communities, then the state should be providing avenues for their release.”

Over 7000 people in Michigan prisons are serving sentences with a 20 year minimum or higher. The report makes a set of policy recommendations, asks Governor Snyder to commute the sentences of as many long serving people as possible in the next few month, and asks future governors to use their executive powers to commute life sentences often and with a broadened process that is both more efficient and fairer in application.

According to the report, “By relying on the state to offer up one-dimensional solutions for harms in communities, we have forgone pathways toward healing and transformation. Instead, we’ve created spaces like prisons where violence and trauma are perpetuated. In Michigan, we have defaulted to believing that all survivors of crime and communities impacted by crime desire a lifetime of punishment. In reality, victims of violent crime widely support shorter sentences and a reduced reliance on incarceration.”

In addition to policy recommendations and statistics, Ending Perpetual Punishment showcases the stories of ten people who have served or are currently still serving long term sentence.

“If I could say something to the parole board or Governor Snyder, I would say that

over-incarceration serves no one,” writes Toni Bunton, an advocate, speaker, and writer who spent 16 years in prison. “Women who go to prison cannot heal in a prison environment because you’re in a fight or flight zone. In order to heal, you have to feel safe and protected. So I ask them to consider better conditions in prison and to give some women a second chance.”

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The American Friends Service Committee is a Quaker organization that promotes lasting peace with justice, as a practical expression of faith in action. Drawing on continuing spiritual insights and working with people of many backgrounds, we nurture the seeds of change and respect for human life that transform social systems.