Michigan House Republicans

PHOTO INFORMATION: Rep. VanderWall (R-Ludington) is sworn in by House Clerk Gary Randall for his second term in the Michigan House of Representatives.

Rep. VanderWall: “If you attack a school, you will go to jail for life.”
RELEASE|May 9, 2023
PHOTO INFORMATION: Rep. VanderWall (R-Ludington) is sworn in by House Clerk Gary Randall for his second term in the Michigan House of Representatives.

State Rep. Curt VanderWall (R 102 – Ludington) issued a statement today concerning changes he hopes to see in the juvenile life without parole bills that he co-sponsors.

“I signed on to this package with the understanding that serious changes needed to be made,” VanderWall said. “And now I want to be a part of that solution. It’s easy to throw bombs and criticize legislation, but it’s hard to negotiate language that moves us forward. I would rather get my hands dirty trying to fix up and polish a bill than sit back and let a rough draft become law. By expressing a willingness to negotiate with the other side of the aisle, there is a chance we can move the needle and get some things we want instead of closing ourselves off and getting nothing.”

Current statutes allow minors who commit certain serious offenses to be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. VanderWall’s proposed substitutions to HBs 4160-4164 would instead require juvenile lifers to be reviewed for parole eligibility after 25 years in prison. But the original versions of the bills, without his proposed changes, allow juvenile lifers to be parole eligible after just 10 years.

“This package is based on a good concept but needs some refining. I have talked to local law enforcement on this issue, and we know that rehabilitation happens over years of hard work,” VanderWall said. “The human brain doesn’t fully develop until 25, and so while it doesn’t seem right to some to keep a 14-year-old who commits murder in prison for life, it also isn’t prudent to release them before their brains have fully developed.”

VanderWall’s changes would also eliminate provisions in the bills that allow parole eligibility for those who commit mass murder or terrorism altogether.

“The Oxford shooter was 15 when he committed mass murder. It’s not right that he should be parole eligible after 10 years. If these amendments pass, my Republican colleagues and I will have sent a clear message that we won’t tolerate these wanton acts of violence,” VanderWall said. “Let me make it clear: If you shoot up a school, you will go to prison for life without the possibility of parole.”

HB 4160-4164 received testimony in the Criminal Justice Committee where VanderWall presented these proposed changes. The bills are expected to receive a vote next week.


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