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Why Does MI Have So Many Female Prisoners Serving Life Sentences?

May 05, 2022, by Maurice Davis in Criminal Defense
Woman in orange behind prison bars

Michigan may have over 30 prison facilities across the state, but there is only one that houses only women. The Huron Valley Women’s Correctional Facility in Ypsilanti has reported an increase in the length of time incarcerated women are sentenced.

Why are female prisoners sentenced to life in prison when convicted of lower-level or non-violent crimes? Let’s explore further.

A Closer Look at Michigan Female Life Sentences

According to a recent study by The Sentencing Project, women’s life imprisonment sentences have increased by 33% over the last decade. Across the country, more than 2,000 women are serving life in prison without the possibility of parole. Of them, more than one-third will go on to attempt suicide.

In Michigan, women account for one of the largest populations serving life in prison without the possibility of parole.

How Are Women Receiving Life Sentences?

Women in Michigan are disproportionately incarcerated at higher rates for several reasons, such as:

Playing Minor Roles in an Offense

Women in Michigan are sentenced to life in prison more often than you might think, even if they were only loosely involved in the crime. One in four women sentenced only played minor roles in the crimes they were found guilty of.

Examples of Minor Roles

Some examples could include aiding and abetting, serving as a getaway driver, or having knowledge of the offense. Somehow, they were convicted and suffered the same penalties as the individuals who played significant roles or masterminded the crimes in question.

Defending Themselves Against Abusers

Up to 80% of women convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole acted in self-defense of themselves or others from abusers. This accounts for approximately 4% of murdered men killed by their female partners.

Convicted Women Often Have No Criminal Record

In most self-defense cases, the women committing the crimes have no criminal record. Conversely, men who are convicted of violent crimes often have extensive criminal histories and account for approximately one-third of the women who are killed by their male partners.

Additionally, the state of Michigan has some of the highest rates of Black women sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. This accounts for nearly 1 in 11 Black women across Michigan.

How Can Convictions for Michigan Women Be Reduced?

To reduce the number of women in Michigan being sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, the criminal justice system must be reformed. There must be significant changes made to the ways in which women are sentenced after conviction.

Ending these harsh criminal sentences for minor roles in a criminal offense is not only an excellent opportunity to reinvest in the community, but also to offer rehabilitation.

Increasing Access to Representation & Diversion Programs

Life in prison without the possibility of parole may not be appropriate for many women. By providing better access to representation and diversion program opportunities, the state could increase community safety and help neighborhoods and communities of color thrive once more.

Once female defendants complete the terms of the diversion program, they may have the charges against them reduced or dismissed entirely.

Meet with a Michigan Criminal Defense Lawyer Today

Our experienced Michigan criminal defense lawyers at Davis Law Group are here to help female prisoners and women charged with criminal offenses get through these difficult times and regain control of their lives.

Find out how to get back to your life when you contact our office for a confidential case evaluation. You can fill out our convenient contact form or call our office at (702) 878-2889 to start working on your case.