Irredeemable

 

They were convicted of murder as kids and sentenced to a lifetime in prison. Five years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court called these mandatory sentences cruel and unusual punishment. Now, Michigan has begun the process of resentencing hundreds of juvenile lifers.

 

Prosecutors argue many of these prisoners are “irreparably corrupt” and should never be released. In IPR’s new series “Irredeemable,” you’ll hear from juvenile lifers who insist they've been rehabilitated and deserve a second chance.

You’ll meet a prisoner whose life was turned upside down by suicide, a man who hopes he'll get out so he can marry his fiancée and a man who – after 29 years – was finally released.

 

Courtesy of Penni Johnson

 

He was born April 29th, 1976. His parents named him James Dean Fuson.

Morgan Springer

 

(Editor’s note: we recommend you listen to the story.)

In March 2001, Fred Williams left his friend Tanya Davis’ house to get groceries. He was 17 and living on the west side of Detroit. Fred says he weighed two options before he left.

“I had Hometown Groceries on Joy Road and Wyoming,” Fred recalls, “or I had Foodarama on Livernois and Julian.”

Fred chose Foodarama because he could buy spaghetti ingredients and make a drug sale at the same time. He’d been selling drugs for about three years – mostly as a “corner boy” selling for someone else.

Lakeland Correctional Facility

 

(Editor’s Note: We recommend you listen to this story.)

Mark Smith was 17 when he shot and killed another teenager. He got the mandatory sentence – life without parole. But that didn’t mean Mark stopped living life.

Twenty years into his incarceration, Mark started corresponding with a straight-laced, Canadian woman named Dawn Dietrich. 

 

(Editor’s note: we recommend you listen to this story.) 

Jose Burgos was 16 years old when he shot and killed Omar Kaji. It happened during a bogus drug deal in 1991 in southwest Detroit. 

“The whole plan was, we’re going to make it look like – from the outside looking in – there’s 10 pounds of marijuana in this bag,” says Jose.

Hundreds of juveniles in Michigan have been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Now they have a chance at freedom.

IPR News Radio begins a series called ‘Irredeemable’ Wednesday morning that tells some of the stories of these people. 

Reporter Morgan Springer is leading the project. She answered questions about ‘Irredeemable’ and about these prisoners.