Dispute Resolution Center to host movie and panel

The Dispute Resolution Center (DRC) will present a film screening and panel discussion of “15 to Life:  Kenneth’s Story,” at 7 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 14, 7 p.m., at the Michigan Theatre. Tickets are $15; $10 for students.

This documentary presents the story of Kenneth Young, who was tried as an adult at 14 years of age and received four consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole.  He accompanied his mother’s 24-year old drug dealer who planned and committed four armed robberies.

In the U.S. there are more than 2,500 juveniles serving mandatory life sentences, including over 350 in Michigan.  Michigan is one of five states where youth are frequently sentenced to life without parole. The United States is the only country in the world (except Sudan) that routinely condemns children to die in prison, which is what a life without parole is for juveniles.

In 2010, the Supreme Court ruled that mandatory life sentences for juveniles are unconstitutional regardless of the severity of the crime committed. The lower courts were left to decide whether this ruling should be applied retroactively to allow juveniles with mandatory life sentences to be re-sentenced. This legal issue is still being litigated, and thus far no consensus has
been reached.

The DRC is shining a light on this issue and how alternative forms of conflict resolution may be able to combat the pitfalls of the school to prison pipeline.

After the film, DRC executive director Belinda Dulin will moderate a panel of experts on the legal and social issues surrounding mandatory life sentences for juveniles.

Speakers include:  Judge Timothy Connors, Peacemaking Court; Deb LaBelle, an attorney advocate; Brian Sellers, an EMU criminologist specializing in juveniles in the criminal justice system; and Calvin Evans, life intervention specialist.

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