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Criminal Justice Reform

“‘Juvenile’ is really a legal term for ‘child,’” O’Neal said. “We are introducing these bipartisan bills to make sure that we give children the chance at redemption."

Amos Oneal MI Criminal Justice_edited.jpg

Amos Introduces New Bills

Democrat State Rep. Amos O'Neal of Saginaw introduced one of four bills in the Michigan House on Thursday to prohibit state courts from imposing a sentence of life in prison with no chance of parole for anyone under age 18.

The bills would allow judges to sentence juveniles age 17 or younger to a minimum sentence of 10 years and maximum of 60 years in prison. Juvenile offenders would be eligible for parole review in 10 years. 

“‘Juvenile’ is really a legal term for ‘child,’” O’Neal said. “We are introducing these bipartisan bills to make sure that we give children the chance at redemption."

O'Neal said the Michigan legislation is a response to changing attitudes toward criminal justice policies involving minors. Researchers have pointed to developmental differences between adults and juveniles related to judgment, impulse control and peer pressure.

"We all agree that criminals need to pay for their crimes, but locking up a child for the rest of their life with no chance for parole is simply immoral," O'Neal said.

Those in our court system have the right to hear their cases heard within a reasonable timeframe.

Senate Bill 694

  • In February 2022, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed into law Senate Bill 694 as Public Act 8 of 2022 to maintain the current circuit court judgeship in Saginaw County, which had been previously scheduled to be eliminated. State Rep. Amos O’Neal (D-Saginaw) and state Sen. Ken Horn (R-Frankenmuth) sponsored the legislation at the request of Chief Judge Darnell Jackson. 

  • “Losing a circuit court judgeship in a county as populous as Saginaw would have slowed proceedings and decreased our residents’ access to justice,” said O’Neal, D-Saginaw. “I’m very proud of the work that we did on behalf of our constituents. Those in our court system have the right to have their cases heard within a reasonable timeframe. 

  • PA 8 of 2022 is a judicial reorganization that would maintain the circuit court judgeships in Saginaw County. The bill would also add circuit court judge positions in Muskegon and Wayne counties, reorganize the 89th Judicial District in northern Michigan and allow Kent County to add a fifth probate judge.

  • “I first want to thank state Sen. Ken Horn and state Rep. Amos O’Neal for their efforts in making this all happen,” said Saginaw County Judge Darnell Jackson, who personally testified in Lansing to make the case for the judgeship. “When I approached them with my concerns about losing a judgeship in Saginaw County, they both pledged their support to save it. Had it not been for the two of them, this would not have occurred. They have served the citizens of Saginaw County well.”

HB 5522 - Law Enforcement Supplemental

On Dec. 1, the House approved an appropriation supplemental bill to provide more than $300 million toward hiring initiatives, incentives and other programs to attract and retain police officers.


Although this is great news, the bill lacked the ability to support other key areas, including funding for other first responders, such as our EMTs and firefighters. We need a multifaceted approach to change the conditions that lead people to commit crimes in the first place.


That is why I offered an amendment to use $15 million in ARPA funds to combat violent crime. Sadly, this did not pass; however, this bill is a step in the right direction.


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