Birmingham First, through our Church & Society Ministry and in cooperation with the Michigan State Appellate Defenders Office (SADO) in Detroit, sponsors an ongoing Juvenile Lifer (JL) support program. Juvenile Lifers are prison inmates who were sentenced to life in prison without parole when they were 17 years old or younger. There are currently over 300 Juvenile Lifers in Michigan prisons and most of them have served between 25 and 60 years behind bars. Our JL support program reaches out to both just-released Juvenile Lifers and to those who remain incarcerated.
SADO petitions the Michigan courts to resentence JLs and to provide these inmates with an opportunity for parole. As a result of SADO’s work, some JLs have been released from prison once they have fulfilled the terms of their resentencing.
Our JL support program provides just-released Juvenile Lifers with a backpack and a duffel bag containing life essentials (clothes, shoes, jackets, socks, winter outer wear, toiletries, and gift cards for meals and shopping). Volunteer shoppers are provided with a soon-to-be released JL’s name, sizes and any unique clothing needs along with a $330 shopping allowance to fill a backpack and duffel bag. The backpack and duffel bag are presented to the JL on the day he is released from prison. Between 10 -12 Michigan Juvenile Lifers are released each year. The backpacks and duffle bags that the church provides serve to welcome JLs back into society and to help ease their transition from incarceration.
Our JL support program currently corresponds with 2 Juvenile Lifers who remain incarcerated in Michigan prisons. SADO recommends JLs who would benefit from a friendship with our church congregation. Each month two church volunteers each write a caring note to one of our incarcerated JLs and orders a book to be sent to the JL. The books range from uplifting to topical to just a great story.
Our work with Juvenile Lifers is a joyful way for us to live out our faith and to follow Christ’s teaching to “love thy neighbor.” This is an active ministry of Birmingham First and if you would like more information on the program or would like to participate as a volunteer, please contact Frank Driscoll at 248.535.2225 or by email.