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Opponents of latest AR state tax cuts say they benefit wealthy Arkansans; Julian Assange agrees to a plea deal that would allow him to avoid imprisonment in US; Tech-based carbon-capture projects make headway in local government; NV nonprofit calls Biden's student debt initiatives economic justice.

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Charges against fake electors in Nevada are dismissed, Milwaukee officials get ready to expect the unexpected at the RNC convention, and the Justice Department says Alaska is violating the Americans with Disabilities Act.

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A Minnesota town claims the oldest rural Pride Festival while rural educators say they need support to teach kids social issues, rural businesses can suffer when dollar stores come to town and prairie states like South Dakota are getting help to protect grasslands.

MI woman shares Mother's Day with mom incarcerated for decades

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Monday, May 13, 2024   

Mother's Day has a special place in the heart of a Michigan woman whose mother's incarceration kept them separated for decades.

Jen Szénay of Michigan said in 1990, her mother was sentenced to life in prison for the death of her husband, in a murder-for-hire case.

Szénay explained that her mom is a domestic-abuse survivor who didn't feel protected by the law.

She said two men carried out the murder of her father - and her mom, who maintains her innocence, was accused of conspiring with them.

Szénay's mother was given a commutation from the governor and released from prison last March. Szénay shared what that first Mother's Day with her mom was like after three decades apart.

"Overjoyed to be together, but it was just like so much shock still surrounding it," said Szénay. "I mean, we had been apart since May 24, 1990. So just to be able to, like, sit with her, hold her hand. It's weird to talk about because there's so many little things that you don't realize that you miss in a person until you don't have it."

Szénay is the communications coordinator for the Michigan Collaborative to End Mass Incarceration, an organization advocating for second-chance legislation.

It would pave the way for those serving a long prison sentence to re-enter society if they're deemed to no longer pose a risk to the community.

Incarcerated individuals would need to petition their sentencing judge for a reduction of their sentence.

With statistics showing average annual prison costs of between $34,000 and $48,000 per person - not including health care - policy researchers estimate savings of approximately $200 million a year through second-chance legislation.

"A lot of these women are victims themselves of domestic violence, of sex trafficking," said Szénay. "To have the ability to go back and say, 'Look, this happened when I was 18, 19, 25, you know, any age, 30, whatever. This is who I am today.'"

Szénay said that money saved by reducing excessive prison sentences could be reinvested in violence prevention, victim services and mental health.

"Why these cases are so deserving of a second look," said Szénay, "is because when you hear the stories, you're like, how did this person get so much time for this situation?"

Michigan has roughly 44,000 people confined or detained, and the state spends nearly 20% of its General Fund on prisons - adding up to more than $2 billion per year.



Disclosure: Michigan Collaborative to End Mass Incarceration contributes to our fund for reporting on Criminal Justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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