This was an amazing weekend exactly 10 years ago. Maurice Carter was free, after serving 29 years for a crime he did not commit. It was a time of celebration and elation!
Today, one decade later, Matt and I sit in the office that fulfills the Carter dream. And as we sit here, I'm wondering just how much progress has been made in the way Michigan handles prisoners.
Maurice was granted a compassionate release...he was not exonerated. He was in the final stages of Hepatitis C, and he desperately needed a liver transplant. He had been diagnosed with Hep-C 8 years earlier, but the state just didn't bother to share that information with him. Things haven't changed much.
It took the Governor one full year to grant the release, even though Maurice was dying and could not survive without a transplant. Things haven't changed much.
Before even granting the public hearing, the chairman of the Parole Board at that time offered Maurice an immediate release if he would simply confess to the crime for which he had been charged. Things haven't changed much.
In the public hearing, an assistant from the Michigan Attorney General's office strongly and loudly protested Maurice Carter's release. To that sadly misguided individual, Maurice was still a serious threat to society. Things haven't changed much.
This marked the first time in his 29 years that Maurice even managed to get in front of the Parole Board. Even though he had been eligible for parole for a long time, every time his name came up for a PB review the board simply sent a form letter expressing “no interest.” Things haven't changed much.
We keep hearing demands about prison reform in Michigan, and God knows we need it. But we hear very few demands for change with the Michigan Parole Board. This little group of 10 people has an incredible grip over thousands and thousands of lives, and thousands and thousands of tax dollars. Every time the board rejects parole for one eligible lifer, for example, that inmate must remain behind bars for another 5 years, and the cost to the state is almost a quarter of a million dollars!
We keep people in prison longer than any other state, ladies and gentlemen, and it's costing us a fortune! It's time to take a close, hard look at the Michigan Parole Board.
It's time to demand change and improvement!