Wednesday, February 29, 2012

On Michigan PB hearings

My memories of Parole Board public hearings are not fond.

It all began with the hearing for my friend Maurice Carter in 2004, when a stern-faced board chairperson stuck with his belief that Carter was guilty, and a crack-pot representative of the Michigan Attorney General's office recommended no release for this dying prisoner because he might get a gun after his release and start blazing away.

In a later public hearing, the same AG attorney shouted at a dying woman in a wheelchair, seeking release for medical reasons, until he reduced her to tears. Sitting next to me was former Governor William Milliken who was appalled.

So my hopes were not high yesteday, as I drove to Jackson for a medical commutation hearing for inmate Tracy Snay. She's dying of cancer, and has been given less than a year to live. I don't know her, but I promised her friends in prison at Huron Valley that I would put the reputation of HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS behind her request for release.

I must say that I was pleasantly surprised. Board Chair Tom Combs was courteous through the entire session. And the amazing contrast continued with the approach of Assistant Attorney General Scott Rothermel, who reviewed all of Ms. Snay's checkered history without ranting and raving.

In my brief testimony, I complimented both of them for their courtesy, and explained why HFP is so strongly behind medical commutations. It costs the state a fortune to care for ailing inmates, and their release poses NO threat to society. So what's the issue?

It was very apparent, listening to Ms. Snay, that she is fully aware of what drugs did to her life. She has a year to clean house, and I believe she's going to. It's my hope that HFP set an example by standing behind her and her request, even without knowing her, just as her Lord offering amazing grace with no strings attached. She is blessed with good friends at Huron Valley. Now the ball is in her court.

Pray for her.

Pray for our work.

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