The public hearing concept of the Michigan Parole Board is flawed, and I just can't see how it's ever going to get revised.
A public hearing isn't granted to a prisoner often, and a chosen inmate is immediately elated. It offers hope for freedom. Little does he or she know how traumatic this experience will be.
I participate whenever asked. It's HFP's goal to offer hope, and we must never refuse these opportunities. A three-hour drive to speak for just 2 minutes means nothing. We do it without complaint.
This week I agreed to testify at a public hearing for a woman who had served 26 years on a charge of second degree murder. She didn't really commit the murder...but her boyfriend and his buddies did. She didn't even know it happened until later, but she was implicated, and she was convicted. Life in prison at the age of 20.
She was angry. As a child she had been abused and neglected. She had children outside of marriage. She was dating a drug dealer at the time of this crime. Life wasn't good.
And so, in prison, she continued on this downward path, raising hell at every turn. In her first years in prison she received some 60 misconduct tickets.
But she woke up. An experienced hair dresser, she offered her services to prisoners. She took courses for self improvement. She accepted God in her life, and went to church. She went to school. She became a para-legal and assisted other prisoners.
Then, at age 46---26 years after she was locked up---came word of this public hearing. Family and friends supported her, as did a faith-based re-entry organization and HFP.
But there were issues. Number one, the Wayne County Prosecutor's office opposed the release. Only the Lord knows why. And the state Attorney General's representative didn't like all those tickets, and he couldn't get over it. Besides that, in 2008 the prisoner got in a fight with a room-mate over trying to climb into the top bunk by stepping on the lower bed. And, she and a guard got in a twit over a nonsense argument. That resulted in a ticket in 2011.
Based on all those issues, the AG's man recommended NO PAROLE. No one in that room would want to be judged by things done in their lives 25 years ago. No one in that room could say they had not been involved in pointless arguments twice in the past decade. Makes no difference. This woman is not fit for re-entry into society.
I already know what's going to happen. She's going to get a flop. It's carved in stone. Her dreams dashed in just two grueling hours. These smug people can all go home and think they did their job, put it out of their minds, and enjoy Thanksgiving with their families and friends. The prisoner will not get a chance again for another couple of years. Her heart will be broken.