Monday, April 27, 2015

That rare moment when a parole is granted!

It kinda reminds you of the sheep farmer that Jesus talked about!

The guy was caring for 100 sheep, in the parable as related by Dr. Luke in Chapter 15, when one of them got lost.  He left the 99 out in the open country and went looking for the lost sheep.  When he found it, he put the frightened animal on his shoulders and carried it home.  He then called his friends and neighbors, asking them to rejoice with him, because he had found the one lost sheep.

Well, that seems to be about the percentage of paroles granted in Michigan.  But today we learned of one, and we’re rejoicing!

I had written a piece on this site last November, after a discouraging day.  I had promised my friend Joe that I would speak on his behalf at a Public Hearing, where the Michigan Parole Board would collect information pertaining to his possible release.  The hearing hadn’t gone well, in my opinion.  In fact, the day got off to a bad start before the hearing even began.  Joe’s elderly step-father suffered a medical crisis right in the prison parking lot and had to be rushed to the hospital.  He later died, and Joe never made it to the funeral.  I sat beside his shaken mother as we waited for the hearing to begin.

The record clearly showed that Joe participated in a heinous crime while drinking liquor and smoking weed.  He was in his early 20s at the time.  But this was 38 years later…38 years that he spent regretting that he had ever done such a terrible thing, and 38 years spent doing his best to improve himself and make something of his life.  A spiritual being, he was assured of God’s forgiveness, but no such luck with the State of Michigan.

There was opposition in the public hearing from the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office, although the young assistant Prosecutor who spoke hadn’t even been born yet when the crime occurred. There was opposition from the victim of the crime.  And there was strong opposition, as usual, from the Michigan Attorney General’s office.  No one wanted to focus on Joe’s record of accomplishment and improvement.  Everyone wanted to focus on his state of mind as a young man, and the crime that brought him to prison nearly 40 years ago.

I didn’t give Joe a snowball’s chance, but in addition to testifying at his Public Hearing, I did communicate my feelings to the Parole Board and the Attorney General’s Office. I grumbled loudly in my blog entry of November 6.

Then, no word of any decision.  Silence.

Now, 5 months later, Joe receives positive news:  A parole has been granted!

Like the sheep farmer in the parable, we’re inviting our friends and neighbors to rejoice with us.  To us it seems like we hear of 99 rejections to 1 approval for parole.  But we’ll take it.  We don’t get many victories in this office, and when we do, we savor the experience!

We think there’s rejoicing in heaven as well!

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