An account of the activities of Humanity for Prisoners, a 501c3 non-profit organization that seeks to provide personalized, problem-solving services for inmates who don’t know where to turn.
Thursday, July 26, 2018
Wasting dollars and lives, say Doug & Ricardo
I have long contended that the
State of Michigan could save a ton of money by releasing aging prisoners
who pose a threat to no one. Let me throw out a few numbers.
We have about 39,000 people in the
state prison system, and it costs us about $36,000 per person per year to
keep them there. Of that 39,000, more than 3,000 are age 60 and older: 8.1%
of the Michigan prison population. And in that group, about 70-80 are 80
years of age and older! Now common sense will tell you that if it costs
$36,000 to care for the average, healthy prisoner, it’s going to cost
double or triple that amount to care for these old-timers.
Ricardo Ferrell, a 60-Year-old Michigan prisoner with who enjoys writing essays,
helps us with this topic. Despite serving over 43 years on a
parolable life sentence, Darnell, 66, sits languishing in a Michigan prison
even after being assessed by the MDOC as having a low risk of violence and an
unlikelihood of reoffending. This prisoner over the last four decades
only accumulated a minimal number of misconducts, none of a violent nature,
been a mentor to younger prisoners,
been an example for fellow prisoners.
Recently, he was able to mediate
between two gangs by utilizing Alternative Dispute Resolution Skills he
taught himself. Darnell continues to show himself worthy of fair and positive
Despite all of this, last year on
his 65th birthday he received the standard Notice: "The Majority of the Parole Board has 'NO INTEREST' in your
case. Your next consideration date is scheduled for August 12, 2022."
It would seem that any logical-minded individual would realize that Darnell poses a low risk to public safety and a readiness to finally be paroled. It’s
apparent his many accomplishments, strong support network, gainful
employment offers, mental stability, substantially showing of his ability
to succeed, expressing remorse for his crimes, showing empathy for his
victim(s), and taking full responsibility were not fairly considered. He’ll
be 70 years old at his next scheduled file review.
Darnell’s situation is quite
indicative as to why there is a dire need for parole reform
for parolable lifers who have served 3, 4, or 5 decades on a sentence that
was not intended to mean life behind bars. Irrespective of the opinions of
lawmakers, prosecuting attorneys, parole board members, and general public
- parolable lifers certainly are not
the 'worst of the worst!' Often they actually are the opposite---the most
well-behaved prisoners, usually tutoring and mentoring others, and having
the lowest recidivism rate.
-- The MDOC and Michigan Parole Board
should seriously look at ways to release elderly prisoners like Darnell, who
has unequivocally been proven by COMPAS assessments and other factors, not
to be a danger or risk to public safety.