All writing is a form of prayer - John Keats

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
-has only accumulated a minimal number of misconducts, none of a violent nature,
-has been a mentor to younger prisoners,
-has 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 parole consideration.

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.


1 comment:

Cindy Anderson said...

Thanks, Doug--for posting Ricardo's essay and for enlightening the public about this issue. When people know the facts, they will work for reform.