“What does a model prisoners look like?” That’s the question from my friend Ricardo. Ricardo has been in the Michigan prison system for 36 years, and is a prolific writer.
He was pointing out, in this particular essay, that over-incarceration is costing Michigan tax-payers a ton of money. We’ve been hammering on that for years.
He gave as an example the case of his friend Charlie. Charlie is 75, and what we call a “parolable lifer.” He’s serving a life sentence, but is eligible for parole. Charlie has served nearly 44 years with an impeccable blemish-free prison record. “He has never incurred a misconduct report in his entire period of incarceration, quite a rarity given the amount of years he's been in prison. His accomplishments are far too many to mention. Nevertheless, the Michigan Parole Board chose to ignore arguably the most excellent of candidates to grant parole. Like countless others who have long been eligible, the board simply rejects moving good candidates forward by giving their standard denial of ‘The majority of the Parole Board has no interest in your case.’” Asks Ricardo: “If Charlie isn't the ideal candidate, then who is? His health is not so good. He's undergone surgery on both legs and is also a chronic care patient. Why continue to hold someone like Charlie who the state's own risk assessment mechanism indicates as being ‘a low risk?’”
That is a burning question as a new administration takes over top state offices in January.
We have a long list of similar names…names of men and women who are eligible for parole, and who should have been freed long ago. In fact, a new letter just landed on our desk from Albert. Albert is 63, has served 43 years, has received the “no interest” message from the Parole Board 9 times, and has two applications for commutation denied. He’s taken the right programs, and done his best to improve himself. “What more can I do,” he asks. What more, indeed!
In addition to the parolable lifers, we haven’t even touched the topic of those serving long indeterminate sentences, the LDI inmates. They don’t even get the opportunity for parole until they’ve served shamefully long minimum sentences. Something’s gotta give.
The new Objective Parole Bill, recently signed by the Governor, will make a dent. But we have so much farther to go.
Those campaigning for Governor and Attorney General promised change and improvement.
It cannot come soon enough!