I mouthed a silent “Thank you!” when I heard the news that Brian Shipman had been appointed chairman of the Michigan Parole Board last year. It was an excellent decision by Director Heidi Washington.
My first brush with the Michigan Parole Board came in 2004, when Maurice Carter was being considered for a compassionate release. At that time, the PB was run by a former prosecutor who still talked and acted like one. And, in his public hearing, Maurice was grilled by an Assistant Attorney General who acted like this was another trial.
As providence would have it, I later became a prisoner advocate and had many experiences with the Parole Board...and 9 out of 10 were just as bad or worse!
Years later, while representing a prisoner being considered for parole, I had the opportunity to interact with a new member of the board, Brian Shipman. What a difference! What a breath of fresh air! This man treated a prisoner like a human being!
Later, as son Matt started taking on most of the Parole Board duties for HFP, he expressed similar feelings.
I suspect it has a lot to do with Shipman’s background. He’s a veteran of more than 30 years with the MDOC, and he started out as a Corrections Officer!
Another step forward in the PB’s public hearing procedure occurred when Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel replaced Assistant AG Scott Rothermel with Alicia Lane. Things seemed to have mellowed out, quieted down. Until Tuesday, that is.
That’s when Parole Board newcomer Adrianne Van Langevelde presided over a hearing for one of our clients. In that session, Assistant AG Lane followed in Ms. Van Lengevelde’s footsteps, as they turned the whole session into a hellish experience for our friend (See Matt’s blog entry earlier this week). Shades of the past!
Was that just a temporary relapse? We hope so, because Thursday’s public hearing, conducted by board chair Shipman, was completely different...like day and night.
We’re hoping, and prisoners are praying, that Shipman’s attitude and style can prevail, and the torturous public hearings of the past stay there.
The entire PB would do well to consider these words from Pope Francis:
Human dignity is the same for all human beings: When I trample on the dignity of another, I am trampling on my own.