All prisoners shall be treated with the respect due to their inherent dignity and value as human beings. UN General Assembly, Basic Principles for the Treatment of Prisoners
Some 20 years ago, I found that Michigan didn't abide by that principle, as I was trying to assist a wrongly-convicted prisoner.
-The Assistant Attorney General recommended no medical parole for Maurice, even though he was dying from Hepatitis C, final stage. A danger to society.
-The circuit court judge hearing the circumstances of Maurice’s terminal disease, said “We all gotta die sometime!”
-The Governor of our State, when faced with the request for a compassionate release, waited a year before granting approval. It was too late. Maurice died 3 months after his release.
One might think that, over the period of 20 years, we’d become a bit more civil, more humane. But, based on my experiences in just the past 10 days, that ain’t happening!
I attended two public hearings conducted by the Michigan Parole Board last week. I was disappointed to discover that, despite a change in state administrations and a replacement of an Assistant Attorney General, there was little improvement. A 76-year-old woman who showed considerable remorse for her crime, committed in a moment of passion, was badgered until reduced to tears. In the second hearing, a wrongly convicted prisoner who has now served 30 years was badgered by the Assistant AG, doing her best to prod him into showing remorse for something he didn’t do.
One week later I attended a court session where, thanks to a Supreme Court ruling, a juvenile’s sentence of life without parole had to be changed. The prisoner, at age 44, met every point for rehabilitation and restoration, after committing at the age of 17. The judge, a former prosecutor, would have no part of leniency. In my opinion, the resentence numbers that she ordered, 40-60 years with credit for time served, completely violate the spirit of the Supreme Court decision.
I show little sympathy when prisoners refuse to halt their criminal behavior while incarcerated, and then get vetoes from Parole Boards and judges.
But, when prisoners show promise, when obviously there has been rehabilitation, when their continued presence behind bars serves no purpose, when there’s not even a hint that they might reoffend, we are the criminals if we blow them off, mock them, ridicule them and deny a second chance.