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Some Michigan inmates may get earlier chance at parole, part II

Welcome back. Last week, we began discussing a ruling from the Michigan Court of Appeals that could impact the ability of several longtime prisoners to get their parole application heard a little early. In today’s post, we will discuss that ruling, and why it will not affect the vast majority of Michigan’s inmate population.

To briefly recap from last time, back in 2008, a man serving 20 to 30 years for armed robbery and conspiracy began asking the Michigan Parole Board to consider granting him early release. With credits on his record for good behavior, the man’s “net minimum” release date was Oct. 2, 2013, while his original minimum date of release is not until July 2017.

But the parole board refused to hear his case, saying the man needed written permission from the judge who sentenced him first. And the successor to that judge would not grant issue the permission, saying he lacked jurisdiction.

This legal tangle reached the Court of Appeals, which ruled that the parole board had misinterpreted the law. The court said that the sentencing judge is not required to sign off on having an inmate considered for parole. His or her signature is only needed once the board has decided to grant parole, the court ruled.

This decision could clear up some of the bureaucracy for around 100 to 200 people currently behind bars seeking a chance at parole, according to the Lansing State Journal. But most inmates are subject to a 1998 “truth in sentencing” law that prohibits shortening of prison sentences for good behavior. So the ruling’s impact will be fairly limited.

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