A few years ago, in this article titled “Reflecting on Parole’s Abolition in the Federal Sentencing System,” I explained why I thought “parole might serve as an efficient and effective means to at least partially ameliorate long-standing concerns about mandatory minimum statutes and dysfunctional guidelines” and why sentencing reformers “ought to think about talking up the concept of federal parole anew.” My basic thinking is that parole can and sometimes will usefully serve as a kind of second-look sentencing mechanism to indirectly fix the most problematic of sentences. This article and thinking came to mind when I recently saw these two heartening press stories about ugly sentences partially ameliorated by parole grants:
From Alabama, “Disabled Iraqi War vet imprisoned for medical marijuana possession granted parole.” An excerpt:
Disabled Iraqi War veteran Sean Worsley, who was arrested while driving through in Pickens County in 2016 and charged with felony possession of medical marijuana legally prescribed in his home state of Arizona, was granted parole on Wednesday by the Alabama Board of Pardons and Parole after being incarcerated more than eight months.
With marijuana illegal in Alabama, Worsley, a Purple Heart recipient, was sentenced to five years in prison. On September 23, he was transferred from the Pickens County Jail to the Draper Correctional Facility. Parole was granted with special conditions — that Worsley undergoes a drug test upon release.
From Louisiana, “Black man serving life sentence for stealing hedge clippers granted parole.” An excerpt:
A Black man in Louisiana serving life in prison for stealing hedge clippers more than two decades ago was granted parole — months after the state’s Supreme Court declined to review his sentence. The Board of Pardons and Committee on Parole voted Thursday to release Fair Wayne Bryant, 63, records show. He walked out of prison later that day after serving more than 20 years at the state penitentiary in Angola, his attorney said….
Bryant was 38 when he was arrested in January 1997 for taking a pair of clippers from a carport storeroom at a home in Shreveport. The homeowner was alerted to the theft and chased Bryant off. That same year, a jury convicted him of attempted simple burglary of an inhabited dwelling, and Bryant, who had previous convictions, was sentenced to life in prison because he was considered a “habitual” offender under state law.
Bryant in previous appeals argued that his sentence was “unconstitutionally harsh.” But in July, the state’s Supreme Court declined to review his sentence.