The Court of Appeals has ruled that the Parole Board has a statutory obligation to interview a prisoner before making a decision regarding the prisoner’s parole application. Additionally, a parole eligibility report must be prepared by the appropriate institutional staff before the expiration of the prisoner’s minimum sentence. In Hayes v. Parole Board, No. 321547, the Michigan Court of Appeals held that the trial court erred in denying the defendant’s complaint for a writ of mandamus compelling the Board to consider him for parole. The Court found that the Board had failed to fulfill the necessary statutory obligations in considering defendant’s parole application.
In January 1996, defendant was found guilty of armed robbery, conspiracy to commit armed robbery, and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony. The defendant was sentenced as a habitual offender to serve concurrent terms of 20 to 30 years in prison to be served consecutive to a two-year term. The defendant’s “net minimum date”—the calendar minimum date less disciplinary credits—for release was October 2, 2013. As early as 2008, the defendant began asking the Board to consider him for parole, but the Board repeatedly denied his requests. Hayes then asked a circuit court judge, who is the successor to the defendant’s sentencing judge, to grant the Board jurisdiction to consider him for parole, but the judge concluded that he did not have authority to grant jurisdiction because the Board is automatically vested with jurisdiction. The defendant then sued for a writ of mandamus, asking the trial court to order the Board to consider him for parole, which the trial court denied.
The Court of Appeals held that under MCL 791.234(1), the parole board acquires jurisdiction over a prisoner when that prisoner has served a period of time equal to the minimum sentence imposed by the court for the crime for which he or she was convicted, less good time and disciplinary credits. MCL 791.235(1) provides, however, that the Board has an obligation to interview a prisoner before rejecting his or her parole and that a parole eligibility report shall be prepared by appropriate institutional staff before the expiration of his net minimum sentence. Furthermore, the Court disagreed with the Board’s reading of MCL 769.12(4)(a) as requiring written approval from the sentencing judge or his or her successor for a prisoner to become eligible to be considered for release on parole; rather, the Court found that that statute requires written approval before a prisoner otherwise selected for parole will become eligible for the actual grant of parole.