Under a stipulation signed by R.I. Superior Court Judge Robert Krause and entered today, the RI Department of Corrections (DOC) will release from custody a man that ACLU of Rhode Island attorneys argued was unlawfully being held in prison despite a unanimous decision by the R.I. Parole Board to release him on supervised parole.
The habeas corpus petition filed on Tuesday on behalf of inmate Robert McKinney claimed that the DOC changed his parole eligibility date decades after he began serving time on murder and conspiracy charges, and that this change would have forced him to spend at least three extra years in prison despite a unanimous Parole Board decision made in May 2019 that he is qualified for release from custody now.
The controversy was generated by the DOC’s unannounced decision to change the way it calculates parole eligibility dates for individuals serving consecutive sentences for their crimes, and to apply the change retroactively. The stipulation does not address the legality of the DOC’s policy change, but the DOC does acknowledge that McKinney is “eligible for release to the community on the terms set forth by the Parole Board and without the need or requirement to serve additional time in the institution before such release to the community.”
With the resolution of McKinney’s case, the ACLU is reviewing a further challenge to the DOC’s policy application, as it is harming dozens of other inmates who might otherwise be eligible for parole consideration.
The habeas corpus petition was filed by ACLU of Rhode Island cooperating attorneys Lisa Holley and Lynette Labinger. Holley said today: “We are very happy that, with the cooperation of the DOC, Mr. McKinney can be lawfully released from custody without protracted legal action in the courts. We look forward to addressing the numerous other cases of similarly situated inmates with the DOC, hopefully with timely resolution.” ACLU cooperating attorney Labinger added: “We are encouraged that the DOC has recognized and appropriately begun to address the adverse impact of its policy change and look forward to working, hopefully collaboratively with DOC, to fix the issue as to all impacted.” The stipulation and related documents in the case can be found here.