Last session, the legislature made quite a few changes to the laws concerning parole eligibility. Almost all of those changes were not retroactive. One change it did make applies to persons already serving time and that was a mechanism whereby persons who have been convicted of non-violent crimes who have served 25% of their sentence may request the judge who sentenced them (or, if that judge is no longer available, the senior circuit judge) to recommend parole to the parole board. Apparently this applies to habitual sentences as well as non-habitual sentences.
As the statute reads, an inmate who meets the criteria (non-violent crime who has served 25% of his or her time) would petition the sentencing judge to recommend to the parole board that he or she be paroled. I would assume that anyone doing this would want to present evidence of his good behavior in prison, any classes he or she has taken, etc. If the sentencing judge agrees, it would still be up to the parole board whether to grant parole.
Here’s the section:
MCA Sect. 47-7-3(1)(G)(iii)
(III) Notwithstanding the provisions of paragraph (1)(a) of this section, any nonviolent offender who has served twenty-five percent (25%) or more of his sentence may be paroled if the sentencing judge or if the sentencing judge is retired, disabled or incapacitated, the senior circuit judge,recommends parole to the parole board and the parole board approves.
I have no idea to what extent persons are having success with this procedure. There was a lot of confusion over the summer as to which inmates it would apply and in that confusion, I seem to have overlooked writing much about it.