It has been a busy week this past week and for the most part, it has been beneficial to inmates, or at least rather to those convicted of felonies.
First, let’s begin out of Michigan. Michigan’s sex offender registry has been in the news a lot in the last few years. In fact, it has been to the U.S. Supreme Court twice. Once, it upheld a decision by the appellate court that parts of the registry were punishment and therefore could not be applied retroactively. In that case, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the decision. In another decision, when the state appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, their cert petition was denied.
Now, comes two cases from the Michigan Supreme Court. The two cases are Michigan v Snyder (Case No 153696) and People v Betts (Case No 148981). In those two cases, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel filed an amicus curiae brief stating that Michigan’s sex offender registration and notification requirements are punishment because they are so burdensome and fail to distinguish between dangerous offenders and those who are not a threat to society.
According to a press release, Nessel went on to state “when originally put into place, Michigan’s Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act was narrow in scope and specifically designed to be an important law enforcement tool.” Nessel went on to say that because Michigan’s registry allows the public to submit tips, it encourages citizens to act as vigilantes, opening up the possibility of retaliation and vindictiveness.
While none of Nessel’s brief is groundbreaking in and of itself-the fact that such a forceful attack on the registry is coming from the state’s own attorney general is impressive. Far too many district attorneys and attorneys general feel it is their job to defend every single state enactment, no matter how plainly unconstitutional, unfair, or unwise it is. Rather than advancing the interests of the citizens, they defend lawmakers obviously in error.
It is good to see a state attorney doing the right thing and not running on fear mongering. We could use a lot more Dana Nessels. The registry is a house of cards, waiting for the right wind to make it collapse. When the state’s own officials start applying the breeze, there is serious reason to hope that collapse is coming soon.
As far as we can tell, this is the first time an attorney general openly admits the law is wrong regarding the registry. We will continue to monitor this situation. Thanks to our friends Nick and Tom for sharing this information with us.
In other news, the first inmate in the country has been released based on the seven-day fix to the First Step Act. According to Mother Jones, distributed through Legal Information Services (LISA) Newsletter, Mark Walker, an inmate who was housed at FCI Big Springs in Texas had filed a Habeas Corpus petition in his sentencing district arguing the exact same argument we put out, that Section 102(b)(2) of the First Step Act only applies to the new time credits and not the seven-day fix.
When the government responded, they did not even address the merits at all, but argued that Walker should have filed his petition in the Northern District of Texas, where he was being held, not the District of Oregon, where he was sentenced. While technically this is correct, Judge Ralph R. Beistline granted relief in Walker’s favor due to the fact that the government completely sidestepped the merits of the argument.
In his order, he ordered the Bureau of Prisons to recalculate Walker’s sentence and release him “without delay if the recalculation confirms that the Defendant’s term of imprisonment has expired.” Based upon the recalculation, Walker’s sentence had expired and he was immediately released.
Unfortunately, this only applied to Walker’s case individually and has no precedence across the country. However, it shows that if enough people try, this will get the ball rolling. If you would like more information on Walker’s petition, the case number is 3:10-cr-00298 (D. Ore, Order dated Feb. 7, 2019).
Again, if your current release date is between now and July, we really need all the help we can get. You can download a sample motion at
to submit to the court. While we believe it should be filed against the warden of your institution and in the district in which you are incarcerated, if you attempt to do it in your sentencing district (which I don’t believe others will be as fortunate with), the other party will be the United States of America.