OF JUDGMENT: 08/31/2015
COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT HON. W. ASHLEY HINES TRIAL JUDGE
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: ANTHONY LOUIS SCHMIDT, JR. OFFICE OF
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY: DARRELL CLAYTON BAUGHN
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: JOHN EARL BOOKER (PRO SE)
After a legislative overhaul of the probation and parole
statutes, John Earl Booker, a parole-eligible inmate,
requested a case plan pursuant to Mississippi Code Section
47-7-3.1. The Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC)
denied Booker's request, stating that the statute did not
apply retroactively. The Sunflower County Circuit Court
reversed the MDOC's denial of Booker's request and
found that the statute applied retroactively and that Booker
was eligible for a case plan.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
A Corrections and Criminal Justice Task Force, created by the
Legislature in 2013 to develop policy recommendations, found
that Mississippi had the second largest imprisonment rate in
the country. At the then-current growth rate, the Task
Force estimated that new corrections spending would cost the
State hundred of millions of dollars over the next ten years.
Id. Consequently, with the goal of ensuring
certainty in sentencing and controlling corrections costs
while keeping public safety paramount, the Legislature
adopted the Task Force's recommendations, and on July 1,
2014, passed with overwhelming support House Bill 585.
Id. To combat the growth of the prison population,
House Bill 585 implemented a system requiring parole-eligible
inmates to follow a "case plan." Id. A
parole case plan is defined by statute as "an
individualized, written accountability and behavior change
strategy developed by the department in collaboration with
the parole board to prepare offenders for release on parole
at the parole eligibility date." Miss. Code Ann. §
47-7-2 (c) (Rev. 2015).
Mississippi Code Section 47-7-3.1(1) states that "[i]n
consultation with the Parole Board, the department shall
develop a case plan for all parole eligible inmates to guide
an inmate's rehabilitation while in the department's
custody and to reduce the likelihood of recidivism after
release." Miss. Code Ann. § 47-7-3.1(1) (Rev.
Booker was sentenced in July 1981 and in 1982 and became
parole-eligible on September 15, 2011. The Parole Board
denied Booker parole on September 24, 2014, and set his next
parole-hearing date for four years later. After the
Legislature passed House Bill 585, Booker, through the
MDOC's Administrative Remedy Program, requested a case
plan pursuant to Section 47-7-3.1. Verlena Flagg, Associate
Warden, first denied Booker's request, maintaining that
the statute was not retroactive and that only inmates
convicted on or after July 1, 2014, were eligible to receive
case plans. Inmates sentenced before the effective date of
the statute were to continue the traditional avenue of
parole, through review by the Parole Board. Earnest Lee,
Superintendent of the Mississippi State Penitentiary,
affirmed Flagg's denial of Booker's request for a
case plan and interpretation of the statute.
Booker appealed to the Sunflower County Circuit Court on
August 11, 2015. On September 2, 2015, the circuit court
found that, because the language of the statute was plain and
unambiguous, the statute applied retroactively and Booker was
entitled to receive a case plan pursuant thereto. The circuit
court ordered the MDOC to provide Booker a case plan within
ninety days. Aggrieved, Lee appeals.
On December 8, 2016, this Court held that Mississippi Code
Section 47-7-3.1 "does not clearly and unequivocally
express an intention for retroactive applicability."
Fisher v. Drankus, 204 So.3d 1232, 1236 (Miss.
2016). Thus, pursuant to this Court's
precedent, because he was convicted prior to July 1, 2014,