The Court of Appeals Discusses Noncitizen’s Eligibility for Parole from Prison

In Chico-Polo v. Department of Corrections, Chico-Polo was convicted of delivery/manufacture of a controlled substance greater than 650 grams and was sentenced to life imprisonment. He filed for relief in trial court to compel the defendant, the Department of Corrections, to parole and release him to the custody of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

MCL 791.234b provides that the parole board shall place a prisoner (who meets certain criteria) on parole and release that prisoner to the custody of ICE for the sole purpose of deportation. A prisoner is eligible if he has served half of the minimum sentence imposed by the court and is not incarcerated for a conviction of murder or criminal sexual conduct.

Chico-Polo argued on appeal that the 20 year minimum for parole eligibility for individuals given life sentences should be held to be the “minimum sentence” required by the statute.  This argument was based on a Department of Corrections code provision providing that a prisoner sentenced for violation of MCL 333.7401(2)(a)(i) who have served 20 years of their sentence may be placed on parole.

The Court rejected Chico-Polo’s argument, stating that prisoners serving life sentences do not and never will have a minimum sentence imposed by the court. The Court reasoned that by requiring that the minimum sentence be imposed by the court, the legislature essentially excluded prisoners, such as Chico-Polo, who are eligible for parole but serving a life term because the date on which a prisoner would become eligible for parole is fixed by the legislature and not imposed by the court.

For these reasons, Chico-Polo was not eligible for parole and deportation based on MCL 791.234b.

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