Thursday, May 18, 2017

Some questions we have regarding Troy's case

In my last post I gave an overview of Troy's legal situation.

We are looking for people who are willing to think creatively about Troy's situation and we have a few questions that might make fertile ground for moving forward. These all relate to Troy's status as a person with a long indeterminate sentence, or LID.

  • When Troy was sentenced in 1984, "Proposal B" had been in effect for 6 years. At that time, he was eligible for parole under the old lifer law, which said 10 years or more would be treated as “life,” which at the time was eligible for parole in 10 years. Michigan Attorney General Frank Kelly issued an opinion in 1986 that interpreted Proposal B and took away the parole board access of people with long indeterminate sentences. This went on for awhile, with these two laws in contradiction. Then, the Lifer Law was altered to reflect this opinion. Does the fact that Troy and other LIDs had access to the parole board for eight years give him any standing?
  • Why isn’t there an equal protection claim for people sentenced to more time for second degree than those convicted of first degree? Certain numbers give more parole board access to first degree than to second. Is there a principle in law that lesser degrees of crime should receive lesser degrees of punishment?
  • If first-degree natural life is Michigan’s equivalent of the death penalty, this practice of over-sentencing second-degree cases is comparable to prosecutors and judges in death-penalty states somehow sentencing second-degree cases to death. It’s being treated as a “capital offense,” but this is contrary to the legislative intent of the second-degree statute. Is there any legal standing for this issue?
Please let us know if you have any thoughts on these issues or know someone who can help.

—Maryann Gorman

Friday, May 5, 2017

It's 2017, and Troy Chapman is still in prison. And we need your help.

I created this blog ten years ago, hoping to attract support for Troy Chapman's bid for commutation of his 60- to 90-year sentence for second-degree murder. And we succeeded in getting that support from many wonderful people, some of whom have become lifelong friends.

But Troy's commutation applications (four since 2007) have not been successful. Despite bi-partisan talk about reducing prison populations, governors are still hesitant to wield their pens for this purpose. We hope that, in his final months in office, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder will be an exception.

But the fact is, the commutation lottery should not be Troy's only hope.

Here are the key points about Troy's case:
  • He has been in prison since 1984 on a 60-90 year sentence for second-degree murder. Yes, he committed the crime, and yes, he took someone's life, which we know is irreversible, and terrible.
  • But due to a decades-old interpretation of sentencing law, Troy cannot see the parole board until he has served the minimum of his "long indeterminate" sentence. (For comparison, second-degree lifers in Michigan get to see the parole board every five years starting in their 10th year in prison.)
  • Troy will be 81 years old when he first sees the parole board if this glitch in Michigan's legal system is not addressed.
  • We believe Troy has earned, at the very least, a consideration of his case by the parole board — through his rehabilitation, active atonement and behavior in prison.* At 53, he is not the man he was when he killed his victim in a barroom brawl at the age of 21. He did not receive a life sentence, but his is a de-facto sentence to die in prison.
So why am I writing about this again and resurrecting a blog that has remained fallow for years?

We are looking for advocates who can help us shine a light on this situation, not only for Troy but for others like him. Legal researchers, anyone who can help us in communications and raising awareness, strategy, etc. 

There are thousands of Michigan inmates in Troy's situation — warehoused and ignored by the parole board because of ongoing adherence to a one-size-fits-all, 30-year-old ruling that is incompatible with the current goal of reducing the huge population of aging inmates.

We have approached many good people with a lot of knowledge about this area, and have received replies that inspire reactions ranging from hope to despair. No doubt, it is a complex legal situation.

But this is a human-made conundrum that has a human-made solution. The legal situation may be a bit of a tangle, but the fact is, if Michigan wants to give long-time inmates with good records a second chance, a way to get them access to the parole board can be found. 

If you would like to learn more about Troy and his legal situation, feel free to contact me via the comments section below or at mgorman 50 at comcast dot net. And thank you for listening and giving us your time.

—Maryann Gorman

*P.S. Troy has some published works that might help you learn about who he has become. You can check them out here, here, here and here. His books are available at Amazon

Saturday, May 24, 2014

New book by Troy Chapman

Just a quick note to let you know Troy has published a new book, The Knitting Birds and Other Poems. It's a lovely little collection of poetic observations and memories.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Troy's first book is published!

Hello to all the Friends of Troy,

I know it's been quite some time since you've heard from us. While we have not updated this blog since Troy's last commutation application was denied by Michigan's governor almost a year ago, he has been hard at work on a book, advance copies of which are now available for purchase!

It's called "Stepping Up: Wholeness Ethics for Prisoners and Those Who Care About Them" and is published by my imprint, The Whole Way Press. The book will also soon be available at Whether you know someone in prison or are seeking wholeness yourself, we think you'll find this book valuable.

This has truly been a labor of love. As many of you know, Troy has been teaching an ethics class at his prison, Kinross Correctional Facility, for several years. But he has been doing more than simply teaching about existing ethical systems. The Kinross Ethics Project is based on an ethical system for everyday living that Troy has developed himself from years of self-education and seeking. I'll let the back-of-book blurb speak for itself:

"Men and women in prison are seen by society as problems and burdens. This book begins with a different premise: that you can be a solution, not only in the world but in your own life as well. It's about a way of living called wholeness ethics and it's based on the simple truth that we find our own wholeness only in right relationship with the world.

"From the perspective of his 30 years behind bars, author Troy Chapman offers a roadmap for living this truth and moving toward soundness, well-being and the realization of one's larger purpose. Distilling experience to four essential relationships - with yourself, others, the transcendent and nature - Chapman shows how to consider each in the light of ethical thinking and restore wholeness to each one.

"With down-to-earth examples and language, compassion and good humor, this book will help you 'step up' to your true purpose, transform your life and your relationships, and help create a better world in the process."
We have also created a new blog to accompany the book: The Wholeness Ethics Blog. Bookmark us there for posts about the practice of wholeness ethics!

Troy and I are infinitely grateful to all of you who have been such wonderful friends to us. Without you, this book would not have been possible.


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Troy Chapman author page
Stepping Up book page

Monday, September 20, 2010

My Last Freedom

by Troy Chapman

Well, as Maryann has already posted, our bid for commutation has been denied by both the Michigan Parole Board and the governor. As I’ve spent the past few days pondering this decision I keep coming back to a few things.

We don’t know why this decision was made instead of a more positive one. Perhaps we’ll find that out eventually. Whatever we may find out I’m fairly certain that I’ve done all that I can in the matter. There’s some comfort in this because I know I have done my part. On the other hand, there’s some frustration in it as well because I’m not sure what’s required of me at this point. Needless to say, it’s a sad time.

I have, throughout the process, been thinking about Scott Chandler and his family. Whatever the past 26 years have been for me, he hasn’t had them at all, nor has his family had them with him due to my actions. I think also about my own family, who were hurt as well by my actions.

Last night in the ethics group, we talked about the central premise of the group: that we should at all times do only what increases wholeness in ourselves and in the world. We talked about what that means and I spoke of how my crime tore up the wholeness of so many people. During this conversation, another of the central ideas of my life came up — that is what Viktor Frankl, Nazi death camp survivor, called “man’s last freedom.” He said we can’t always determine what happens to us in life or what our circumstances are but we can always choose how we will respond to those circumstances.

This outcome of continued incarceration is certainly not what I would have chosen if I had a choice. But I didn’t. What I do have a choice in is how I respond to it now. And so my question is, with all things being as they are, what response will increase wholeness in myself and in the world?

I don’t know the answer yet, but I think part of it is simply asking the question. If I can do nothing else or know nothing else, I know this: Turning my mind and spirit to this question rather than to the million other places it wants to run like water right now is in itself a wholistic act.

So I have my question. I think it’s not just the question for this situation but the question for all of life: What response will increase wholeness? I will continue asking it as I process and adjust to this.

I’ve said before but not for awhile how much all of you who call yourselves my friends mean to both Maryann and me. Your support and encouragement mean more than we can tell you.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Application Denied by Governor

I'm extremely sad to announce that Troy's commutation application was denied by the Michigan Parole Board and Governor Jennifer Granholm this week.

This is pretty upsetting because Granholm's last day in office is the end of this year; it's unlikely very many commutations will be signed by whoever is the next governor, if any. Troy seems to be managing the news. He told me "I'm working on being where I am, rather than trying to be somewhere I can't be." I wish I could deal with this with such equanimity.

Of course, it's not all that easy to get over a blow like this and he knows that too. If you want to send Troy an encouraging note, you can email it here or, better yet, mail it to Troy Chapman, 169076, 16770 Water Tower Dr., Kincheloe, MI 49788.

Thank you to everyone for your support and caring.