An effort by state legislators to give a chance at parole to a man sentenced to 241 years in prison has led to a broader effort to offer parole to all Missouri inmates facing similar situations.
Bobby Bostic committed a series of crimes in 1995 when he was 16 and was given a series of consecutive sentences. A 2010 Supreme Court ruling that people under 18 who did not kill anyone could not be sentenced to life without parole doesn’t apply to him because he was not sentenced to life. He would not be eligible for parole until the age of 112. All judicial avenues to offer Bostic an earlier release have been exhausted.
Last year more than 100 state lawmakers signed a letter to Governor Mike Parson (R) asking him to consider Bostic’s petition for clemency. They joined those victimized in Bostic’s crimes and the judge who sentenced him in saying Bostic has reformed himself, and deserves a chance at parole.
O’Fallon representative Nick Schroer (R) has worked to bring attention to Bostic’s situation and has led the effort to drum up support. He said he knows that the Parson administration is sifting through thousands of clemency requests. While that process continues, he has filed House Bill 2201, which aims to give people sentenced to long terms and life as a juvenile a chance at parole.
Kansas City representative Barbara Washington (D) has also spearheaded this effort and is a cosponsor of HB 2201. She said it could help others besides Bostic.
“We must think about what we’re doing with our juveniles. We must understand that a 16 year-old who grew up in Bobby’s situation; who didn’t have anyone to look up to, who didn’t have a community that made sure he went to school, didn’t have a mentor to make sure that he got a job, who didn’t have teachers who looked at him as a good kid that was going down the wrong road. It is important and imperative that we pass House Bill 2201 so that we make sure that no other juveniles suffer this fate,” said Washington.
Judge Evelyn Baker handed Bobby his 241-year sentence and now wants to see him given a chance at freedom.
“He’s written books, he writes poetry, he is trying to help as many people as he can in a confined environment. He can do so much more to help others if we let him out. I think justice cries for him to be released,” said Judge Baker. “We talk about rehabilitation. He is the epitome of a rehabilitated child who became a man in the true sense of the word ‘man.’”
Schroer said he does not know how many other people in situations like Bostic’s are in Missouri prisons and might benefit from passage of this bill, but he does believe there are others.
“This one case is the tip of the spear, so to speak, where we now see there are these technical issues and other issues preventing people from getting the relief when they are fully rehabilitated, so I think that we need to go forward with House Bill 2201,” said Schroer.
He said from the standpoint of being fiscally conservative, the more people who have been rehabilitated and therefore can be released from Missouri prisons, the better for the state and its economy.
Schroer is hopeful his bill will be assigned to a committee and receive a hearing soon.