Bobby Bostic will be released from prison next year after more than 20 years behind bars thanks to a new state law allowing him to pursue and win parole.
Bostic sought parole in a hearing last month, where he was represented by former Judge Evelyn Baker. Baker handed down his original sentence but has since become one of his most vocal supporters.
Bostic will undergo courses to ease his transition to the outside world before being released late next year, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Missouri.
The new law, signed this year, allowed offenders sentenced to 15 or more years as a minor for nonhomicide crimes to apply for parole after 15 years of imprisonment. Bostic, who was imprisoned at age 16, wouldn’t have been eligible for parole until the end of the century without the policy change.
“The prejudices that let us believe as a society that teens who commit crimes are beyond redemption are still borne by those who remained imprisoned decades after mistakes that they made as juveniles,” said ACLU of Missouri’s Director of Integrated Advocacy Tony Rothert. “While the legislature continues to add to the books laws that push young people from school to prison, Bobby demonstrates what we all know: Who we are as children does not forever demarcate who we can become as adults.”
Bostic was sentenced to 241 years for an armed robbery and carjacking that occurred in 1995. Bostic was tried as an adult and would not have been eligible for parole until he was 112 years old. The ACLU has championed the push to free Bostic over the last several years based on his behavior since being incarcerated.
The ACLU brought his case before the Missouri Supreme Court in 2018, but a divided court denied its request. The U.S. Supreme Court also declined to intervene despite a previous decision declaring it unconstitutional to sentence a minor to life in prison without the possibility of parole for nonhomicide crimes.
The ACLU worked with lawmakers on the new policy, which was signed into law this year. The measure was championed by GOP Rep. Nick Schroer, who met with Bostic several times and led efforts to secure his freedom.
“The language was basically the result of myself, the ACLU, the Governor’s Office, and the Department of Corrections all coming together to find something that would be narrowly tailored to these types of situations,” Schroer previously told The Missouri Times. “This will at least give Bobby and others like him the opportunity to go before the parole board and plead his case.”
Bostic’s was one of the first hearings under the new law, according to the ACLU.
Bostic has earned his GED, an associate’s degree, and an assortment of other certificates from institutions, including Missouri State University, while in prison. He has helped fellow detainees pursue education as well, according to his advocates, and has written several books.
Policy efforts and clemency letters for Bostic received bipartisan support among lawmakers and advocates over the past few years. The push to free Bostic has also garnered national attention.
The new parole regulations were attached to a large public safety bill at risk of being struck down. St. Louis filed a lawsuit over the law earlier this month based on provisions regarding investigations into police officer misconduct and more, stating they rendered the entire bill invalid.
Cover image: ACLU of Missouri
Cameron Gerber studied journalism at Lincoln University. Prior to Lincoln, he earned an associate’s degree from State Fair Community College. Cameron is a native of Eldon, Missouri.
Contact Cameron at firstname.lastname@example.org.