Man Sentenced to 75 Years for Burglary as a Teen Hopes for Parole

Central Texan is now approaching 60 years old


Michael Hall says he’s bettered himself over decades in prison (courtesy of Michael Hall)

Michael Wayne Hall entered prison in 1986, at the age of 19. Today, he is 57 years old and has served 38 years behind bars. If Hall serves his full sentence, he will be released in 2056, when he is 89.

With such a lengthy sentence, you’d assume Hall was found guilty of murder or some other violent crime. That is not the case. Hall has spent his adult life in prison for two counts of burglary. “I was sent to prison to die for something most people only receive 20 years for,” Hall told us in an interview in April.

Hall’s offense – non-aggravated burglary of a habitation, as court documents show – now carries a sentence of 2 to 20 years, after the Texas Penal Code was amended in 1993. But when he was tried in Waco in 1986, the law allowed for a sentence of 5-99 years. Hall was given two concurrent 75-year sentences. And he is still bound by the law under which he was convicted.

Hall said that the circumstances that sent him to prison mirror those of other impoverished people of color. “At the time of my case, I knew nothing about the law and how it was applied,” he said. “My family was poor. They couldn’t hire a lawyer. I was given a court-appointed lawyer who – win, lose, or draw – received $500, so he had no reason to fight for my life. I became another young black kid subjected to a system that was designed to take advantage of me.”

Hall told us that after his conviction he was sent to the Coffield Unit near Palestine, Texas, one of the largest and most dangerous units in the state. “Really, I don’t know why I’m still standing,” he said. “I’ve been stabbed, the law has jumped me two or three times, one time they beat me so bad they put me in the hospital. I’ve been a victim of injustice, and I’ve witnessed lots of injustice – killings, murders. Just the typical horror story of prison. And in some kind of a way, I’m still here. It really baffles me.”

“To me, the bottom line is he didn’t kill anybody. I think it’s time for him to go home.” –Lori Redmond, parole attorney for Michael Hall

Hall has been turned down for parole five times, most recently in 2020. After that rejection, he received a form letter from the Board of Pardons and Paroles stating that it had chosen to keep him locked up because his crime had elements of “brutality, violence, assaultive behavior, or conscious selection of victim’s vulnerability” and that he remained a danger to society. In a statement, BPP explained that Hall is not currently eligible for parole because of disciplinary infractions (the latest being that he had a romantic relationship with a nurse at a previous facility). The board did not provide further information on the reasons for its 2020 decision denying parole.

Hall’s parole attorney, Lori Redmond, said she can’t see what details the parole board considered in his case, because, unlike judicial proceedings, the board’s deliberations are not public information. She noted that one of the three board members at Hall’s 2020 parole hearing did vote to release him. Two votes are needed for that to happen.

“He’s been locked up since he was 19, back in 1986, so the big question would be, 'Why is this person still incarcerated?’” Redmond said. “To me, the bottom line is he didn’t kill anybody. I think it’s time for him to go home. And it’s important to get him back out while he has support from his family, while he’s still able to get a job.”

Hall said he has family in the free world who can help him if he’s released. He said he recently completed six prison programs meant to rehabilitate prisoners and is one week shy of completing a seventh focusing on life skills. He is in good physical condition but does have diabetes and was recently moved to a prison with air conditioning because of his age and health.

“I always have a positive outlook on life, I always take a nick on the chin, roll around, and keep on coming,” Hall said. “But the flip side of that is I have contemplated suicide, based on the fact that it seems like I’ll never get out of here. I’m not a bad person. I didn’t kill nobody. I’m 57 years old, I’ve done 38 years in prison, let me go home. I don’t want to die in here.”

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles

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