South Dakota board grants ‘compassionate parole’ to inmate

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — A South Dakota board has granted compassionate parole to a man sentenced to nearly 60 years in prison for molesting boys while working as a counselor at a former state juvenile correctional center.

The state Board of Pardons and Paroles granted 72-year-old Darwin Heuer the parole last week. Heuer was the first offender to have a hearing under a new “compassionate parole” system for seriously ill and elderly inmates.

The Rapid City Journal reports the board said because of Heuer’s prognosis, he can be dealt with in a more “cost effective manner” if he is released and monitored under the new program.

Corrections officials couldn’t reveal details of his medical condition, except to say he had a serious illness from which he’s unlikely to recover and needs extensive medical care.

Heuer is a former boot camp counselor who admitted in 1999 to molesting six boys while they were serving time at the now-defunct Custer Youth Corrections Center.

He pleaded guilty to felony charges that included one count of attempted second-degree rape and three counts of sexual contact with a child under 16. Heuer was sentenced to 57 years in prison for a term that would end in 2057, with an initial parole eligibility date in 2030.

Officials said Heuer has been in a nursing home since the end of July under a different program called extended confinement, which gives inmates access to specialized medical care.

Department of Corrections Secretary Denny Kaemingk has said “he is no longer a danger to society.”

South Dakota passed its compassionate parole bill this year, putting it among at least 45 states with a medical parole law, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The move came at a time when prison health costs have grown in recent state budget years.

It’s not clear how much money the program will save the state.

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