- Associated Press - Sunday, December 6, 2015

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - Seeing Barry Beach walk out of prison when Montana Gov. Steve Bullock commuted his 100-year murder sentence gave Clive Kinlock hope the governor might look favorably on his own clemency request, even if he doesn’t have Beach’s notoriety or his influential followers.

“I don’t have that luxury,” Kinlock said in a phone call Thursday from the Crossroads Correctional Center in Shelby. “I’ve got God and my wife and a few family members who support me.”

Kinlock, 48, is one of 14 Montana prison inmates who rushed to file applications this fall after a new state law gave the governor final say on clemency requests instead of the Montana Board of Pardons and Parole.

Fourteen is an unusually high number of applications filed over a two-month span. Over the same period last year, only one application was filed, according to Timothy Allred, executive director of the parole board.

The new requests come from people convicted of crimes from burglary to deliberate homicide. Some are serving long sentences in Montana State Prison, while others already have been released and are seeking to clear their names.

Then there is Kinlock, a native of Jamaica who is in his 24th year of a 70-year prison sentence after pleading guilty in 1992 to kidnapping, raping and assaulting a bar worker.

Kinlock has unsuccessfully appealed his case several times, saying he did not rape the woman but was pressured into signing the plea agreement by his attorneys, who promised him he would only get five years and then be deported to Jamaica.

While in prison, Kinlock completed treatment for alcohol abuse and became a counselor to other inmates. His story was documented by The Great Falls Tribune in 1999 as part of that newspaper’s Pulitzer Prize-winning series on the effects of alcohol abuse on communities.

Kinlock has since started a prison ministry called Catz in Crisis, and he hopes to minister to and advocate for prisoners in Jamaica if he is released, he said.

The last time Kinlock was before the parole board in 2009, the panel denied his application despite a letter of support signed by a dozen Montana State Prison employees. The board cited the severity of his crimes in its denial and said he couldn’t apply again until 2017, disappointing and frustrating Kinlock.

“I’m more than what the parole board thinks I am,” he said.

Then Beach’s case prompted a change in how clemency requests are handled. Beach, who has always maintained his innocence in the beating death of a 17-year-old classmate in 1979, was denied clemency four times, and his case became internationally known. He had gathered a following that included former governors and congressmen, and Bullock had written a letter indicating that he would approve Beach’s 2014 clemency request.

Instead, the board rejected that application, too, prompting increased scrutiny of the panel by lawmakers.

At the time, state law gave the board the power to deny appeals and only forward to the governor applications by inmates the panel recommended for release. The Legislature passed a law this spring that requires the board to forward all applications to the governor with its recommendations.

Of the 14 applications received since the change took effect in October, the governor’s office has received four so far, including Beach’s application, Bullock spokesman Tim Crowe said.

None of the other requests has been acted on yet, Crowe said.

“Certainly there will be ones that have higher profile than others, but it will be more of a common workflow that goes through the office than what we saw with Barry Beach,” Crowe said.

That leaves the other inmates waiting to see what Bullock will do.

“I’m hoping that the governor will see that I’m a person who evolved,” Kinlock said. “I’m hoping he sees rehabilitation does work.”

But, he stressed, he’s no Barry Beach.

“My clemency means I get turned over to the immigration authorities to be deported. I don’t get to walk off into the sunset like he did,” Kinlock said.

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