Long-held Idaho prisoner will stay behind bars

BOISE, Idaho — An Idaho inmate locked up for most of the last 44 years will stay behind bars after Idaho parole officials decided the convicted killer who played a key role in a notorious 1971 prison riot doesn’t deserve to be released.

Ronald Lee Macik, 65 and serving a life term, lost out this week when the Idaho Commission of Pardons and Parole concluded his chances of successfully moving back into society were slim.

Macik, who has violated four previous paroles since 1993, is inmate No. 12680, the lowest number in the Idaho prison system. That means nobody behind bars when he arrived at the Idaho State Penitentiary in 1969 on a robbery conviction is left but him; the others have either died in prison or been released.

Maicik wanted the latter this week, but conceded during his hearing Monday his lack of social experience hinders him “from adjusting to the community,” according to a partial transcript from his parole hearing on Monday obtained by The Associated Press.

At the session’s conclusion, parole commissioners decided spending more than 60 percent of his life behind bars had left Macik ill-prepared for life beyond them. Without money, they feared he’d again quickly wind up back in justice’s cross-hairs — and back in prison — just as quickly as every other time he was previously released.

Incarcerated originally in 1969 for knocking over a bar in northern Idaho’s Kellogg, Macik’s time in prison would likely be indistinguishable from most other inmates, where it not for his role in William Henry Butler’s slaying during the August 1971 prison-yard melee.

The blood riot — and Butler’s death at Macik’s hands — helped galvanize public sentiment behind shuttering the Idaho Territory-era penitentiary — and modernizing the Idaho corrections system to include professional training for guards.

The prison is now a popular tourist site in east Boise managed by historian Amber Beierle.

But in its final years before the facility was shuttered in 1973 after 101 years of operation, escapes became so common residents of the neighborhood that had grown up around it had taken to erecting “Prisoner Crossing” signs.

“In the professionalism of corrections in Idaho, certainly in the 1971 riot, you see an example of a turning point,” Beierle told The Associated Press last year. “Internally, it led to many investigations.”

After his parole hearing rejection Monday, Macik’s week didn’t get much better: His separate appeal for a new trial in the 1971 prison riot slaying — he pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in the killing of William Henry Butler and got a life sentence — was rejected by a state court judge.

In his longshot appeal, Macik argued he was owed a fresh trial because, among other things, he was too heavily sedated in 1971 to defend himself properly. He also says it took decades for him to learn another inmate had confessed to Butler’s slaying, something he says would have halted him from pleading guilty.

Macik now contends he never killed Butler.

On Tuesday, however, 4th District Court Judge Cheri Copsey in Boise ruled that he’d long since missed the deadline to have his guilty plea thrown out.

“No purpose would be served by any further proceedings,” Copsey wrote in her decision.

Macik isn’t without options, however.

He’ll get another parole hearing in January 2015.

Until then, parole officials told him to apply for the federal Social Security Administration’s program that pays benefits to disabled adults and children with limited income and resources, so that by next year he’ll at least have hope of something to sustain him.

The big problem, Macik told parole commissioners Monday, was he’s been in institutions since he was 2 years old. He never learned any social skills to help him survive on the outside, he said.

The big reason he’ll stay in prison, according to his transcript, is “he has nowhere else to go.”

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