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Kansas man battling terminal cancer is freed from prison in rare release, ACLU says

Luke Nozicka
·3 min read

A man battling terminal cancer was released from a Kansas prison Monday after corrections officials agreed his medical condition is so severe that he is not a threat to public safety.

Christopher McIntyre, 47, was released from the Lansing Correctional Facility in Leavenworth County and into the care of relatives in Wichita, according to the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas. He had been serving time behind bars for aggravated burglary.

McIntyre is among 105 ACLU of Kansas clients who requested executive clemency from Gov. Laura Kelly. He was freed after the Kansas Department of Corrections granted his application for release due to “functional incapacitation,” which permits early release for incarcerated people who have medical or mental health conditions so grave that they do not pose a threat to the public.

The ACLU of Kansas said such releases are rare. Its attorneys have sought that type of release for 18 of its 105 clients, but McIntyre is the only one to have been freed through the process, which the ACLU described as “opaque and without timelines.”

“We have prayed for this day since he was sentenced and we sent up more prayers after learning how sick he was,” McIntyre’s sister, Alesia, said in a statement Monday. She said her family was grateful to the Department of Corrections for “this measure of mercy.”

Over the past five years, the Department of Corrections has granted functional incapacitation release to two other people, spokeswoman Carol Pitts said in an email. One was in 2016; the other was last year.

McIntyre was originally scheduled to be released May 16, 2024. His attorneys have said he could die before then.

He first reported pain in September at the Hutchinson Correctional Facility. In his January application for clemency, an umbrella term that includes pardons and commutations, he said it was not until November that staff found cancer masses in numerous parts of his body. He was moved to the El Dorado Correctional Facility, where he received no treatment for his cancer for weeks, he wrote.

McIntyre, who uses a wheelchair at times, was told his medical condition is “grave” and “terminal.” He lost 50 pounds and suffered from “constant nausea and weakness of limbs,” he wrote.

The Star reported on McIntyre’s medical condition in March. At the time, his father, Mark McIntyre, said his family does not condone his son’s decisions that landed him in prison, but that he did not “go into the system to have a death sentence.”

In 2016, McIntyre was sentenced to 10 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to an aggravated burglary that occurred in Wichita. Prosecutors said he received the sentence, in part, because of his prior convictions, which included aggravated assault in 1992.

In February, The Star reported that Kelly had yet to grant any pardons since taking office and had announced no commutations. A Democrat, the governor has voiced support for re-examining sentences of prisoners convicted of non-violent, low-level offenses.

McIntyre’s clemency plea was part of a recent wave of applications sent to Kelly by the ACLU. Many were tied to virus-related health concerns. The surge in applications during the COVID-19 pandemic has been unlike anything Kansas has seen in recent years.

Sharon Brett, legal director at the ACLU of Kansas, said Monday that their clients are “far more than their convictions.”

“Injustice can take different forms,” she said in a news release, “whether it was the injustice of the original sentence, or in Christopher’s case, the injustice of keeping people incarcerated.”

A father of five, McIntyre said he worked to rehabilitate himself behind bars. He completed a business management diploma from Stratford Career Institute and worked jobs that require security clearance.