Florida board reconsiders parole for ‘prison Houdini’

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) – Florida officials are reconsidering parole for a man described as an autistic savant and a “prison Houdini” whose troubles behind bars have turned a four-year theft sentence into a virtual life term.

Fifty-five-year-old Mark DeFriest was convicted 36 years ago of stealing the tools his father had bequeathed to him. His prison terms have been extended since then because of a series of escapes.

State parole commissioners have agreed he should be released because his mental health issues have not been handled well. The Florida Commission on Offender Review voted in 2014 to reduce his sentence, but a mix-up delayed his release date to Aug. 23.

Meanwhile, DeFriest keeps acting out. Florida’s parole board will decide Wednesday whether to rescind his parole due to new disciplinary issues.

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