Judge blocks ex-con from UAA entry

Posted: Wednesday, October 25, 2006

ANCHORAGE - A man convicted of murder as a teenager has again been denied entry into a University of Alaska Anchorage social work program.

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Michael Purcell, now 39, killed a convenience store clerk in 1984 when he was 16 years old. He was convicted of first-degree murder and robbery.

Purcell served 20 years in prison and earned his high school equivalency diploma and college credits while in prison. He will be on parole until 2014.

Before he left prison, he applied for entry into the UAA social work program. He said he had reformed and that his troubled childhood gave him a unique perspective that would help him in the field.

The faculty turned him down twice. That decision was affirmed last year by an academic review committee and a college dean.

Purcell appealed to Anchorage Superior Court, arguing that his right to rehabilitation had been violated.

Judge Sharon Gleason rejected that view last week.

Prisoners are no longer entitled to rehabilitation after they are released from custody, she wrote.

Even if Purcell were eligible for rehabilitation, a bachelor's program in social work "is not the type of program contemplated by the constitutional provision," she wrote. She referred to a case that suggested rehabilitation implies therapy "to correct a complex problem."

She also rejected his other arguments, including that the university's decision was unreasonable.

Purcell was represented by the ACLU of Alaska Foundation. Lawyers with the organization will meet with Purcell this week to decide whether to appeal.

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