The Utah State Prison's oldest inmate will leave prison in February to serve the rest of his sentence on home confinement.
Bert Jackson, 99, has served three years of a possible 15-year sentence for sexually abusing at least two children.
"I don't want you to die in prison," Board of Pardons and Parole member Keith Hamilton told Jackson during a Jan. 3 parole hearing.
And he probably won't. The Board of Pardons decided Thursday that Jackson will be paroled Feb. 7 to live with his son and daughter-in-law.
The parole hearing lasted nearly twice as long as it otherwise would have because Hamilton, speaking in a raised voice, had to repeat nearly all of his questions to the hard-of-hearing Jackson.
"You're in pretty good health for a 99-year-old man," Hamilton said. "We don't want you touching anybody anymore, OK?"
Jackson was sent to prison in November 2002 at age 96 after he pleaded guilty to two counts of child sex abuse stemming from incidents in 1995 and 1996 in Lewiston, Cache County.
He was charged with the second-degree felony crimes in 2000 in 1st District Court and pleaded guilty after months of competency evaluations. He was sentenced to serve two one-to-15-year sentences concurrently in the prison, according to court records.
"Most people don't come to prison at age 96," Hamilton said.
Now, Jackson may be Utah's oldest inmate ever, said Jack Ford, spokesman for the Utah Department of Corrections.
If he had been required to serve all 15 years at the Utah State Prison in Draper, he would have been 111 upon his release.
But Jackson will likely live the rest of his life outside of the prison's concrete and steel.
Hamilton, during the hearing, told Jackson that a violation of his parole will land him back in prison.
According to Jackson's parole agreement, Jackson may not leave his son's home except for a doctor's visit or for a medical emergency. He will wear an ankle monitor so an Adult Probation and Parole agent can check on him. Parole lasts at least three years.
He may not contact his victims and can't have contact with anyone under age 18.
In a letter to the board, Jackson's son and daughter-in-law promised to keep him away from children, Hamilton said during the hearing, adding that the board may allow Jackson out of home confinement if he abides by the parole agreement.
"You're too old for being interested in little kids," Hamilton said.
"I'm sorry for what I ever done," Jackson said.
That apology was the first time Jackson acknowledged his crimes and was listed among the board's rationale for Jackson's release.
The board also took into account that this was Jackson's first incarceration, that he has been well-behaved (he sleeps a lot) and that he is 99 years old.
The board also considered that he has a support system and solid release plans.
"We wouldn't keep anyone who did what you did to die in prison if you were younger," Hamilton told him. "I don't want any more trouble out of you, Mr. Jackson. You understand?"
"I understand," said Jackson, his voice sounding tired.
"Can you hang on for another six weeks?" Hamilton asked.