The Massachusetts Parole Board has unanimously voted to grant parole to William Allen, who has spent 28 years in prison for participating in an armed robbery in Brockton where his friend stabbed a man to death.
Allen, whose release has been backed by a number of supporters, including New England Patriots player Devin McCourty, was serving a sentence of life without parole until Governor Charlie Baker commuted his sentence in February to life with the possibility of parole.
Allen then appeared before the Parole Board for a hearing on March 31, and the board issued its decision on Wednesday.
In a written explanation of its decision, the six-member parole board said Allen has taken “extraordinary steps toward self-improvement” and has “exhibited significant commitment to countless rehabilitative programs, all of which occurred prior to any opportunity for parole.”
“He has a strong support network and strong re-entry plan,” the board wrote in its decision. “Through his rehabilitative work and example set for other inmates, he has exhibited readiness for re-entry into the community.”
A lawyer representing Allen expressed his client’s gratitude for the decision.
“William is grateful to everyone involved in the tremendous effort to bring him home, and particularly grateful to Governor Baker, the Parole Board, and the Governor’s Council,” his lawyer, Patty DeJuneas, wrote in an e-mail.
DeJuneas said Allen is expected to be released “within the next few weeks.”
Allen’s release has also been supported by the victim’s family and Plymouth District Attorney Timothy J. Cruz.
While serving his sentence, Allen, 48, earned a master barber’s license, become a Eucharistic minister and a volunteer in the Catholic community, and worked in the Bridgewater State Hospital Companion Program, providing care for patients with severe mental illness.
In an appearance before the Governor’s Council in February, Allen pledged to set a good example for other inmates and spoke about his love for his son, who was not even 2 years old when Allen went to prison.
“I will do everything in my power to not only be a role model and mentor to my son, but a beacon of light to all of those who have also seen a small glimmer of hope but are trapped behind those walls,” Allen said at the February hearing.
Allen, a Roxbury native, was working at a veterans hospital in February 1994 when a childhood friend asked him to help rob a reputed drug dealer, he told the council. They stormed into Purvis Bester’s apartment at knifepoint, and while Allen assured several women that everything would be all right, his friend fatally stabbed Bester in another room, according to trial testimony.
Allen had declined an offer to plead guilty to second-degree murder prior to his 1997 trial, which would have made him eligible for parole after 15 years. He was convicted of felony first-degree murder for participating in a robbery that resulted in death.
The same offer was made to his friend who committed the stabbing. He accepted the deal and was released on parole in 2009.
In 2017, the law changed following a Supreme Judicial Court ruling that found defendants can no longer be convicted of first-degree murder unless it’s proven that they set out to kill someone or knew their actions would likely be fatal.
The law was not retroactive, and Allen submitted a petition for commutation on March 8, 2017.
As part of his parole, Allen will be required to wear an electronic monitoring device and must remain home at night between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. Allen will be subject to drug and alcohol testing as well as mental health counseling. He was ordered not to contact Bester’s family.
Shelley Murphy of the Globe staff contributed to this report.