Three steps forward and one giant step backward for criminal justice reform:
The package of criminal justice reform bills that emerged from the Council of State Government process (HB 5928, 5929, 5930 and 5931) is pending action in the Senate. CAPPS endorses three bills in the package: HB 5928, 5929 and 5930. The bills would create a Criminal Justice Policy Commission and implement important sentencing reforms. Unfortunately, House Bill 5931, the bill that was intended to reform the parole process, was amended by the House (H-2). THE NEW LANGUAGE IS WORSE THAN THE STATUS QUO:
- The substitute bill creates a “presumption of parole” for certain prisoners who score “high probability” (lowest risk) on the parole guidelines.
- However, the presumption excludes prisoners who were convicted of a long list of assaultive and sex offenses — the same prisoners who are currently being denied parole despite good institutional records and very low rates of reoffending.
- The bill allows the parole board to continue denying parole for any reason it chooses, even to the group of prisoners who would be eligible for “presumptive parole”.
- The bill has no oversight mechanism for parole decision-making.
- The bill does not even apply to current prisoners.
In fact, the substitute bill would codify the very parole board practices that currently result in years of parole denials for prisoners who are the lowest risk to release, according to the board’s own parole guidelines and decades of research. The substitute bill will not reduce the prison population or save any money. It ignores all the data showing that keeping people longer does not improve public safety.
CAPPS has asked senators to amend the bill before voting on it so that it will:
- Establish a presumption of parole for all those who are the lowest risk to release (people who score “high probability of parole” on the parole guidelines).
- Only allow departures from the presumption of parole for “substantial and compelling reasons” that do not duplicate factors already scored in the guidelines.
- Include a method of oversight that makes these reforms enforceable.
- Actually save taxpayer money.
More detailed information about HB 5931 (H-2): Implementing effective parole reform: Fix HB 5931
Text of HB 5931 (H-2) – the version that MUST BE FIXED! 2014-HEBH-5931
CAPPS’s new report: Paroling people who committed serious crimes: What is the actual risk?
Please contact Citizens Alliance on Prisons and Public Safety (CAPPS) at (517) 482-7753 / firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or to share any responses you receive.