The last time former Rep. Joe HAVEMAN tried to run this concept, he ran into a buzzsaw of opposition from fellow Republican Attorney General Bill SCHUETTE. When the dust settled, it was Schuette one, Haveman zippo.

The prison reform movement is now back with a new bill designed to parole inmates who have served their minimum sentence, but with supposedly tougher screening. The package, according to Law and Justice Committee Chair Rep. Klint KESTO (R-Commerce Twp.), is all about being “smart on crime and soft on taxpayers.”

His HB 5377 sets guidelines for the parole board to make “objective, evidence-based release decisions.” It would establish a list of circumstances that constitute “substantial and compelling objective reasons” for departing from parole guidelines. It would also prohibit the use of subjective reasons, like a lack of insight or insufficient remorse as reasons for denying a parole.

Kesto wants to give these persons job training skills before they return to the streets. He said he feels if they take a self interest in these skills they will “have the ability to succeed.”

“I think the important part about this overall is that the individual prisoners have invested in their own rehabilitation,” Kesto told the committee.

There are obviously budget savings if current prisoners behind bars at state expense are out on the street with a job paying their own bills, according to John COOPER from the Citizens Alliance for Prisons and Public Spending.

He reports based on the latest 2015 data, with new data on the way, that 1,900 inmates have served beyond their minimum sentence, which accounts for about 4.5 percent of the overall prison population. The group’s policy director contends new objective risk assessment standards are in place, including giving the parole board the power to deny parole when there’s a public safety concern.

Cooper concedes there is no guarantee that prisoners on parole won’t commit another crime, but “we have a repeat risk assessment in place” and he emphasizes this is not an early release program.

“Like many urban areas,” Veronica HORN of the Saginaw Chamber of Commerce told the committee, “we have our share of formerly incarcerated individuals that pose a low risk and we need to be able to move them into the workplace. Michigan taxpayers currently spend $2 billion annually on corrections. Of this, millions are spent on the continued incarceration of parole eligible, low-risk prisoners . . . Our taxpayer dollars would be well spent on roads, schools, job training and other components rather than continuing to keep people incarcerated.”

Kyle KAMINSKI, of the Department of Corrections, said the parole board is already working to make parole decisions more objective and get more low risk prisoners out.

“In 1990, our overall parole approval rate was 68 percent,” he said. “By 2000, it was down to 47.3 percent, so if you went to the parole board in the year 2000, you had a better chance than not to be denied parole. Now we are back up in 2017 to an all time — at least the last 25 years that we have the data on — high of 72 percent . . . So we are trying to make sure that we have the right people in prison, that we are incapacitating the correct people, but you are not incapacitating the people who can come out and be productive members of society.”

Original source:
Release date: February 6, 2018