The state would be required to make objective, evidence-based parole decisions under legislation that moved unanimously out of Rep. Klint Kesto’s (R-Commerce Twp.) House Law and Justice Committee this morning. Three members passed on the vote.

HB 5377 is designed to take the subjectivity out of parole decisions by setting parole board guidelines that establish factors that would disqualify inmates from being released. It requires “substantial and compelling objective reasons” to depart from those guidelines.

Kesto said the bill is not a criticism of how the parole board is operating now.

“I think they actually want it as well, because it creates some parameters. It creates some clarity as to what they should consider and what they shouldn’t, so that they are not being subjective and scratching their heads and being uncertain in any way,” Kesto said. “This is the legislative body saying that when somebody has a high probability of parole, here are some criteria that can get them out of that for you not to parole them, but as long as those things are not met, then you don’t have to worry about being subjective on the matter.”

Gone would be parole decisions based on whether the prisoner showed adequate remorse.

Instead, prisoners would be expected to pro-actively participate in their own rehabilitation, Kesto explained. Developing a parole plan and arranging employment upon their release would count in their favor. Participating in Department of Corrections rehabilitation programs and having a place to live after release would be viewed positively.

“It also puts a burden on that inmate to take some self interest,” Kesto explained. “. . . This is good for the inmates because it gives them a light at the end of the tunnel where, if they do certain things, that they can come out.”

Violation of prison rules or additional offenses while inside would disqualify an inmate, as would threats against someone. Evidence that the prisoner had harmed someone not known to the judge at the time of sentencing would count against a prisoner, as would being a suspect in an unsolved crime.

The bill makes it clear parole is not an entitlement. Those serving life sentences would not be eligible.

The new evidence-based parole standards will not apply to anyone who committed their offense before the effective date of the legislation, Kesto said. He explained that the standards for parole might have played a factor in how the judge sentenced the individual, so there will be some time before the new objective standards are applied to individual prisoners.

Those who passed on the vote included Rep. Frank Liberati (D-Allen Park), Rep. Vanessa Guerra (D-Saginaw) and Rep. Lana Theis (R-Brighton).

Liberati said he was not comfortable with some of the verbiage in the substitute, but on reflection it is probably OK and he will likely vote for the bill on the floor.

He supports the bill in concept.

“I think taking subjectivity out of that, somebody’s personal bias, I think that’s a good idea,” Liberati said. “I mean, give me a reason why not?”

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Release date: April 10, 2018