Legislation requiring Michigan’s Parole Board to provide substantial and compelling objective reasons in writing when departing from Department of Corrections’ guidelines, a move designed to address Michigan’s longer than usual incarceration rates without simply releasing prisoners once they hit their minimum release date, passed the House Wednesday.

Under current law, the Parole Board has authority to depart from parole guidelines for substantial and compelling reasons. HB 5377 requires those reasons to be “objective and updates the Corrections Code to define “substantial and compelling objective reasons” why the Parole Board could depart from the guidelines.
The bill, which passed 97-10, spells out that the Parole Board could deny parole to someone who otherwise would have had a high probability of parole for various reasons, including exhibiting a pattern of behavior while incarcerated showing they would be a substantial risk to public safety, refusal to participate in programming ordered by the department, a psychological evaluation of the prisoner showing they would present a high risk to public safety if paroled, among other factors.

Prisoners serving life sentences would not be eligible. And the new guidelines would only apply to future prisoners.

The legislation takes a different approach to addressing Michigan’s longer incarceration rates than an attempt in the 2015-16 term to do so via legislation dubbed “presumptive parole,” in which the Parole Board would have had to parole anyone past their minimum release date whom its staff scored as having a high chance of success upon release from prison. Critics of the Parole Board have questioned why they sometimes keep inmates imprisoned until their maximum release date.

The Senate killed the presumptive parole legislation.

The House Fiscal Agency said the bill would reduce the average length of stay for future prisoners, leading to a decline in the state’s prison population and savings to the corrections system.

“Ultimately, it remains the parole board’s decision,” said Rep. Klint Kesto (R-West Bloomfield Township), the bill sponsor, in a statement. “Setting these standards will help ensure anyone who comes before a panel will have earned a hearing. Our state is saving money by having a slowly shrinking prison population, but the ultimate goal remains to consider only convicted criminals who have proven themselves to be a low risk to a law-abiding society.”

Corrections spokesperson Holly Kramer said the department supports the concept of the bill.

“We’ve already made great strides toward an objective, effective and evidence-based approach to parole and this legislation can help continue that progress,” she said.

Original source: www.gongwer.com
Release date: May 31, 2018