The once-skeptical Senate signed off this afternoon on an “evidence-based” parole reform bill that is not being opposed by the state’s prosecutors and will not guarantee parole for any prisoner, even one with good behavior.

HB 5377 is the rebooted version of what was once called “presumptive parole” and had stalled in the Senate in prior terms out of concerns that the reforms would open the doors to state prisons in the name of saving the state money (See “Jones: ‘Presumptive Parole Is Dead’ In Senate,” 11/30/15).

The 2018 version of the Rep. Klint KESTO (R-Commerce Twp.) bill is designed to encourage inmates to rehabilitate themselves with the possibility of parole. But it gives the state’s parole board guidelines that could disqualify inmates still deemed dangerous from being released. It requires “substantial and compelling object reasons” to depart from those guidelines.

The bill does not allow parole decisions based on whether the prisoner showed adequate remorse. (See “Objective, Evidence-Based’ Parole Clears Kesto Committee,” 4/10/18).

HB 5377 passed the full Senate, 31-4, with Sens. Jack BRANDENBURG (R-Harrison Twp.), Mike GREEN (R-Mayville), Patrick COLBECK (R-Canton) and Joe HUNE (R-Fowlerville) voting no. It previously had passed the House with 10 no votes.

“We’re finally doing real reform with safe and secure rehabilitation to be smart on crime and soft on taxpayers,” Kesto said after the vote.

After years of pushback from the Senate, proponents were able to craft a proposal that got the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan to neutral. Once that happened, the message sunk in that this wasn’t “presumptive parole” but parole that the Department of Corrections could deny if there is evidence of danger to the public if an inmate were released.

Prisoners eligible for parole would undergo a “rigorous risk assessment” that is worked into their parole guidelines score. The Parole Board can deny parole to individuals that score as being a low risk of reoffending.

“This caucus has a huge problem with presumptive parole,” Jones said of the Senate Republican caucus. “That would be when you hit your minimum time, you automatically get out and it’s almost impossible to stop it. That is evidence-based parole. This is exactly what everybody likes.”

Almost everybody. Colbeck said he wasn’t comfortable with putting into law any flexibility with a parole board’s discretion. He said he’s prefer to keep it the way it is as opposed to “opening the door to different interpretations.”

“My spidey senses are tingling on this one,” he said.

Original source:
Release date: September 5, 2018