Objective parole is one step away from becoming law in Michigan after it sailed through the Senate committee hearing and a full vote of the Senate in single day on Sept. 5, 2018.

Objective parole requires the parole board to adhere to set standards when determining whether an incarcerated person who scores as a low-risk to re-offend is ready to go home once they’ve reached their earliest release date. The bill still allows the parole board to exercise their authority to retain someone in prison if there is a genuine safety concern. Objective parole minimizes the arbitrary and subjective decisions that can be used to keep people in prison long after their earliest release dates, even when that person poses no security risk.

Safe & Just Michigan has been a strong supporter of House Bill 5377, the objective parole bill, since it was introduced by Rep. Klint Kesto (D-Commerce Township) in January. In fact, SJM had tried to see an objective parole bill passed into law in two previous sessions of the Michigan legislature, but roadblocks in the state lawmaking process prevented it from happening during those previous attempts.

This time, objective parole looks much more likely to become law.

After gaining strong bipartisan support in the House in May with a 97-10 vote, the bill was sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee. That committee, headed by Chairman Sen. Rick Jones (R-Grand Ledge) met Sept. 5 to consider the bill. The meeting took less than five minutes and no objections were raised. It was sent on to the floor of the Senate with a vote of three votes in favor — Senators Jones, Judy Emmons (R-Sheridan) and Steven Bieda (D-Warren) — no votes against, and Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker (R-Lawton) not voting. Sen. Tory Rocca (R-Troy) was absent because he was attending another meeting.

In describing his bill to the Senate Judiciary Committee, bill sponsor state Rep. Kesto said that objective parole is “smart on crime and soft on taxpayers.”

Committee Chairman Sen. Jones took the vote on the bill after reading the names of supporters who submitted cards showing their support. In addition to Safe & Just Michigan, they included Mike Jandernoa of 42 North Partners LLC, the ACLU of Michigan, the Alliance for Safety and Justice, Business Leaders for Michigan, Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce, Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce, Michigan Catholic Conference, Michigan Faith in Action, Michigan League for Public Policy, Saginaw City Chamber of Commerce, Still Standing and Talent 2025.

Safe & Just Michigan Associate Director of Policy & Research John Cooper submitted testimony in favor of the bill as well.

“HB 5377 is about evidence-based practices, consistency, and safety — and should be enacted on those merits alone,” he wrote. “However, by more accurately sorting prisoners that are ready to rejoin their communities from those that are not, this policy will also result in significant cost savings over time — an estimated $40 million within five years. HB 5377 shows that it pays to be smart on crime.”

After clearing a committee, a bill’s next step is to be taken up for a vote by the full membership of the House or Senate. In many cases, it can take weeks or even months between a committee hearing and a full vote on the floor of the House or Senate. Sometimes, a bill can clear a committee and never make it to a floor vote. However, we were delighted Wednesday when the Michigan Senate picked up the objective parole bill just hours after it was passed out of committee and took it up for a vote.

Once again, HB 5377 breezed through this stage of the legislative process. It cleared the Senate with a vote of 31-4 with two senators not voting. No amendments were made to the bill, which means that it wasn’t altered or weakened by the Senate.

The legislative process for the objective parole bill is now complete. The final step before the bill becomes law is obtaining the governor’s signature. We’re hopeful this will happen soon.

In fact, the objective parole bill has been successful in gathering support from all corners of the state and from across bipartisan and ideological divides. It is backed by a broad range of organizations, including business leaders, faith organizations, organizations led by crime survivors, formerly incarcerated people and their families, and policy groups on both the left and the right side of the political spectrum. We are especially grateful to the Alliance for Safety & Justice for their support and resources in getting objective parole onto the governor’s desk.

“The objective parole bill shows what is possible when a diverse group of supporters come together to support great legislation,” Cooper said. “The collective energy behind this bill from business, faith, criminal justice and policy organizations and formerly incarcerated people and their families helped get objective parole to the finish line. We’re thankful to Sen. Jones for shepherding this bill through the Senate, and we look forward to its enactment into law.”


Download: Safe & Just Michigan, written testimony

Download: 42 North Partners, LLC, written testimony

Download: ACLU of Michigan, written testimony

Download: Detroit Regional Chamber, written testimony

Download: Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce, written testimony

Download: Saginaw County Chamber of Commerce, written testimony

Download: Still Standing, written testimony

Download: Talent 2025, written testimony

Download: Senate Fiscal Agency, bill analysis, dated September 5, 2018