New law reforms parole guidelines in Michigan

The measure is expected to reduce Michigan's prison population

Gov. Rick Snyder delivers his 7th State of the State Address on Jan. 17, 2017. (WDIV)

LANSING, Mich. - A new law is expected to save Michigan taxpayers $40 million annually within five years and reduce the size of Michigan’s prison population by 1,800-2,400 beds over the same timeframe.

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed House Bill 5377 into law Thursday.

The new law codifies the current practice of objective parole. It sets clearer guidelines to determine whether an incarcerated person who scores as low-risk to re-offend is ready to go home once they’ve reached their earliest release date. The bill defines a limited list of 11 substantial and compelling reasons that the state Parole Board may use when denying parole in a case where a high probability of parole exists. 

The bill, which was supported by a broad group of stakeholders from the ACLU to the Detroit and Grand Rapids Chambers of Commerce, is now Public Act 339 of 2018.

The legislation passed through the Michigan Legislature with overwhelming bipartisan support. It was approved by the House with a vote of 97-10 in May, and by the Senate by a vote of 31-4 in September.

The measure is also expected to reunite families, increase economic opportunities and strengthen local economies. 

“Objective parole replaces subjective decision-making with an evidence-based process. At the same time, it gives the parole board and the Michigan Department of Corrections more flexibility to deny parole when the evidence warrants,” said John Cooper, associate director of policy and research for Safe & Just Michigan. “When the parole process is more consistent and evidence-based, it will result in more people who are ready going home to their families, where they can go back to work and get back to being contributing members of our communities.”

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