State Rep. Klint Kesto set forth a proposal earlier this year offering concise parolee parameters while reducing a swelling prison population propped up by state money. His goal at the time was clear.
“Smart on crime and soft on hard-working taxpayers,” said Kesto, of Commerce Township.
The plan, House Bill 5377, was recently signed into law by Gov. Rick Snyder and became Public Act 339 of 2018.
“This plan makes some of the practices we have in place into law,” Kesto said. “We have a scoring system for parole release after eligible individuals complete their minimum sentences, but only about 75 percent of offenders who score highly are actually being released when that minimum sentence is up. This number can and should be higher. It will ensure more offenders are given a chance at being productive citizens in our state and lessens the burdens on taxpayers for corrections spending.”
In Michigan, a prisoner is not eligible for parole until they have served all of a minimum sentence imposed by the court. Once the minimum sentence has come and gone, a parole board must have reasonable assurance that a released individual will not pose a threat to society.
The parole board uses a set of guidelines, including mental and social evaluations, rating inmates as having a high, average or low probability of success on parole. Under the new law, individuals with high scores would be assured release by the parole board unless there is a substantial, compelling reason not to do so. The law grants more certainty in sentencing and promotes rehabilitation.
Michigan’s prison population has risen from approximately 14,000 in the 1970s to more than 39,000 currently. As a result, corrections spending has increased from 3 percent of the state budget to roughly 20 percent.
“On average, prisoners are serving approximately 125 percent above their minimum sentences, regardless of their parole scores or behavior while incarcerated,” said Kesto, who chairs the House Law and Justice Committee. “I’m a firm believer in justice, but I’m also a firm believer in weighing the cost of justice with efficient state expenditures. It’s important to maintain that balance and this law underscores that.”
Before being signed, HB 5377 was approved overwhelmingly and in bipartisan fashion by the Michigan House and Senate.