Skubick: Law enforcement and prison reform backers square off over minimum prison term releases

LANSING, Mich (WLNS) – There could be a showdown next week with law enforcement on one side and prison reform advocates on the other as a Michigan House committee considers legislation to release prison inmates as soon as they complete their minimum sentence.

Under current Michigan law, prison inmates are not released as soon as they serve their minimum sentence. Some serve additional time behind bars at a cost to taxpayers.

Republican lawmaker Rep. Klint Kesto wants to train those inmates for a job and release them as soon as they’ve finished their minimum sentence.

His problem is the prosecutors at first opposed the bill but are talking about changes to the measure.

And the last time this proposal was up Attorney General Bill Schuette killed it.

He has not endorsed this revised measure.

To win the support of those opponents, the sponsor has changed his plan to exclude all the bad guys from the program.

“They are the heinous crimes, the murderers, the criminal sexual conduct cases like Nassar, the kidnappers and rapists,” said Rep. Kesto. “We’ll set them aside.”

Eligible would be the paper crime, retail fraud and low level criminals.

Republican candidate for attorney general Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker is willing to look at that.

“What I’m concerned about is the risk to the public safety and as long as that is addressed I’m open to improving the system.”

The senator said there would be a degree of comfort if the bad guys are taken out.

But former sheriff Sen. Rick Jones argues the state has a system to do this now – the parole board.

“I do believe that the parole board has it well in hand,” said the senator. “They could study how the guy acted in prison maybe he assaulted inmates. We need to know his history.”

But another former sheriff sees the change this way.

“It seems like a good way to get our prison population down,” said Rep. John Chirkun. “But I’m skeptical about the job program at the end of the sentence.”

All this comes to a head next week as Rep. Kesto tries to move his bill and, suffice it to say, lots of inmates will be watching closely.

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