Senate approves comprehensive criminal justice reforms

Sen. Dale Zorn

Sen. Dale Zorn

Zorn bill would stop parole violators from receiving welfare

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Dale Zorn recently supported bipartisan legislation designed to reform, re-establish and rebuild a criminal justice system focused on lowering recidivism.

Included in the comprehensive package of bills was Zorn’s legislation to prevent the state from giving public assistance to parole and probation violators.

“Our criminal justice system should focus on keeping our residents safe and help break the cycle of incarceration,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “Roughly 90 percent of prisoners eventually return to our communities. It is critical that we efficiently and effectively rehabilitate them so they are prepared to find success in life after prison.”

The 20-bill package was approved by the Senate on June 9. Among reforms included in the package are better tracking of data on people who re-offend, allowing judges to shorten a probation term as a result of good behavior, speeding up hearings for prisoners with serious and life threatening medical conditions, encouraging partnerships with outside volunteers who offer services to prisoners, expanding housing reforms for juvenile offenders, and creating a tax credit for employing a probationer or parolee.

SB 943 would require probation and parole supervisors to provide to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) a list of people who have failed to report their whereabouts as required. Zorn’s bill, SB 944, would then prevent DHHS from granting public assistance to the listed parole and probation violators.

“Simply put: People who violate their parole or probation should not be getting taxpayer-funded welfare benefits,” Zorn said. “Parole is an important step toward rehabilitation and when prisoners are given a chance to rejoin society, we expect at a minimum they will report to a supervisor. This reform would crack down on those who fail to do so and end the practice of taxpayers giving benefits to offenders who don’t follow the rules.”

The bills have been sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.