Senate OKs Zorn bill to stop parole violators from receiving welfare benefits

Measure is part of Senate’s comprehensive criminal justice reforms

Sen. Dale Zorn

Sen. Dale Zorn

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Senate on Thursday approved bipartisan criminal justice reforms focused on protecting the public, reducing costs and lowering recidivism.

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

“Refocusing Michigan’s criminal justice system on rehabilitation and reform of prisoners will keep our residents safe, reduce the cost to taxpayers and help break the cycle of crime,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “Nine of every 10 Michigan prisoners will one day return to our communities. It is critical that we efficiently and effectively rehabilitate them so they are prepared to contribute to society and find success in life after prison.”

Reforms in the 21-bill package include improving 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.

Senate Bill 18 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 19, would then prevent DHHS from granting public assistance to the listed parole and probation violators.

“Taxpayer-funded welfare benefits should not be going to people who violate their parole or probation,” Zorn said. “Trust is an important part of the rehabilitation process. When prisoners are given a chance to rejoin society through parole or to avoid prison through probation, we expect them to meet some basic requirements — such as reporting to a supervisor.

“This reform is about cracking down on those who violate the public trust and ending 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.