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Meekhof Advises Schuette To Tone Down Rhetoric On House

October 20, 2015

Attorney General Bill Schuette told reporters last week he sees an “anti-cop sentiment” taking shape in the House-passed presumptive parole legislation and the Senate Majority Leader says the state’s top cop’s “over-the-top” rhetoric isn’t wise.

Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof (R-West Olive) said Schuette is getting “out there on a limb” with his aggressive campaign against legislation designed to make parole easier for low-risk inmates who have served their minimum sentences.

The two had a conversation Tuesday and Meekhof told him, “It’s probably not a wise idea to talk the way he talked about the caucus on the other side.”

Meekhof added the Attorney General should think about how he treats people, in general, and “if he wants to get public policy done, the best effort would be to work with people.”

Schuette apparently told Meekhof that he’d take that under advisement. The Senate’s top official said Schuette is well within his right to comment on public policy, but “He doesn’t make public policy. He just follows what we do.”

The Attorney General talked about presumptive parole Friday on Off The Record. Over the weekend, he posted several social media messages about inmates on parole reoffending. On Monday, Schuette headlined a press conference in Oakland County with the local sheriff and prosecutors about concerns they have about the legislation.

Even Wednesday, Schuette posted an old newspaper article about a parolee accosting a child “for immoral purposes” in Petoskey and one pleading guilty to “passing counterfeit bills, domestic violence” in Bay City. He also quoted statistics that 70 percent of Michigan criminals in prison are violent offenders.

House Speaker Kevin Cotter (R-Mt. Pleasant) issued a statement Tuesday in which he said the proposed bill requires parole boards to give a compelling reason to deny parole to prisoners who have finished their minimum sentence and have a high probability of success.

“The process is even simplified for parole boards by filtering out prisoners who don’t have a high enough probability of success, including repeat offenders and prisoners who face additional charges,” Cotter said. “Any parole board willing to deny a man his freedom and keep him locked up beyond the court-ordered sentence ought to at least have a reason for doing so.” 

Senate Republicans discussed the legislation for the first time behind closed doors Wednesday. Meekhof said Wednesday was the first time the caucus had talked about “presumptive parole” in any detail since it’s been a House issue up until now.

Sen. John Proos (R-St. Joseph), the chair of the Senate Corrections Appropriations Subcommittee, has some ideas on changes to the reforms that the Senate may end up looking at.

But as of right now, the Senate Republicans are going through, for really the first time, a review of the legislation, Meekhof said.

Sen. Tom Casperson (R-Escanaba) came out against presumptive parole Wednesday, telling his local TV station he would vote no on the bill, HB 4138, if it comes to the Senate floor.

“We’re not having a lot of success keeping people out (of prison) and they’ve been going back in pretty regularly,” Casperson told the UPMatters.com. “I think we’ve got to work on some of that stuff, no doubt. But just letting them out early is not, I don’t believe, a good idea.”

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