When a person who has been convicted of a felony crime and sentenced to prison reaches the end of his minimum sentence, he is eligible for parole consideration. Parole is a period of community supervision, usually two years, prior to discharge. It is not early release.
In Michigan the maximum sentence is set by the statute, and the minimum sentence is set by the judge. The parole board attains jurisdiction over the person sentenced when the minimum sentence has been served, minus any good time or disciplinary credits earned.
Those people who have come to prison since the Truth in Sentence statute eliminating all “good time” must serve their entire minimum. Other prisoners who were sentenced prior to 1978 can earn good time and those sentenced before Truth in Sentencing but after 1978 are earning disciplinary credits.
The decision to parole an individual is made by a body of 15 members which is divided into three-member panels. Each case is assigned to a panel and the decision to grant parole is made by a majority vote of the panel. In cases involving parolable lifers the decision must be made by a majority vote of the entire board. See visual description of the process (PDF: 45K).
The board uses a wide variety of factors in making its decision. They include the risk the offender poses to the community. Such risk can be determined statistically through parole guidelines. All prisoners receive a parole guidelines score before they are considered for release except those serving parolable life sentences.
The parole board may depart from the parole guidelines by denying parole to a prisoner who has a high probability of parole as determined under the parole guidelines, or by granting parole to a prisoner who has a low probability of parole as determined under the parole guidelines. People who score high probability of release (+3 and higher) can be paroled without an interview unless the crime involved a sexual offense or a death. Those who score low probability (-13 and below) can be denied parole without an interview.
Other factors include the nature of the crime, prior criminal history, mental health history, institutional behavior and parole placement plans. See Administrative Rule 791.7715.
State law requires that the board have reasonable assurance the prisoner will not be a risk to a community if released.
Prisoners are interviewed several months before the date at which they could be released. Before the interview, institution staff prepare a Parole Eligibility Report which the board uses to see what the prisoner has accomplished since being sentenced to prison.
When the decision is made to parole, a pre-parole investigation is conducted to determine the suitability of the proposed placement. If approved, a notice of parole will be issued which contains regular and special parole conditions.
If parole is denied, notification will contain the number of months – 12, 18 or 24 – before the board will reconsider parole.