LANSING, Mich. (AP) — New laws enacted Friday allow the Michigan Parole Board to delay reviews of killers and other violent offenders so they occur every five years instead of every one or two years.
The bipartisan measures signed by Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer address what supporters said was an unintended consequence of a 2018 law that changed the parole process. The legislation was spurred by victims who survived Lansing-area serial killer Don Miller, who confessed to killing four women in the 1970s but pleaded guilty to two counts of manslaughter in exchange for leading authorities to some bodies.
He also was convicted of raping and strangling a 14-year-old girl and strangling and stabbing her 13-year-old brother, Randy Gilbert. Miller later was sentenced for possessing a weapon in prison.
“Without this bill, every year I have to relive the fear of his release,” Gilbert said during a news conference at the governor’s office, where Whitmer signed the legislation alongside legislators and prosecutors. “Every year, I have to revisit the emotional scars and the trauma I’ve endured. Every year, I fear for the safety of my future, the future of my children and the future of our community.”
Among the changes in the 2018 law was a provision that shortened, from five years to one year, the maximum period between parole reviews for an inmate who was denied despite having a high or average probability of release. It was shortened from five years to two for a prisoner with a low probability of parole.
The new laws, which take effect immediately, allow a majority of the 10-member parole board to wait five years under certain circumstances, including if more frequent reviews would cause additional harm to victims or their surviving family members.
Rep. Angela Whitmer, a Delta Township Democrat who knew the Gilberts growing up, said the process in recent years “simply wasn’t humane to victims and survivors. What made it worse was it was unnecessary. When parole boards determine that a criminal is a threat to public safety, then delaying their parole is appropriate.”