Thursday, November 10, 2011

Senate Passes Parole Reform Bill

The Massachusetts Senate today approved a comprehensive parole reform bill that includes a Republican-sponsored measure requiring third time violent habitual criminals to serve their sentences consecutively, rather than concurrently. The bill passed unanimously on a vote of 36-0.

Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester), Assistant Senate Minority Leader Robert Hedlund (R-Weymouth), Senator Michael Knapik (R-Westfield) and Senate Minority Whip Richard Ross (R-Wrentham) hailed the bill as a major step forward in protecting public safety. The efforts to reform the state’s parole system originated with legislation that was filed in January by the Republican Caucus in partnership with many of their Democratic colleagues.

“Today marks an important victory in our efforts to secure justice for the families of those who have been victimized by violent crime and to ensure that violent habitual offenders serve their time so they cannot harm any other innocent victims,” said Senator Tarr. “There is still much work to be done, and we cannot be satisfied until the House and Governor Patrick follow the Senate’s lead and these changes are signed into law.”

“This has been a long time coming,” said Senator Hedlund. “The commitment and perseverance that advocates, legislators and law enforcement dedicated to this effort has been tremendous. Today in the Senate, we spoke in unison to pass this important legislation.”

“For the parents and families whose loved ones’ voices were silenced by violent repeat offending criminals, today’s passage of the Habitual Offender Bill can only bring a modicum of satisfaction,” noted Senator Ross. “I thank the families and my Senate colleagues for supporting this bill in hopes that future victimizations by repeat offenders can be avoided.”

“I am pleased with the outcome of this legislation,” added Senator Knapik. “We have seen too many times the tragic outcome of granting parole to those who do not deserve it. This bill keeps the most serious and chronic violent offenders off the streets, which ultimately keeps Massachusetts residents safe.”

In addition to securing language barring concurrent terms for violent habitual offenders, the Senate also approved Republican-sponsored amendments that would:

• require the members of the parole board to certify in writing that they have reviewed the criminal record of those inmates that come before the board seeking parole;

• mandate that the parole board provide written certification of its attempts to comply with requirements that it notify the attorney general, district attorney, police chief, victims and victims’ families before conducting a hearing to consider granting parole to anyone serving a life sentence;

• give the governor the authority to remove members of the parole board for cause after giving notice and holding a public hearing; and

• require that if the parole board does not post portions of public records and summary statements of their hearings on the Internet, the board must state the reason(s) why it cannot do so.

The bill now heads to the House for further action.