Lanza And Tobacco Take Action To Strengthen New York's Parole Laws

Andrew J Lanza

February 06, 2008

Senator Andrew Lanza (R - Staten Island) and Assemblyman Lou Tobacco (R - South Shore) have authored legislation which will strengthen provisions of the law pertaining to impact statements given at parole hearings by victims and family members. Under current law, it is only required that statements given by crime victims and family members be heard by one member of the parole board, while convicts plead their cases before all three members of the parole board. In fact, crime victims and their families are not even entitled to a guarantee that their statement will be heard by a parole board member who will actually decide the case. The bill (S.6825) would fix this injustice by requiring all three parole board members to hear testimony from crime victims and their families.

The Spitzer Administration has recently come under fire for what many are calling a policy change that has lead to a large number of A-1 felons being released from prison. New State Division of Parole data shows that A-1 violent felons appearing for the first time before the Parole Board are now being released at a rate 180 percent higher than during Governor George Pataki’s last term in office. Felons who reappear before the Board are being released at a rate 122 percent higher than during Pataki’s last term.

"The drastic increase in the number of criminals being paroled from prison represents an alarming trend that is endangering public safety," said Senator Lanza. "New York’s most violent criminals must not be released back into our neighborhoods where they can once again threaten the lives and safety of innocent people. Unfortunately, it seems as though current misguided policies are in fact releasing dangerous criminals from serving out their full sentences."

"Violent criminals should not have more rights than the victims of their crimes," said Senator Lanza. Unfortunately, current policies do just that. This bill will fix the problem by allowing crime victims to be heard by the same parole board members who will hear from the criminal," Lanza continued.

"The legislation we have introduced will give crime victims and their families who have suffered at the hands of violent criminals the opportunity to make a victim impact statement to parole board members, ensuring that both sides of the story is heard," said Tobacco. "Too often our criminal justice system puts the rights of criminals above those of the victim. This legislation would even the field by giving victims and their families a voice at parole board hearings."

"Our bill will strengthen current law, hopefully ending the alarming increase in parole for violent criminals, and will protect the rights of crime victims and their families," said Senator Lanza.

"I am hopeful that this legislation will help to stem the tied of violent felons being paroled under the Spitzer Administration," remarked Tobacco. "If we want New York to remain the safest large state in the nation then we need to keep criminals with a propensity towards violence behind bars. This legislation should go a long way in accomplishing that while giving victims and their families a louder voice."

The lawmakers efforts in advancing this legislation is supported by the family of fallen New York City Police Officer Harry Ryman. Among those up for parole are the convicted killers who gunned down off-duty New York City Police Officer Ryman while he heroically attempted to stop three men from stealing a neighbor’s car.

"My family and I believe that parole procedures need to change; not on behalf of the inmates – but on behalf of the very people whose lives were destroyed by them," said Margaret Rainone, a Staten Island resident who is the daughter of slain NYPD Officer Harry Ryman. "The current lack of equality regarding victims in the parole process only serves to minimize the impact statement and its real value in the process."