Nozzolio: Time To Stop The Massive Increase In Violent Criminal Parole Releases

Michael F. Nozzolio

February 05, 2008

Albany - State Senator Michael Nozzolio today announced the introduction of comprehensive legislation that will dramatically strengthen the State’s Parole Laws to help restrict the release of potentially dangerous violent felons. Senator Nozzolio was joined at the announcement by his Senate colleagues as well as the family of fallen police officer Harry Ryman, who was killed in the line of duty.

“The Senate’s tough criminal justice reforms helped to produce record-breaking drops in crime throughout the past decade, and we are not going to allow that progress to be reversed under any circumstances,” said Senator Nozzolio, Chairman of the Senate Crime Victims, Crime and Corrections Committee. “These critical parole reforms will help keep our communities safe, empower crime victims, and help to ensure that cop killers and other vicious criminals are kept behind bars where they belong.”

Today’s announcement is a direct response to the alarming increase in the parole release rates for A-1 violent felons that has occurred in the past year. 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.

"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, 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."

The legislation to be introduced by Senator Nozzolio will:

• Require at least 3 Parole Board members to conduct parole hearings for inmates convicted of a class A felony, and require a unanimous vote for parole to be granted in these cases; (Presently, only a majority vote is required.)

• Require the Division of Parole to maintain a listing of inmates and their parole eligibility dates, along with other relevant data, on their website;

• Allow victims who did not choose to receive notice of parole hearings at the time of the inmate's conviction to elect to do so at a later date;

• Require the Division’s website to provide a mechanism enabling victims of all crimes, not just violent crimes, to register to receive notice of when their perpetrator will appear before the Parole Board for a hearing. The website must also provide a notice of their rights as a victim to make either a written or oral statement to the Board;

• Require the Parole Board to give notice to victims who have requested to be notified of a proposed parole hearing, and their rights as victim to make either a written or oral statement to the board;

• Require the Division of Parole to provide an annual report to the State Legislature on all parole releases, release rates and other information; and

• Mandate that the Division of Parole must contact the local District Attorney in the county where a crime was committed, whenever an A-felon or Violent Felony Offender comes up for parole.

In addition, legislation will introduced that would mandate an extensive array of information about inmates be made available on the State Division of Parole website, including their record of behavior while incarcerated.

Senator Nozzolio also announced legislation to strengthen provisions of the law pertaining to impact statements given by victims and family members at the parole hearing. Under current law, it is only required that statements be heard by one member of the parole board. This bill (S.6825) would require all three parole board members to hear testimony from crime victims and their families.