PA Lawmakers call for elimination of parole for violent offenders
Rep. Perzel was joined by nearly 50 of his fellow lawmakers at a Capitol press conference in support of legislation to overhaul Pennsylvania’s parole system and keep violent criminals behind bars for as long as possible.
HARRISBURG PA â€“ Rep. John Perzel (R-Philadelphia) today held a press conference in the State Capitol Rotunda to announce the introduction of a series of legislative initiatives designed to make it more difficult for violent offenders to get out of prison before serving their full sentences.
Perzel cited the recent murder of Philadelphia Police Officer Stephen Liczbinski in calling for an overhaul of Pennsylvaniaâ€™s parole system.
â€œOfficer Liczbinskiâ€™s murderers all had extensive criminal records and, as Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey said, â€˜They should never have been out on the street,â€™â€ Perzel said. â€œThe murder of this officer by these criminals, all of whom had histories of violent criminal behavior is the last straw. There comes a time when we must draw a line in the sand and say, â€˜Enough is enough.â€™ That time is now.â€
Perzel noted there are 1,331 violent parole absconders statewide that the Pennsylvania Parole Board cannot locate. He said, â€œPhiladelphia has 576 violent parole absconders, but the problem is not limited to Pennsylvaniaâ€™s large urban areas. Berks County has 116 violent parole absconders and Dauphin County has 123. Dauphin County also has a parole absconder who is listed as a sexual predator on the Commonwealthâ€™s Meganâ€™s Law Web site. His whereabouts are unknown.
â€œThe problem of violent parole absconders exists throughout Pennsylvania, in our cities as well as our smaller communities,â€ Perzel continued. â€œWith that in mind, I am joining with a number of my House colleagues to offer real solutions to fix this problem and protect our citizens.â€
Perzel said that the first step in solving this growing problem is for Pennsylvaniaâ€™s judges to begin imposing tougher and longer sentences for repeat violent offenders.
â€œIt is totally unacceptable for a repeat violent criminal to be found guilty of committing another violent criminal act and then get off easy with a lenient sentence,â€ Perzel said. â€œWhile I agree that prevention and rehabilitation are preferable to punishment, the reality is that for any prevention or rehabilitation effort to be effective, it must carry with it a real and substantial threat of strict and sure punishment. Judges who impose anything less are doing a disservice to the people of Pennsylvania.â€
In addition to calling on the judiciary to start imposing tougher and longer sentences for violent offenses, the lawmakers said they would offer several legislative initiatives aimed at solving the problem including:
- Eliminating parole for any violent offender convicted of rape, robbery, murder, aggravated assault, or any crime with a gun.
- Eliminating early release programs for offenders convicted of a violent crime or a crime involving a gun.
- Requiring that all mandatory five year sentences for gun offenses be served consecutively and not concurrently with sentences for other crimes.
The lawmakers also called for substantial changes to the parole system including a requirement that all inmates receive an affirmative vote by a majority of the nine members of the parole board to be paroled. Currently, an inmate only needs the affirmative vote of two board members.
â€œPennsylvanians have had enough of repeat violent criminals murdering and terrorizing our loved ones,â€ said Perzel. â€œToday, we are drawing a line in the sand and saying we will do everything in our power to keep violent offenders behind bars for as long as possible.â€
Rep. John Perzel
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Contact: Marty Oâ€™Rourke
David J. Foster
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