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Pols look to make it tougher on parolees - Legislation aims to shed light on hearings

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Sick and tired of watching hardened criminals being set free from the New York State Parole Board, State Senate Republicans have put together a legislative package that would make it tougher for criminals to receive a “Get out of jail free” card. Joining with the family of fallen Police Officer Harry Ryman, State Senator Martin Golden and others announced the introduction of several bills that would shed a spotlight on parolee release dates and procedures, which would inspire the New York State Parole Board to take a more critical stance on evaluating requests for early release. The push for more stringency comes after allegations that Governor Spitzer was allowing early parole hearings for convicted murderers and other criminals. The issue was highlighted in November, 2007 amid news reports that the Spitzer administration and the Board of Parole were quietly negotiating a court settlement that would have dramatically altered the governance of parole hearings in order to favor the rights of violent criminals, including serial killers such as David “Son of Sam” Berkowitz. Under the proposed settlement, cop killers and other vicious criminals would have received additional opportunities to seek early parole, while also being empowered to select the parole officer of their choice Inmates participating in the lawsuit charged that they have been constantly denied parole because those that review their cases put more weight on the heinousness of their crimes rather than how they are paying their debt to society. The new bills would ensure more parole hearings for level one offenders and tinker the New York State Division of Parole website so it includes hearing and release dates for felons. Golden’s part of the legislation package will open up the parole process by mandating “an extensive array of information” about inmates broadcast on the State Division of Parole website, including their record of behavior while they’ve been in prison. “From closing prisons, to releasing cop killers, to dismantling our State’s parole system, Governor Spitzer’s soft-on-crime policies pose a dangerous threat to public safety,” Senator Golden said in a statement. “We will do everything in our power to prevent this Administra­tion’s misguided policies from bringing us back to the days when New York was the national poster child for rape, murder and mayhem.” “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,” added Staten Island State Senator Andrew Lanza, who submitted legislation that three parole hearings are held per convict instead of one. “Unfortunat­ely, it seems as though current misguided policies are in fact releasing dangerous criminals from serving out their full sentences. The stakes are simply too high not to fix this problem immediately.” New York State Division of Parole data shows that A-1 violent felons appearing for the first time before the parole board are being released at a 180-percent higher rate under Spitzer’s administration than under former Governor George Pataki’s administration. Felons who reappear before the Board are being released at a rate 122 percent higher than during Pataki’s last term, officials said. “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 Police Officer Harry Ryman, a cop from the 60th Precinct who was shot and killed as he tried to stop a car theft outside his home in Flatlands. One of his killers is poised for early release because of Spitzer’s “kindler gentler” parole hearing practices, officials allege. “Those who kill police officers, and all citizens, do not deserve another chance to be a free member of our society,” said Golden. “Officer Ryman does not have another chance at life, and their killers should not have another chance at freedom.”

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