Parole process needs review, transparency

Editor, The News:

State officials must examine the effectiveness of Pennsylvania’s parole system after a recent parolee with a history of violence in and out of prison murdered an 8-year-old boy this month.

A little boy is dead, and his family deserves to know if this could’ve been avoided. Since June 2018, Pennsylvania’s own statistics show that state prisons have reduced their population by 2,000 inmates. The PSCOA doesn’t take issue with reducing Pennsylvania’s prison population responsibly, but we must be sure that violent offenders aren’t being released. The commonwealth must review its policies and be transparent on how many parolees have committed crimes.

The parolee accused of the boy’s murder served a prison sentence for homicide. Though he had not committed any behavioral infractions for about five years, he did stab a fellow inmate in the neck with a pencil and committed more than 27 misconducts during his prison time. Despite this, he was released when he reached the minimum of his 20- to 40-year sentence.

What happened to that young child is tragic and sickening. The loss of one life is one too many. Pennsylvania shouldn’t ignore an inmate’s violent history simply because they learn how to game the system to make parole (https://www.ncnewsonline.com/news/local_news/parole-report-cites-burley-s-merits-for-release/article_d89f8592-4f07-57eb-ab5a-4db42138c0b6.html). Separately, we understand inmates are being coached on what to say in their parole hearings, and parole officers are being told not to bring parole violators back to jail for violations. Serious consideration must be given to slowing down the parole process until a thorough and thoughtful review can be completed. As we have seen, lives depend on it.

Larry Blackwell

President

PA State Corrections

Officers Association

Harrisburg

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