Senators Baddour and Tarr lead bipartisan parole reform effort
January 24, 2010 – Flanked by a bipartisan coalition of Senate supporters, Senate Minority Leader Bruce E. Tarr (R-Gloucester) and Senator Steven A. Baddour (D-Methuen) held a State House press conference today to announce the filing of comprehensive legislation reforming the state’s parole system.
The bill, which has drawn strong support in the Senate, would create new minimum sentencing guidelines before individuals who are serving a life sentence can qualify for parole, while eliminating the prospect of parole for anyone serving more than one life sentence. It also establishes a process for removing parole board members and requires district attorneys, law enforcement, victims and the families of victims to receive advance notice of parole hearings so they can have an opportunity to testify before the parole board.
The reform package was filed in response to the December 26th shooting death of Woburn Police Officer John “Jack” Maguire, who was killed by parolee Dominic Cinelli, a violent career criminal who was serving three concurrent life sentences before he was released in 2008. On January 6th, Tarr, Baddour and 18 other senators called for a moratorium on parole hearings pending the outcome of an investigation into the Cinelli case, with many of the senators demanding the parole board members resign. Exactly one week later, on January 13th, the five board members who had voted in favor of paroling Cinelli submitted their resignations.
“The resignation of the parole board members was a necessary first step for addressing the gross miscarriage of justice that failed Officer Maguire and his family, but the process of implementing meaningful and lasting reforms to restore the public’s faith and trust in our criminal justice system has only just begun,” said Senator Tarr. “The reforms contained in this bill will move us that much closer to creating a parole and sentencing system that emphasizes public safety and accountability.”
“This bill blends a tough-on-crime and commonsense approach towards those convicted of violent crimes by implementing immediate changes and reforms to the Parole Board and the parole process,” said Senator Baddour. “These changes will help ensure that hardened, career criminals stay in prison, enhancing public safety throughout the Commonwealth.”
In addition to banning parole for individuals serving multiple life sentences, the bill would also require those individuals who receive one life sentence to serve a minimum of 25 years before becoming eligible for parole, rather than the current 15. A two-thirds vote of the seven-member parole board would be needed to grant parole to lifers, and those who are denied parole would need to wait a minimum of five years before they get another chance at parole, unless they can show a genuine change of circumstances.
The reform package also:
• Requires habitual offenders to serve the maximum sentence for their third felony, with no chance at parole (currently, those receiving a maximum sentence are eligible for parole after serving only half their sentence);
• Mandates that three members of the parole board have at least five years of state law enforcement experience within the previous 10 years (although one board member can have the equivalent amount of federal law enforcement experience instead);
• Establishes a procedure for removing parole board members for cause;
• Requires the outcome of parole hearings to be posted on the Internet;
• Allows for temporary moratoriums on the holding of parole hearings by providing the parole board with the flexibility to suspend the current requirement of holding a hearing within 60 days of eligibility; and
• Creates a commission to conduct a feasibility study and cost benefit analysis of adopting the federal system, which would eliminate parole and replace it with a system that provides a maximum sentence reduction of 15 percent for good behavior and other mitigating factors.
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