Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Meeting with a Parole Board Member About My Father's Murder--lowlights

I wrote at length on my other blog about my father's murder in '06 and how a girl who pled guilty as an accessory is up for parole now, after only a year in prison.

The link to my other blog is at bottom, and I won't rehash all that here, but suffice it to say that it is as if the systems wants the criminals out.

First off, as I understand it, you get on the parole board because you have kissed the governor's ass in some way. He appoints people--five--to the board. There is no vote from anyone else. It is the taxpayers who will pay upkeep on these people and the taxpayers--not wealthy politicians--who will live among the ex-cons if they are released, yet we get no direct say in voting in a parole board member. Our governor was a wealthy tobacco company lobbyist for years and is a Republican. He was chairman of the Republican National Committee in the '90s. He recently commuted the sentence of a murderer, who spent the bulk of the time he was supposed to be in prison working in the governor's mansion. Now he is totally free.

Would people who voted in a governor like this do any better voting in a parole board? I think so. The public can realize their mistakes (for instance, many have turned against the governor now, who can't run again anyway). If a parole board let a criminal out that went on to commit another atrocity, you can bet people would be angry. Right now, there is no record that I know of to show how each parole board member voted. I have seen articles in which parole board members would not answer questions about how they voted if asked by citizens of this state. I think this should change. There should be a record that could be accessed. Let them keep their home addresses and the parole hearing locations private, but let their vote be public.

Finally, the parole board member I spoke to claimed that letters from family members of victims mattered the most in their decision of whether to let someone out or not. I told him that a life is worth something, no matter how many letters they get. The circumstances of the crime should be considered, not how 'popular' someone was. Are we back in high school, with a new and improved yearbook category--Most Likely to Not have His Murderer Paroled?

I want to do something about all this, though I am not sure what. I am going this week to a support group for people who lost family members to homicide. I also want to meet with a state representative, but I know I will need much research (and hopefully support) before I do. People need to understand that we can't make the system perfect, but it could be fairer.

I can tell you from experience that you hate to become aware of the unjust system when you have already lost a loved one and it is too late to correct the court system's handling of their death.

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