Parole For Offenders Convicted of Crimes Involving Harm to Children

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An article in the Texas Tribune, New Parole Rules Sought in Cases Involving Children, shares the story and the plight of Laurie Thompson, a woman whose 4-year-old granddaughter was “beaten to death after being sexually assaulted by her mother’s boyfriend.” The mother was convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison; however, within two years she became eligible for parole set to be automatically reviewed every year. The issue is that Ms. Thompson has been promised the perpetrators would have no eligibility for release.

Thompson met with other organizations such as Parents of Murdered Children and became aware that many people were facing this issue. Andy Kahan, victim advocate for the city of Houston explains that parents never have a chance to heal; they are constantly re-living the experience in anticipating yearly paroles until the offenders are eventually released.

Thompson has teamed up with Kahan, and they have been contacting legislators for the 2013 session who would be interested in authorizing the bill, titled, Emma’s Law. They are pursuing a law that would end automatic yearly parole reviews in cases where the victim is a child. The goal is to give the parole board discretion in choosing to refrain from reviewing cases for up to five years. And apparently, there is currently a list of offenses that already meet this discretionary measure.

On the other hand, attorneys such as Brian McGiverin of the Texas Civil Rights Project explain that this sort of law is “deceptive,” and keeps offenders in prison even if they have compelling reasons for parole. A better proposition, McGiverin suggests, is to limit the frequency of parole eligibility for offenders rather than leaving it in the hands of the board to decide in each case.

The director of the Center for Effective Justice at the Texas Policy Foundation, Marc Levin, theorizes that longer periods between paroles may increase chances for early release, but “if they don’t have time to see that person hasn’t harmed anyone… they are more likely to tend to the side of not granting parole.”

For more see New Parole Rules Sought in Cases Involving Children by Maurice Chammah, click here.

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