BY BRIAN M. KOLB
Media coverage seems to be ever-present in each of our lives. There are daily coronavirus reports, opinions on school re-openings and political campaign ads on repeat. It seems as if the average person is less concerned with what is happening in his immediate community than what the neighboring state or opposed view on Facebook is saying. As a state legislator, this attitude is troubling. Especially in New York, where there is one-party rule in the governor’s mansion, both houses of the Legislature, the attorney general’s office and the comptroller’s office, the implications of focusing on a narrative rather than actual happenings can be disastrous.
When we look back to before the pandemic, the disastrous bail reform law was allowing criminals to commit crimes with no recourse. As New York City shutdown, crime rates skyrocketed, but focus was on the virus and political discourse. It is time that the families of crime victims are given the respect they deserve, and that starts with questioning the pro-criminal mentality that New York possesses.
Just in September alone, the governor’s parole board granted the early release of three violent criminals: two cop-killers and one murderer/rapist. Obviously, we must reform the process in which the parole board makes its release decisions. That’s why my fellow Assembly Minority members and I have introduced a new bill to strengthen legislative oversight of the 19-member parole board. This legislation allows members of the state parole board to be removed by a majority vote of the Senate and Assembly, in addition to removal by the governor. It also requires a minimum of three (currently two) members of the 19-member parole board to interview inmates seeking parole, and requires a unanimous vote of the three members for each determination on parole (currently only a majority is required).
In addition to sponsoring legislative reforms, we’ve launched an online petition so that you can make your voice heard. To support public safety and stand against the outrageous, dangerous determinations of the governor’s parole board, access the petition at http://bit.ly/ReformParoleBoard.
If dangerous criminals are being released, we must strengthen the legislative oversight in the parole board process. We must also look to the families that are directly affected by inexplicable early releases, and as is with Ramona’s Law, the extension of time between hearings of denied parole applicants.
There is no citizen out there who wants an increase in crime, except the criminals themselves. If we want to protect our families and preserve justice, we have to prioritize decision making. There is no fast-and-hard solution to ensuring that criminals serve their full sentence, but the Democratic rule of law must at least be altered so we can attempt to protect our people.