On June 18, Governor Tom Corbett signed a bill into law that allows victims of crime to speak directly to the Board of Probation and Parole when the inmate that committed the crime is having his or her parole hearing. The Crime Victims Act of 1998 only permitted victims to petition the board through a written statement or testimony provided to staff members, but the new amendment changes that.
The initiative to create this amendment started last November when Rafael Robb had a parole hearing. Robb killed his wife in 2006 in Montgomery County, and his wife’s family wanted to make a statement directly to the parole board. That request was denied and Robb was granted parole. Thereafter, the board reversed its decision, and on March 6, Representative Mike Vereb introduced the bill to clarify the Pennsylvania Crime Victims act. In three 3 months, the bill was unanimously passed by both the House and the Senate. It will take effect on September 1.
Bill DiMascio, executive director of the Pennsylvania Prison Society, does not support the legislation, believing that victim statements should be made at trials, not at parole hearings to determine an inmate’s progress. Aside from DiMascio and the defense bar, the bill has gained overwhelming support.
What do you think? Should victims be able to testify at parole hearings, or is that better left for trial and sentencing, with a parole hearing only to determine if the offender has reformed himself sufficiently to re-enter society? Let us know what you think in the comment section.