Sarlo/Weinberg Bill To Protect Families Of Crime Victims Released From Senate Committee

Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee Chairman Paul A. Sarlo, D-Bergen, Essex and Passaic, speaks on the Senate floor about the FY 2011 Budget.

Bill Seeks 10-Year Break Between Parole Hearings for Violent Offenders

TRENTON – Legislation Senators Paul Sarlo and Loretta Weinberg sponsored to mandate that violent criminals have their chances for parole extended to only once every ten years to protect the families of their victims from having the wounds of tragedy ripped open time and again has been released by a Senate panel.

The bill (S-2308) responds to a new law that took effect this past June which requires that inmates go for a parole hearing no later than three years after their last denial for release, regardless of the severity of their crime. The bill would apply to offenders sentenced under the state’s No Early Release Act and convicted for either a first or second degree crime, including murder, rape or arson.

Sarlo and Weinberg (both D-Bergen) said the bill is necessary to ensure violent criminals stay behind bars and to save families frequent emotional pain. They pointed to the experience of Pat Rybka, the widow of Bergen County Deputy Sheriff Joseph Rybka. Deputy Sheriff Rybka was killed in 1979 when Stephen Perry, a suspect he was guarding at the former Bergen Pines hospital, attacked him and turned his service weapon against him.

Perry was sentenced to 25 years-to-life for the crime. He was denied parole in 2005 and again in August. Under current law, he must face another parole hearing before August 31, 2013.

“The right of crime victims and their families to live free of fear and not have to relive tragedies time and again must be paramount,” said Sen. Sarlo. “For every time Pat Rybka has had to have the wounds of her husband’s murder ripped back open, countless other families have had to go through the same ordeal. Violent criminals deserve the sentences they were handed, and shouldn’t be put on a short-term plan for release.”

“There are some wounds which time cannot heal, and the violent, senseless death of a loved one is a wound that cuts extraordinarily deep,” said Weinberg. “It’s patently unfair to drag a victim’s survivors back into the spotlight time and again. It isn’t justice, it’s just cruel.”

The Senate Law and Public Safety Committee released the bill on Thursday. It now is poised for a vote in the full Senate.

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