Bill Would Create 10-Year Break Between Parole Hearings for Violent Offenders
TRENTON – The Senate today passed 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.
“Crime victims and their families should be given every right to be able to live free of fear and not have to relive tragedies over and over,” said Sarlo. “Violent criminals deserve the sentences they were handed, and shouldn’t be put on a short-term plan for release.”
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 of 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.
“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 a very painful spotlight time and again. It isn’t justice, it’s just cruel.”
“Pat Rybka has had to endure reliving the memories of her husband’s murder twice in five years, and if we don’t act now it’s just going to happen again, and all too soon,” said Sarlo. “The Rybkas, and the many other families in their position, simply deserve a little peace.”
The bill passed 37-0 and now heads to the Assembly for further consideration.