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February 2, 2011

"Massachusetts killing shines light on state parole boards"

The title of this post is the headline of this lengthy and effective article from Stateline.org.  Here are excerpts:

The six members of the Massachusetts Parole Board who voted to release Dominic Cinelli from prison in 2008 knew at the outset that he posed a potential danger to society.... “You’re a very, very, very high risk,” Thomas Merigan told Cinelli during their face-to-face meeting, according to video footage obtained by The Boston Globe.

Any misgivings about Cinelli, however, were absent in the parole board’s final vote. Merigan and the other five board members unanimously agreed to release him, finding that he was ready for a transition to society under the supervision of a parole officer. He walked out of a state penitentiary in March 2009.

The parole board’s decision would prove to be a fatal one.  On the day after Christmas last year, Cinelli and an accomplice allegedly attempted to rob a Kohl’s department store north of Boston. When police arrived at the scene, Cinelli reportedly drew a gun, and in the shooting that ensued, both the parolee and the officer — a 60-year-old father of three on the verge of retirement — were killed....

All six parole board members who voted to free Cinelli have resigned, and the state has limited parole pending the appointment of a new board.  Meanwhile, Governor Deval Patrick and lawmakers from both parties are moving hastily to pass major reforms to ensure a similar crime never happens again.  “The outrage is universal,” says Bruce Tarr, the Republican leader in the state Senate.

At the center of the furor over Cinelli is the provision in Massachusetts sentencing law that allows some “lifetime” prisoners to become eligible for parole as long as they have served at least 15 years and did not commit first-degree murder. That provision soon could be rewritten.

But the Cinelli case also calls attention to a different aspect of parole: the qualifications of those who decide whether prisoners should be freed or remain behind bars. Tarr and a bipartisan group of state senators have introduced legislation that would require at least three of Massachusetts’ parole board members to have five years of law enforcement experience apiece. None of those who released Cinelli had previously served in law enforcement — something Tarr sees as a major problem.  “History has taught us that a parole board decision can be as important as the original sentence,” he says. “We need to be looking at these people’s qualifications.”

While many states have eliminated parole boards or limited their powers over the years, others still grant them enormous responsibility to manage the prison population.  In Massachusetts alone, the parole board held 8,828 face-to-face parole hearings in 2009, granting release to two-thirds of the applicants, according to a report ordered by Patrick following the Cinelli case.

Despite giving parole boards sweeping authority over inmate releases, many states do not require board members to have any specific criminal justice qualifications, according to a 2004 survey by the Association of Paroling Authorities International, the only known overview of state statutes on board member qualifications.

Arizona, for instance, requires only that board members “must have expressed an interest in the state’s corrections system.”  Texas law states that members “must be a representative of the general public and must reside in the state two years before appointment.”  Nebraska requires that appointees “shall be of good character and judicious temperament,” and Missouri says a parole board member “shall be a person of recognized integrity and honor, known to possess education and ability in decision-making through career experience or other qualifications for the successful performance of their official duties.”

Even states that demand certain academic or professional qualifications typically do not require specific knowledge of parole issues.  New Jersey, for example, requires that appointees “shall have training in law, sociology, criminal justice, juvenile justice, or related branches of social services.”  West Virginia says they “shall have a degree in criminal justice or like experience and academic training.”

February 2, 2011 at 02:53 PM | Permalink

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Comments

Prof. Berman opposes tort liability for the incompetents running our criminal law. This immunity 1) does not give any incentive to improve the methods and care; 2) fully justifies intellectually and morally violence against the malfeasors; 3) is just unfair. The lawyer wants to be able to sue everyone, but wants no one to be able to sue the legal system.

What these incompetents do certainly qualifies for strict liability. In their ordinary use, their methods are inherently dangerous. However, that would end parole. Instead, they should be held to professional standards of due care, as attested by parole experts. The statement that the parolee was recognized as a high risk puts the decision in exemplary damages territory. They had knowledge, and showed malice in his release.

The Supremacy once served on a board to decide the fates of federal prisoners who had come over on the Mariel boatlift. The Supremacy was appalled by the total disregard of public safety of the other members, and fist fights nearly erupted. Not asked to return. These folks had stabbed a cell mate 50 times in a state prison for some imagined offense. They were very neat and polite however, so the vile left wing government functionaries wanted to cut the Commies a break. There is pressure more toward collegiality than toward public safety on these idiotic boards. However, vicious personal attacks and complaints, and personal threats are absolutely justified when pro-criminal, biased traitors threaten the public safety. The families of the deceased have every moral right to beat the asses of these criminal lovers. To deter.

Speaking of sentencing, what were in for in Cuba? Twenty years. For? For stealing pants from a clothes line. Oh, OK. Not much crime in Cuba.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Feb 2, 2011 3:09:47 PM

"...many states do not require board members to have any specific criminal justice qualifications, ..."

"“You’re a very, very, very high risk,” Thomas Merigan told Cinelli during their face-to-face meeting, according to video footage obtained by The Boston Globe."

Don't really need formal qualifications to make it harder to recruit and to increase the paper work burden. Without qualifications, they had good knowledge of the dangerousness. Whenever, Mass suffers from crime, I think, enjoy your advocacy of an end to prisons, and your evil, pro-criminal, left wing bias. Only it is never the criminal lovers who suffer. It is always black folks or working white folks who carry the burden of the irresponsible left wing ideology stemming from Harvard and the other awful Hate America treason indoctrination camps in Boston. It may actually be more extreme in its freakiness than San Francisco. I would like to see more horrible Harvard profs get victimized, especially law profs in that business. Pray that all the members of that horrid Mass Supreme Court get carjacked and pistol whipped for moving too slowly from their cars, by teens who were not confined to the juvenile facilities that have all been closed. To deter.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Feb 2, 2011 3:21:11 PM

Two days after this article was posted, I see the Compassion Industry -- otherwise so loud, indignant and self-righteous among the commenters here -- has not a word to say about the results of the brain-dead compassion that resulted in this outrage.

I would like to think it's embarrassment resulting in earned modesty. More likely it's just ducking. My, my.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Feb 4, 2011 2:16:08 PM

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