Lawmakers Take Up Parole Reform At Emotional Hearing

By Sarah Birnbaum

Mar. 17, 2011

BOSTON — Massachusetts lawmakers are taking up potential reforms to the state’s parole system.  An emotional hearing followed the December shooting death of Woburn police officer John Maguire, allegedly at the hands of a career criminal who was out on parole.  

The toughest proposal before the judiciary committee is a “three strikes and you’re out” bill, that would bar parole for anyone convicted of a third serious felony.  The measure is called “Melissa’s Bill” and it’s named after Melissa Gosule, a Randolph woman who was murdered in 1999 by a man released from prison despite having 27 criminal convictions on his record.
Melissa’s father, Les Gosule, has been fighting for more than a decade to get the bill out of the judiciary committee. He urged lawmakers to bring the measure to a floor vote:
“Please!  I implore you! I beg. I beg that we have a bill to come out of committee!" Gosule said.
Support for the bill has grown since repeat offender Dominic Cinelli shot and killed a Woburn police officer the day after Christmas. Colleagues of the slain officer packed the hearing room and gave Melissa’s Bill their strong endorsement. 
But Leslie Walker, the executive director of Prisoner’s Legal Services, says Melissa’s Bill isn’t the answer. Walker says that locking people up for longer won’t keep them from re-offending when they eventually get out of prison.
“It’s kicking the problem down the road. Because most people, when they do get out, are going to come out much more violent and much more dangerous for the lack of hope and the lack of treatment they’ve received in the department of correction,” Walker said.
Walker says instead, the state should invest in programs to help inmates and parolees transition back into society.

Lawmakers are considering separate legislation to eliminate parole for anyone serving more than one life sentence, and to require those given a single life sentence to serve 25 years before qualifying for parole, instead of the current 15 years.

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