Parole — Republicans Play the Desperation Card

The State Senate’s Republicans have a problem: demographics. Their slim majority is challenged  by key districts trending Democratic. What to do?

Well, nothing is as nonpartisan as good old fashioned fear. Look what the fear card did for a President more noted for vacationing in Crawford, Texas than anything else. And look what it did to Governor Spitzer once driver’s licenses could be framed as gift certificates to al Qaeda.

So, to paraphrase their patron saint, here they go again:

Republican Sen. Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno introduced legislation Tuesday in response to what he says is a philosophical shift in parole practices since Gov. Eliot Spitzer took office.

Parole boards last year released about 18 percent of eligible violent felons, a higher rate than the 12 percent paroled in 2006 under then-Gov. George Pataki.

The legislation would require at least three parole board members to conduct parole hearings for inmates convicted of class A violent felonies. It also would require a unanimous vote for parole in these cases instead of the majority vote currently required.

Notice that little reference to 2006, the last year of Governor Pataki’s term? It’s significant.

Prior to 2006, inmates routinely were denied parole, hearing after hearing, on the basis of their original crime. This led to a lawsuit, now proceeding, alleging that the Pataki administration appointees to the Parole Board were not following the law. The law demands that the Parole Board also consider other factors, such as remorse and progress inmates have made with their lives while in prison.

By 2006, it was becoming clear that their “to hell with the law, throw away the key” policy had a good chance of eventually catching up with the Board. Things began to shift. The law began to be followed more closely.

And of course, the State Senate noted the complexity of the narrative with its usual dignity and decorum:

“Gov. Spitzer’s soft-on-crime policies pose a dangerous threat to public safety,” said state Sen. Martin Golden (R-Brooklyn), who held aloft [slain NYPD Officer Harry]  Ryman’s NYPD badge as the martyred hero’s family and former partner looked on.

That Marty. Always good for a photo op. Even if waving the bloody shirt badge has been done to death.

So what’s the evidence of threat to the public safety?

Officials at the parole division said that of the 399 violent offenders who were released to parole supervision between 2005 and 2007, none have been returned to prison for a new crime.

Eek! 399 violent felons on our streets! Round up the women and young’uns, Paw. Don’t worry ’bout no facts. All ya need to know is this:

[Senate Majorty Leader Joseph] Bruno accused Spitzer of being “very soft on criminals” and blamed him for the increased parole rates for violent offenders.

Of course you blame the Governor, Joe, because, because  —

“The overwhelming majority of appointees now serving on the state Parole Board were appointed by former Governor George Pataki and confirmed by the Republican-led Senate,” Spitzer spokesman Errol Cockfield said in a written statement. “Recent parole decisions are exclusively the actions of this board, which evaluates each case on its own merits. Attempts to distort these facts are blatantly political.”

because, goldarnit, there’s an election coming up and you’ll say anything to win, won’t you?

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