A Temple professor could have a hand in parole reform, pending the results of his review from the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole.
On Sept. 29, in response to the murder of Sgt. Patrick McDonald by a violent offender who was paroled early, Gov. Ed Rendell called for a moratorium on paroles until criminal justice department chair John Goldkamp assessed the functionality the parole process.
“The aim is to review the process in corrections and at the paroling stage, so it’s not just the parole,” said Goldkamp, who was asked to conduct the review based on a recommendation. “[It’s also a review] of how the state handles violent offenders with an emphasis on how it releases them and the services that are provided and how that’s been going.”
He said he could not determine whether the review would show the process was conducted inappropriately in the past because it is still in the preliminary stages of being evaluated.
“The point the governor was interested in was to try to determine whether there are any weaknesses in the process, and if there are, to develop recommendations for their improvement,” Goldkamp said. “So if there’s anything wrong, what can we do to fix it, what do other places in the country do, what repairs might be needed?”
On Friday, Rendell signed House Bill 1845, which mandated a minimum 20-year sentence for anyone convicted of shooting a police officer with a gun, regardless if the officer is injured or not.
Rendell could not be reached for comment on the review or the selection of Goldkamp as the researcher.
John McNesby, an active police officer and president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 5 in Philadelphia, said HB 1845 and the parole board review are a step in the right direction.
“What I’m seeing is that a lot of people are being released early that are violent offenders,” McNesby said. “They’re not only killing police officers, the community at large is in danger when these people are out on the street.”
“[They need to] redo something with the guidelines on there with violent offenders. If there’s no rehabilitation, they stay in jail,” McNesby said.
While the moratorium on parole is still in effect, McNesby said by no means are they “throwing out the key” for paroles.
“I’m not saying everybody’s not eligible for parole. Some people get rehabilitated,” he said. “But you have to find a way to keep them in prison [if they aren’t]. [It’s] not a long-term moratorium, just long enough for them to get the report done. Then people can go back on the streets.”
Goldkamp said he couldn’t predict how long the review will take.
“We’ve been asked to do this as expeditiously as possible,” he said. “It’s important for us to do both a thorough job and to do it promptly because a lot depends on the paroling process.”
Morgan Zalot can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.