Consultant suggests Pa. parole system improvements

December 1, 2008 11:28:44 AM PST
Pennsylvania's parole system must do a better job of identifying violent offenders who pose the greatest threat to public safety, an independent review found. Gov. Ed Rendell lifted a moratorium on paroling violent offenders Monday after accepting the report's recommendations for improving the system. The review, which found most of the state's existing procedures were sound, was conducted by Temple University's John Goldkamp, a nationally recognized expert on incarceration.

The state should classify violent offenders into two categories - those most likely to commit another offense and those less likely to pose risks to public safety, Goldkamp said in his report. The review also calls for the state to use certain criteria to evaluate an offender's potential to commit violence, such as the use of a gun in committing a crime, and to improve training of parole agents.

"Recent tragedies have made clear that we must do a better job of evaluating and supervising parolees with a history of violence," Rendell said.

Rendell ordered the review and temporarily halted the parole of state prison inmates in September after a Philadelphia policeman was killed by a paroled felon during a traffic stop.

Last month, on Goldkamp's recommendation, Rendell lifted the moratorium for offenders serving time for nonviolent crimes, but maintained it for those convicted of violent offenses.

The state Probation and Parole Board also accepted Goldkamp's findings and has begun releasing eligible offenders under stricter supervision policies, Rendell said.

The new policy says that violent offenders must be supervised for 90 days at the maximum level and adhere to a mandatory curfew. After that, those parolees will be subject to a review to determine if the supervision and curfew requirements should continue.

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