Internal Bill 1797 – “An Act to Reduce Mass Incarceration” – should never be allowed to pass.
If so, it sends the wrong message to the killers – that parole is still on the table, no matter how ruthless they have been.
The bill would put in place a system where murderers could still hope for a parole hearing after 25 years in prison. Massachusetts does not have the death penalty, so that means the sanctity of life is fundamentally forgotten.
More than 1,000 Massachusetts inmates are serving life sentences without parole, said state representative, co-sponsor of the bill, Liz Miranda. The Roxbury Democrat told her fellow parliamentarians on Beacon Hill this week she is aware of the torments associated with each murder as she prepares for the trial of the man accused of shooting her younger brother, Michael, in Boston.
But emotion, as any judge is instructed to tell jurors, shouldn’t be part of the equation. Only the facts.
If someone kills another with a gun, knife, stone, blunt object, or poison, and is found guilty in the first degree, he now has to spend the rest of his life behind bars.
When society shies away from it, the killers win. This is not a debate on capital punishment. It is about law and order. What if there are no consequences for heinous acts? Just think of the chaos such a law could bring.
The bill also calls on the Department of Corrections to establish “a restorative justice program within its prisons, accessible to anyone sentenced to more than 25 years in prison in order to develop a reconciliation plan.”
The legislation goes on to say that such a program “will allow interaction between the prisoner and the victims, the families of the victims, the parties to a crime and members of the community within the prison for the purpose of identifying and address the harms, needs and obligations resulting from a breach in order to understand and reconcile the impact of that breach.
It’s wonderful to wish everyone got along well. Leave the Glock at home and try to arbitrate an ox over a coffee. But that just doesn’t happen. Murder is the most vile.
“This is not a liberal or conservative issue – it is an issue that needs to focus on justice for the victims who are no longer with us,” also said Peggy Ritzer, whose daughter Colleen Ritzer was murdered in 2013, to lawmakers this week. “Those who intentionally take the life of an innocent person should not be given the chance to be paroled. It’s as simple as that.
The joint committee on Tuesday’s court hearing included several family members of those who had been murdered opposing the bill that would make first-degree murderers eligible for parole after 25 years.
Colleen Ritzer was a 24-year-old math teacher at Danvers High School when she was raped and killed after school by a 14-year-old student, who threw her body in the woods. He then used his stolen credit cards to watch a Hollywood Hits movie and buy a burger, Peggy Ritzer said in tears.
Ricky Dever, 35, was at Sullivan’s Pub in Charlestown in March 2005 when he was fatally stabbed while protecting bar patrons, at the hands of Francis Lang, an armed ex-convict. Dever was a Suffolk Deputy Sheriff on leave once again protecting others.
Time does not ease the pain of family members. Compassion hardly ever plays a role in a sad murder story. Loved ones have been trying to put the pieces back together for years. Just think, how would you feel if someone who murdered your loved one was walking down the street?