State Sen. Joe Griffo, 4-47th Dist. of Rome, joined by law enforcement officials, is pushing crime-related legislation in response to measures adopted by state lawmakers this year intended to reform criminal justice procedures in New York but which Griffo and many fellow Republicans say were tilted toward perpetrators at the expense of victims.
Griffo outlined the legislative package at a press conference Thursday in Utica where he was joined by Oneida County District Attorney Scott McNamara, County Executive Anthony Picente Jr. Undersheriff Joseph Lisi and Lewis County Sheriff Michael Carpinelli.
Other leaders among Republicans in the Legislature have sought to publicize the package around the state this week.
The 11-bill package is Republicans’ response to legislation pushed by Democrats and signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Among those was directing judges to release misdemeanor and non-violent suspects without cash bail and directed judges to better ensure speedy trials. Advocates had cited cases in which suspects spent more time in jail awaiting trial than they would have had they been convicted or pled guilty just to get out of jail.
Another adopted measure requires prosecutors to turn over evidence to defendants’ lawyers, though they can ask judges to block release if it could lead to victim or witness intimidation.
Among changes sought in the legislation Griffo and Senate Republicans are backing is specifying that the penalty for first-degree murder is life without parole.
Persistent violent felons guilty of a third such offense would face a mandatory life without parole sentence.
Another bill would require registration of violent felony offenders and a subdirectory of violent predators. One bill would require health care facilities to report incidents of sexual offense to health and education departments.
Several measures Griffo and Senate Republicans deal with parole.
Inmate release would require unanimous approval of the Parole Board, parolees would have to have an acceptable residence out of prison, the minimum time for reconsidering a parole request from a violent felony would go from 24 to 60 months, and one bill would require retaking of parolees who abscond from board supervision.
In addition, legislation would specify that anyone interested in a discretionary release be allowed to submit a written statement and that all statements and comments would have to be considered.
Griffo also wants the parole board to require a violent offender serve a complete term if there’s clear and convincing evidence release would be a public threat.
Griffo’s other bill would establish a commitment period for persons found not responsible because of mental health.
Griffo said both measures would have helped prevent two separate murders in Oneida County.
The Republicans’ package are also a reaction to further legislative proposals, including one to hold parole hearings for inmates who reach age 55 and have served at least 15 years regardless of their crimes.
Griffo cited New York City serial killer David Berkowitz from the 1980s and Long Island commuter train mass murderer Colin Ferguson.
“Instead of coddling criminals and constraining cops, as the supposed criminal justice reforms in this year’s state budget would do, we should be fighting for the rights of crime victims, their families and law-abiding public,” Griffo said in a statement outlining the proposals.