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Victims of violent crimes gain voice in parole hearings

A new bill is on its way to becoming law following a unanimous vote in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. The legislation will provide the victims of violent crimes with an opportunity to address the state patrol board in the event their offender has the option for parole. The bill was introduced by State Rep. Mike Vereb in response to a meeting of the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole that led to citizen protests.

The case involved a man convicted for murdering his wife. The charge of voluntary manslaughter carries a minimum five-year sentence, and the man was up for parole having served this time. The protests were the only chance for the family of the victim to register their complaints about the release. The man was described by his former brother-in-law as posing a serious threat to his daughter and a "dangerous manipulator." In the end, the potential parolee was denied release despite alleged praises for positive behavior during his prison sentence.

The Crime Victims' Act was described as a "landmark achievement for crime victims and their families across Pennsylvania" by the representative. A victim or family member will have the right to make a statement about their experience and the offender prior to the decision of the parole board. This statement could be objections, grievances with the convicted or simply concerns about the potential release of an offender

Survivors of assault may face years or longer of emotional damage that is compounded by financial difficulties related to medical expenses, property damage and counseling. The loss of a loved one due to violent crimes may likewise cause immense pain and suffering for the family. Regardless of the results of an investigation or subsequent conviction, a civil lawsuit may help victims receive compensation for their damages.

Source: The Times Herald, "State Rep. Mike Vereb’s Crime Victims’ Act unanimously passes House", Jenny DeHuff, June 10, 2013

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