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Lawmaker calls on Corzine to reject new parole breaks

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot
Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

ONLY ON CLIFFVIEW PILOT : State Assemblyman Bob Schroeder formally urged Gov. Corzine to not sign into law a pair of bills that would make rapists and murderers eligible for parole hearings no later than three years after they’ve been denied release.

Assemblyman Bob Schroeder

“These bills are ill-conceived and short-sighted, for myriad reasons,” Schroeder said on Sunday.

“If enacted, these measures will exponentially increase the workload on our already overburdened parole system,” he explained. “The cost of the programs it proposes will plunge our state even further into debt.

“Most importantly, these bills will force victims and their families to relive the horror of the grueling parole process every 36 months, having to plead to keep their assailants behind bars on a regular basis.”

Corzine is getting a stack of letters, a flood of emails and an online petition insisting he ignore the bills, quietly and quickly passed by both houses of the lame-duck Legislature last week without comment. (See: Online petition aims to derail loosening parole requirements and Opponents of hush-hush parole bills corner Corzine .)

One measure calls for a “blue ribbon panel” to review — and possible release — long-term prisoners, and the other mandates a new parole hearing every three years after the initial denial.

What can YOU do?
*  Sign the petition: CLICK HERE
*  Call Gov. Corzine’s Office: 609-292-6000. Mention CLIFFVIEWPILOT.COM .
*  Email form:

Media reports made no mention of either.

But CLIFFVIEW PILOT read the measures in detail, noticed that late additions had been made before the measures hit the floors of both houses in Trenton on Monday, and pointed out the changes. (See: Bills quietly OK’d by NJ lawmakers could parole killers sooner ).

Since then, a movement has grown (See: Pressure on Corzine to squelch parole bills )

Proponents see the measures as positive steps toward keeping fewer ex-cons from returning to prison by creating more opportunities. No mention was made of the fact that even straight arrows are having trouble finding work these days, and little was said about the $6 million price tag.

The measures call for, among other things, mandatory workforce skills education and training; time served as “credits” for achievements in the classroom; and allowances for visits to other prisons to help “motivate and assist” other convicts.

However, the last-minute additions include a cap “at a maximum of three years, the length of time that the parole board can require an inmate denied release to serve before having another hearing.

The key sponsor, Assembly Majority Leader Bonnie Watson Coleman, knows how difficult it is overcoming a criminal past:

Eight years ago, two of her sons were sent to prison after pleading guilty to first-degree armed robbery in the heist of a Kids ”R” Us clothing store just a few miles from the Statehouse. William Carter-Watson and Jared C. Coleman both were released in January 2008 after serving six years each of maximum seven-year sentences, according to the New Jersey Department of Corrections.

By giving non-violent convicts a leg up, she argues, the state could prevent them from returning to prison. What Watson-Coleman can’t explain is why violent rapists, murderers and others needed to be included.

Kim Montelaro (l.) and Joan D’Alessandro

Schroeder, who is also a Washington Township councilman, galvanized members of , a victim’s rights advocacy group that actively supported the Montelaro family last year in opposing Righetti’s release.

Schroeder called the three-year provision an “outrage” that all but guarantees the loved ones of murder victims will never find closure. Freedom would also be possible within the next year or two for, among others, Joseph McGowan, who raped and murdered grade-school Girl Scout Joan D’Alessandro, and the remorseless Christopher Righetti, who butchered 20-year-old honor student Kim Montelaro (See: New lawmaker calls 11th-hour parole breaks an “outrage” ).

“As his term comes to a close, I am calling upon Governor Corzine to resist the temptation to reward this shameful attempt at legislative sleight-of-hand by the Assembly Democrats, stand up for victims’ rights, and heed the will of the people he has pledged to serve,” Schroeder said.

Click here for a copy of Schroeder’s OFFICIAL STATEMENT

Click here for Robert Schroeder’s BLOG

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