Joshua Komisarjevsky and Steven Hayes, two parolees are charged with abducting a Connecticut family, killing 48-year-old Jennifer Hawke-Petit, causing her two daughters, Hayley, 17, and Michaela, 11, to die from smoke inhalation by burning their home and badly beating William Petit Jr. (who escaped and survived). Everyone is outraged; some people are demanding the resignations of the parole board members, others question the leniency of the parole guidelines and still others are horrified by the lenient sentences that were imposed.
Let’s examine these three points shall we?
- Although Komisarjevsky's file was 89 pages, it did not include the transcript of a 2002 hearing at which a judge sentencing him for a string of burglaries called him a "cold, calculating predator." The law requires the board to make sure they have and review all sentencing documents before making parole decisions.
- Hayes’ file was 260 pages yet they did not consider him to be a danger to the community; no “Red Flag”.
- Both had admitted to having drug problems and actually met in rehab.
1. Strike one for the parole board.
- Komisarjevsky served nearly 60 percent of his sentence before parole.
- Hayes served 75 percent of his sentence.
- Only 50 percent is required to be eligible for parole.
2. Strike two for the Parole Board Guidelines.
- Neither were considered violent offenders so light sentences were imposed.
- If a judge considered a Komisarjevsky "cold, calculating predator", why was his sentence so light?
- If Hayes file was 260 pages, why was there no stiffer “repeat offender” sentence imposed?
3. Strike three for sentencing guidelines and/or application.
In my opinion, all three are the problem, so here are my suggestions:
¨ Parole board members must be held accountable for their actions. At the very least, they should lose their job when found grossly derelict in their duties. Maybe then they will make more prudent decisions.
¨ Parole eligibility guidelines need to be reviewed and made stricter.
¨ Individuals dubbed “A threat to society” and Repeat Offenders should be required to serve their entire sentence. No possibility of parole ever, period.
¨ Threats to Society and Repeat Offenders should receive maximum sentences and sentencing guidelines need to be reviewed and made stricter.
¨ When ex-cons (paroled or not) commit crimes after release and the judge was deemed too lenient at their sentencing, then that judge should be sanctioned. If judges accumulate multiple sanctions, they should be permanently removed from the bench.
¨ Parole officers should also be held accountable their actions and if they are found to be negligent in performing their duties, then they should at least lose their job.
The bottom line is that anyone responsible for putting convicted felons back on the streets via early release (with the exception of ethical defense attorneys) must be held accountable for their actions.