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Policeman's murder fuels drive to end parole in New York

May 31, 1998
Web posted at: 10:37 p.m. EDT (0237 GMT)

From Correspondent Cynthia Tornquist

NEW YORK (CNN) -- The tragic shooting death of a decorated New York City police officer this past week by a parolee wanted on drug charges has sparked a renewed call for dramatically changing the parole system in New York state.

Officer Anthony Mosomillo was shot as he tried to arrest Jose Serrano, a career criminal wanted on a parole violation.

"There was no reason for this. The man who did this was on parole. He should not have been on parole," said New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

Tragedies like the shooting of Mosomillo have fueled a drive by New York Gov. George Pataki to pass a measure that would end parole for first-time violent felons. It is called "Jenna's Law," named for a 22-year-old nursing student killed last year, allegedly by a parolee.

vxtreme CNN's Cynthia Tornquist reports

The law would require violent offenders to serve at least 85 percent of their sentences. It would also put them under tight supervision for up to five years after their release.

A 1991 study offers evidence to bolster the position of Pataki and others who would curtail parole.

The U.S. Department of Justice found that 45 percent of prisoners in state prisons across the country were either on probation or parole when they committed the offenses that landed them back in jail.

The 156,000 prisoners who were on parole when arrested had committed some 6,800 murders, 5,500 rapes, 8,800 assaults and 23,000 robberies.

Elimination of parole is not a new idea. It was abolished from the federal system in 1987, and a number of states are seeking to pass bills similar to the one proposed in New York. Yet some experts believe such a change won't have much impact on crime.

"I don't believe that inmates respond to the threat of longer sentences," said James Austin of the National Council on Crime and Delinquency. "They're not thinking about that when they're involved in criminal behavior."

In addition, states that have eliminated parole face skyrocketing prison costs. However, victims and their families argue that the human costs of the current parole system are greater that the costs of keeping violent felons behind bars.

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