Burns: Homicides dictate halt to state parole hearings until outside review

Five recent parolees charged with six murders ‘unfathomable’

EBENSBURG, Aug. 22 – Alarmed that several recent state parolees have been arrested for homicide, state Rep. Frank Burns has called for an independent, outside review of the parole process and a halt to new parole hearings until that occurs.


Burns, D-Cambria, urgently requested the external review in a letter to Corrections Secretary John Wetzel that was also sent to Theodore W. Johnson, chairman of the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole.


“Five recent Pennsylvania prison parolees have been charged with killing six people in just two months. Our process of determining who to release on parole is critically flawed and must immediately change,” Burns wrote. “We cannot sit idly by, watching murder after murder, in the name of soft-on-crime ‘reforms’ that loosen our parole policies.


“We should be more focused on protecting innocent Pennsylvanians from senseless death at the hands of convicted criminals that about reducing our prison population at all costs. Please put any new parole hearings on hold until an independent, outside review can figure out why so many unrehabilitated murderers are slipping through your bars and back into society.”


Burns noted that he stands with the Pennsylvania State Corrections Officers Association in demanding the review of parole policies and procedures. He called the spate of murders and arrests of recent state parolees “unfathomable” and provided a brief rundown to support that belief.


“An 8-year-old boy was repeatedly stabbed while other children watched, stunned. A woman was strangled in her home, then set on fire to cover the evidence. An off-duty Pittsburgh police officer was shot three times in the back,” Burns wrote.


An internal audit to help determine why this is happening is “simply not enough,” wrote Burns, who called on Wetzel to make Department of Corrections’ records available to any independent reviewer and to support an external examination of the state’s parole system.


“The people of Pennsylvania put their trust, their safety and their lives in the hands of public officials like you who ultimately decide if a convicted criminal should be freed from prison,” Burns added.