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Oregon Bill Would Reduce Number of Parole Hearings March 30, 2009

Posted by FairSentencing in : Current News , trackback

The state Legislature is considering a bill that would lengthen the time between parole hearings for some of Oregon’s most dangerous inmates.

The state’s three-member parole board has release authority for about 1,600 of the state’s 13,500 inmates. Most of the prisoners committed violent crimes more than 20 years ago, and receive parole hearings every two years.

House Bill 2335 would allow the board to establish longer intervals between hearings on a case-by-case basis. Two years would be the minimum; 10 years would be the maximum.

Relatives of murder victims say the current setup forces their old wounds to be reopened much too frequently. Gordon Spink, who last week attended the parole hearing for the man who killed his sister in 1985, told a legislative committee on Thursday that passage of the bill might spare his family the regular rounds of torment.

"It was basically watching our family relive the physical and mental anguish 25 years later," Spink said of the hearing for LeVelle Singleton, who clubbed Penny Young with a baseball bat after choking and stabbing her to death.

Singleton’s bid for parole was denied.

While Spink testified in favor of the bill, lawyers who represent inmates and criminal defendants cited concerns.

Bronson James, chief deputy defender for Oregon’s Office of Public Defense Services, said the bill might not be constitutional, and warned its passage could ignite legal challenges by inmates.

Current and former prosecutors testified in support. Darian Stanford, a Multnomah County deputy district attorney, described the 1,600 inmates eligible for parole consideration as the worst of the worst offenders.

Former Lane County District Attorney Doug Harcleroad pointed to notorious child killer Diane Downs as the type of inmate getting parole consideration every two years. Following a 2 1/2-hour parole hearing that attracted widespread media coverage in December, the board took less than 30 minutes to decide she was still a danger to society.

"This is a lady who should never get out of prison, in my opinion," Harcleroad said.



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