Hello, House Criminal Justice Committee,
I am the Ohio coordinator for the National Organization of Victims of Juvenile Murderers (NOVJM). On December 8, I testified against Senate Bill 256. As I explained in my testimony, this bill would allow dangerous criminals to be paroled, including rapists and other sex-offenders, robbers, and kidnappers. The bill would also allow murderers, including mass murderers like Jordyn Wade to be released. I have published several letters to the editor explaining the dangerous offenders who could be released by SB 256. https://www.dispatch.com/story/opinion/letters/2020/11/17/juvenile-murderers-fair-housing-covid-crisis-householder-and-shutdown-fears/6281610002/ https://www.cleveland.com/letters/2020/11/oppose-ohio-bill-offering-parole-possibility-to-dangerous-teenage-murderers.html
Advocates of the bill argue that it doesn’t really matter if these criminals are eligible for parole because no parole board will vote to release them. This argument is flawed. First, when you make these offenders eligible for parole you are giving them a chance to be released. And for some dangerous killers like quadruple murderer Jordyn Wade, or murderer and attempted rapist Jacob LaRosa even a small chance of release is unacceptable. As I explained in my testimony, parole boards do often release dangerous criminals who go on to reoffend.
Second, even if these criminals are never released, the parole hearings would traumatize victims. The vast majority of homicide survivors in aggravated murder cases oppose releasing the killers and have to work to fight release at parole hearings. When victims go through parole hearings, they have to relive the most horrific experiences of their lives. Any healing made since the crimes is undone. Health conditions caused by the crime, such as PTSD and anxiety, flare up. I have personally seen this many times–victims manage to emotionally recover from some of the trauma caused by the crime only to have that progress completely undone when a parole or re-sentencing hearing comes up 20 or 30 years later. Additionally, many victims fear retaliation. (See for example Rape suspect, freed due to virus, kills his accuser then dies from self-inflicted gunshot).
Lastly, the argument made by SB 256 advocates that juveniles don’t fully understand the wrongfulness of aggravated murder is asinine. Juveniles fully understand the wrongfulness of shooting a one-year-old baby in the face in front of his mother. Juveniles fully understand the wrongfulness of raping a five-year-old and throwing her out a 14th story window. And the idea that these crimes are somehow less horrific because the killers had not reached their magical 18th birthdays is also absurd.
Thank you for your consideration. NOVJM strongly urges you to stand up for justice and victims’ rights by voting against SB 256.