Dozens of people have lined up to participate in a new Pennsylvania program that aims to give victims a bigger voice in parole decisions.
When a convict is up for parole, family members and other victims can now testify in person before the state’s parole board. Previously, victims were usually only permitted to explain in writing how the crime hurt them.
Since the program kicked off last year, victims have testified in person in 66 cases. State officials expect the board to hear from victims in at least 200 cases this year.
“Lots of victims have chosen to do this because they do feel that it’s very therapeutic,” said Jennifer Storm, chief of the state’s Office of the Victim Advocate. “It aids in their healing to be able to, in person, express to the parole board how the crime has impacted them.”
Storm said the state plans to analyze data in the future to determine whether such testimony affects parole decisions.
State Rep. Mike Vereb (R-Montgomery) drafted legislation to create the program after Rafael Robb, a former University of Pennsylvania professor who killed his wife Ellen, was granted parole in 2012.
Ellen’s relatives were appalled, and said they didn’t have enough of an opportunity to provide input.