Melissa Bill Signing Takes Violent Crimes Off Street
By signing the bill, Governor Deval Patrick realized that citizens want violent crimes off the street.
In 1999, 27-year-old Melissa Gosule of Randolph was raped and murdered by a man named Michael Gentile, who reportedly had committed dozens of violent crimes and yet was still on the streets.
A decade later, Woburn police officer Jack Maguire was shot and killed by a man named Dominic Cinelli, who had been recently paroled despite having committed a reported 74 violent felonies and having received three “life sentences” for various crimes.
Earlier this week, Governor Deval Patrick agreed to sign a crime bill that included, among other provisions, a new law that will delay and in some cases eliminate parole for certain repeat offenders such as Gentile and Cinelli.
The measure, which is known as “Melissa’s Bill,” establishes a list of violent felonies primarily against persons, including murder, rape and armed robbery. The second time an offender is convicted of one of these crimes, he or she will be required to serve up to two-thirds of the sentence before becoming eligible for parole.
Persons convicted three or more times of specified violent crimes will be required to serve the entire sentence of the third conviction before becoming eligible for parole.
Among other things, the bill also will eliminate parole for convicts serving multiple life sentences.
As part of a compromise, the new crime bill also will adopt measures intended to reduce sentences for non-violent drug related offenses.
The Governor originally rejected the bill. He and other critics of the new law contended that it fails to recognize that some prisoners do, in fact, turn their lives around.
The bill also unfairly targets certain minorities, they argued. Patrick fought hard for a provision that would have given judges more discretion to grant parole in cases involving repeat offenders.
In the end, however, public sentiment was too strong for the Governor to ignore. The bill passed both the House and Senate overwhelmingly and with rare bi-partisan support.
Of course, a fair criminal justice system always should include a process to allow prisoners to demonstrate that they are ready to resume a productive role in society.
But with the signing of Melissa’s Law, Governor Patrick appears to have recognized that voters want career violent crimes off the street.