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Parole Rates Drop After Former Prosecutor Named as Chairman of Parole Board

Without a doubt the December killing of Woburn police officer John Maguire by a parolee was sad and reprehensible, but the effect was just as sad and has affected more families.

After the killing, Governor Deval Patrick replaced five members of the Parole Board, including replacing the chairman with Josh Wall, a former prosecutor.

On August 16, 2011, Chairman Wall was back in front of the Governor’s Council, the same 8 member panel which confirmed Wall as Chairman in February.

The two hour hearing, which the Boston Globe described as “combative”,  addressed the fact that the rate of release of eligible inmates has dropped from 58 percent last year to just 35 percent under Wall’s reign.

“My concern is these individuals who have a great institutional record, these individuals who are remorseful, who made a mistake and they want to change their life around,” said Council member Christopher A. Iannella Jr. “I’m not convinced that the Parole Board, directed by you, is giving those individuals a fair shake.”

“Once a prosecutor, always a prosecutor,” Iannella added, clearly indicating his belief that Wall’s law enforcement background made him more inclined to deny release. “I don’t think we can change people like you who have been a prosecutor your entire life.” applauds Councilor Ianella for calling a duck a duck.

While it may be politically wise to make a knee jerk reaction and appoint people to the Parole Board who are inclined to deny parole and keep people in prison, it is neither moral nor ethical. Further, it ignores the purpose of parole and one of the reasons, rehabilitation,  for prison in the first place.

This political move is reminiscent of the one being played out with the Forensic Sciences Commission in Texas, where a rabid prosecutor was appointed to look into whether innocent people were being sent to prison.

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