Before the Pennsylvania House of Representatives divided itself in two during the first floor vote on the state budget Monday afternoon, it unanimously supported one bill that’s considered a victory for victims’ rights.
Victims of crimes in Pennsylvania, or the ones they’ve left behind, will now have a chance to weigh in before a prison inmate is released on parole.
The House of Representatives voted 198 to zero on House Bill 492, legislation allowing a victim or victim representative to testify before the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole when an inmate is up for release.
The bill passed on concurrence following a unanimous Senate vote, and now heads to Gov. Tom Corbett’s desk.
Bill sponsor Rep. Mike Vereb, R-Montgomery, said the victim has a voice in the rest of the justice system, like during a trial.
“Throughout the entire process of criminal prosecution the defendant as well as the victim have equal say, all the way through sentencing and all types of testimony,” Vereb said. “This bill moves it onto the actual parole process.”
The legislation will allow victims to give testimony in a conference or video call as well.
The bill had widespread support from the law enforcement community, including the Pennsylvania State Police, the Office of Attorney General, the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association and the Office of the Victim Advocate.