Politicians need to stop coddling rapists and murderers
February 16, 2022
In January a 30-year-old Marysville man was charged with first degree murder for killing his 65-year-old roommate and attempting to set the residence on fire. A proposed bill moving through the state legislature would allow him, if convicted, to be released early – even if his sentence is for life.
Under current state law, anyone convicted of first-degree murder is to be sentenced to life without possibility of release or parole. SB 5036 would change that allowing them to petition for conditional commutation after serving 25 years. Others would be able to petition after as little as 15 years.
The bill cleared the state Senate on February 4 and is scheduled for a public hearing this Friday, February 18 in the House Committee on Public Safety.
Ways to make your voice heard on SB 5036!
Sign in to testify virtually on SB 5036 at 10 a.m. on Friday, February 18 in the House Committee on Public Safety.
Contact your local representative and tell them the last thing Washington needs are convicted murderers, rapists, and sex offenders out of prison.
One would have thought that politicians running this state would have learned their lesson after not advancing a bill reducing the sentences for murderers in drive-by shootings like one that recently occurred in Federal Way. Yet it seems like advancing the interests of violent criminals has become a de facto pillar of progressives in the state legislature.. At the beginning of the session we implored them not to miss (screw up) this chance to fix public safety, but it seems like some still aren’t listening.
Class A felonies in Washington state can carry a maximum sentence of life in prison and include the following crimes:
- First and second degree murder
- Assault with a deadly weapon
- Homicide resulting from abuse of a child
When these heinous crimes occur the priority of a healthy, normal society are the needs of the victim and/or their families. The other priority is prevention, so the misdeed is not repeated. The nature of these crimes often dictate that the offenders be kept away from the rest of society due to the implications if they were to reoffend, but to also send a message to other would-be offenders what awaits them if they make the same life choices.
However, this bill sends the opposite message, and it’s no wonder journalist Brandi Kruse has described the majority party in a recent podcast as “the Party of Crime” for sponsoring and supporting these bills entirely along partisan lines:
They introduce bills to help violent offenders while simultaneously contradicting every statement they’ve ever made about their public safety priorities. Earlier in the session, Democrats introduced a bill to help get a killer out of prison who fired 19 rounds from a MAK 90 rifle and killed an innocent college kid.
Help me understand what those things are supposed to say about your priorities, because I’m having a really hard time making sense of it.
There are improvements that need to be made to our criminal justice system. But if you cannot come up with ideas that improve outcomes for offenders without putting law-abiding members of the public at greater risk, then you are failing.
Proponents of SB 5036 can argue all they want that it contains safety precautions such as monitoring a convict if released. They can also dispute the possibility the law would apply to notorious serial killer Gary Ridgeway, who is serving a life sentence but waived his right to parole or commutation.
Bill sponsor and Senate Majority Leader Manka Dhingra (D-45) also recently told KOMO News that “This is not about pardons. This is about recognizing that people change.”
None of these assertions satisfy the fundamental objections raised by normal, law-abiding citizens.
First and foremost, these prison sentences are punishments considered by juries and a judge appropriate and proportionate to the crime committed. When a man or woman is murdered, the effects are profound and permanent. No restitution or apologies can bring them back. Their lives are forever gone. Rapists and sex offenders destroy lives without ending them by robbing victims of their dignity and, in many cases, it is impossible for them to recover and resume the lives they enjoyed prior. It is only just that these criminals not be allowed to enjoy the freedom and quality of life they denied to their victims, because the whole point of punishment is to discourage behavior you don’t want. It also conveys to would-be offenders the severity of the crime and demonstrate how society looks out for the interest of the innocent.
Serial killers like Gary Ridgeway may or may not be eligible in this bill, but he isn’t the only person sitting in a Washington state prison for rape and murder. Others like him will be. That alone is enough to oppose this bill.
People can indeed change, but why should that be grounds for reducing punishment for crimes that have such enormous consequences? By requiring the clemency board to hear these petitions and make recommendations to the governor, the bill presumes that commutation should occur unless proven otherwise. This flips the entire concept of presumption of innocence on its head by applying it to people already sentenced for crimes.
Most importantly, who is responsible when someone has their sentence commuted on the grounds that they’ve changed, only to have them commit a similar and equally disgusting crime? Will the bill sponsors assume liability for those released? Will the Clemency and Pardons Board members be charged with negligence if they recommend the release a murderer who then kills another person? Will the governor be held to account for those released?
Put differently, would anyone supporting this bill do so if they personally had to assume all liabilities for anyone released?
We all know the answer to that.
Let’s make no mistake. We are not talking about relatively benign misdemeanors. We’re talking about crimes so despicable that the courts concluded the appropriate punishment was for them to spend the rest of their life in prison.
We should not give one person the authority to release these people back on the streets. Lives may very well depend on it.
Sign in to testify virtually on SB 5036 on Feb. 18 and make it clear that these proposals have no place in our state.