Pa. Department of Corrections reviews cases of parolees committing murders, including Lawrence County case

Pennsylvania

Those under parole supervision have been accused of homicides across the state, sparking a review of the process

Keith Burley, accused of stabbing Mark Mason to death in Lawrence County, arrested in Youngstown

(WKBN) – The suspect in a child’s brutal murder in Lawrence County is just one of five ex-cons accused of murder recently in the state, sparking a review by the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections.

In July, police say Keith Burley, Jr. stabbed 8-year-old Mark Mason to death in New Castle.

The DOC is now reviewing nearly 34,000 of its active parole cases after two kids and an off-duty Pittsburgh police officer were allegedly among the victims of those who were under parole supervision.

“Each one of these murders is a tragedy. We owe answers, first and foremost, to the surviving families and friends of the victims, and ultimately the public,” said Department of Corrections Secretary Paul Wetzel.

Burley was released from jail in March after serving a 20-year sentence for third-degree murder. He’s now accused of stabbing his girlfriend’s son to death during a domestic dispute July 8.

Burley had not committed any behavioral infractions for about five years but stabbed a fellow inmate in the neck with a pencil and committed more than 27 instances of misconduct during his prison time, the Pennsylvania State Corrections Officers Association previously reported.

Wetzel said a review of the Department of Corrections’ policies showed no evidence of policy or rule violations that would have affected the outcomes of its cases.

“It also found that, within the last 10 years, the parole grant rate for violent crimes has decreased and re-arrest rates of parolees are relatively stable. There is no indication of any alarming trends with regard to parole releases or arrests,” he said.

Still, Wetzel said they’re reviewing active parole cases to ensure that they’re being properly supervised. This review should be completed within 60 days.

In addition, several changes will be implemented, including developing protocol for domestic violence cases and ensuring communication with district attorneys when a parolee receives a new charge or is detained.

They’re also launching a database accessible to law enforcement, so they can see whether an individual is on parole.

The following legislative action is recommended:

  • Supporting legislation that closes the “court of record” loophole that exists in convicted parole violator and technical parole violator cases.
  • Adding a sixth violation category that addresses a parolee’s continued failure to adhere to recommended programming and/or conditions.
  • Creating a committee that will review and report annually on all murders committed by individuals on parole.

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