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Law rewards offenders and punishes victims

DEAR EDITOR:

I represent many everyday people who have been injured by juvenile criminals and by Ohio Senate Bill 256, which went into effect in 2021. SB 256 retroactively bans life without parole for most juvenile offenders and prioritizes the freedom of these offenders over victims’ rights. This is to explain how SB 256 wounds us and why it is inconsistent with the well-being of victims and their families.

People claim we oppose SB 256 because we don’t understand it. Such assertions are inaccurate and condescending. We understand what SB 256 does. Many of us have read the entire bill. We oppose it for valid reasons.

SB 256 requires parole eligibility for all juvenile criminals except those who are the principal offender in three or more murders (the T.J. Lane exception). It makes many criminals eligible for parole earlier than their sentences previously allowed. In some cases, it gifts parole eligibility to offenders whose original sentences did not even allow parole. The beneficiaries of SB 256 include Ohio’s most dangerous, violent and sadistic offenders, such as Jacob LaRosa of Niles, who, at 15, attempted to rape my grandmother, 94-year-old Marie Belcastro. He beat her to death with a heavy metal flashlight.

SB 256 not only rewards offenders with earlier parole hearings or parole hearings never meant to happen, it also entitles juvenile offenders to more frequent parole hearings — whereas the Parole Board must consider adult offenders for release at least once every 10 years, SB 256 requires the Parole Board to consider juvenile offenders for release at least once every five years. Requiring frequent parole chances for heinous juvenile criminals devastates survivors.

Every time a criminal comes up for parole, their surviving victims relive the crimes committed against them or loved ones. Reliving the most traumatic events of our lives causes us to experience nightmares, flashbacks, etc.

Some offenders have stated they would harm their victims again if they got the opportunity. SB 256 provides that opportunity at least once every five years. If those offenders are released, they could retaliate against survivors for helping the criminal justice system hold them accountable for their crimes. Under SB 256, survivors with legitimate fears must defend their safety every five years.

SB 256 has caused severe damage unnecessarily. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled juvenile murderers can receive life without parole.

Ohio law can’t be compassionate to survivors and at the same time endanger us and force us to repeatedly relive the most painful events of our lives. Ohio lawmakers must choose: Support convicted violent criminals or support victims.

BRIAN KIRK

Boynton Beach, Fla.

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