A homicide so devastating, a laundry list of police errors, a breadwinner taken at the prime age of 47, promises made such as “He’ll never get out…” and the list goes on. Such was the era of the early 1980’s. It was a time of transition. The outcome of this trial after waiting for 6 ½ long years to come to trial, hung in the transition between indeterminate and determinate sentencing. Had this period of two months not existed, this multiple offender would NEVER have been eligible for parole consideration – and there would not have been a lot of the victim’s family heartache and worry
A Brief Lesson on Sentencing-
Until July 1981, parole played a major role in our criminal justice system because Connecticut used an indeterminate sentencing model. Under an indeterminate sentence, a convicted offender received a sentence with a minimum and maximum term and was eligible for parole release after completing the minimum term less any “good time” credits earned while in prison.
Thus, the parole board played a major role in how long an offender would actually spend in prison. According to a Program Review and Investigation Committee staff report, since most inmates were paroled at their first eligibility date, the minimum term minus “good time” became the de facto sentence length.
The General Assembly eliminated indeterminate sentencing effective July 1, 1981 and replaced it with a determinate sentencing system. Judges retained sentencing discretion to consider a range of penalties within the statutorily defined limits for each class of offense.
Under determinate sentencing, the court imposed a fixed term of imprisonment, for example 10 years, instead of an indeterminate term of for example, 10 to 20 years.
When the General Assembly adopted determinate sentencing it also abolished discretionary parole release for those sentenced under this new determinate sentencing system.***But it did not abolish the parole board. The parole board kept its discretionary release authority for offenders serving indeterminate sentences—those convicted and sentenced to crimes committed before July 1981. (https://www.cga.ct.gov/2008/rpt/2008-R-0126.htm)
Since that time, so much has happened, both with innovations in the criminal justice system and on a personal level. Formal victim services was in its infancy. There was no internet or social media, nor the amazing growth in forensic technologies and use of victimology to solve cases. Attempts to solve cases decades old (even when FBI resources are now mostly committed to anti-terrorism efforts) are holding promise with use of DNA analysis, age progression facial imaging, high tech fingerprint analysis and more. All of this sounds so promising, but there remains thousands, millions, of unsolved cases. So, how do I or the collective “we” not remain in a state of emotional suspended animation and despair?
I think it is the difference in how people are genetically wired; How resilient they are or are not; how they can cope; the ability to know that down the road there is a future, even with the most horrible tragedy, that we can indeed overcome, if we chose to.
My Dad had many trials and tribulations growing up, but through it all, he built a good life, instilled in his children a strong work ethic, and lived by “the glass is half full” even in the worst of times. This may have been the foundation for me to demonstrate post traumatic growth on his behalf.
When I think of how far I have come in these 38 years, I am truly surprised, for I could never have anticipated the true blessings of meeting so many wonderful people who have helped me forge my path to this point in time. Each person has given me invaluable lessons and enriching experiences. I have put my whole heart and soul into these crime victim and humanitarian endeavors. I guess that’s what one does when a single person doesn’t have a family of their own. We chose special surrogates and the world is their family.
As I write this, I am on the precipice of change again, both professionally and personally with good opportunities, challenges and more hard work ahead of me, as always! After some rough sailing, I now look forward to embracing new things on the horizon.
I am a lot like my Dad in that way! Hard work and challenge doesn’t bother us. It ignites the fuel to carry on! There’s a vast difference in the mindset of those that say, “You haven’t moved on” after a traumatic death. To have walked this path and continually see the rewards is so special! Every day is diverse. Every day represents a new learning opportunity! We are not wallowing in the past. We are changing the future for others, THAT is truly what my Dad would have wanted!
I think he is always looking over my shoulder in a spiritual manner. His death was not in vain! I am proud to say that I have made sure of that. On April 17, 2019, I will celebrate the accomplishments rather than be terribly sad. It’s the way we need to be after we have come to terms with the horrible in favor of making the impossible, possible for others in the future!
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