Judging by the statistics, Reginald Powell, 54, may be the proverbial exception to the rule – the rule, in this case, being that convicted murderers who are granted parole only rarely re-offend.
In 1984, Powell was convicted of the shooting death of New York cabbie Joseph Accordino. After serving more than 25 years for second-degree murder, Powell was paroled in October 2008. He had been denied parole in 2004 and 2006.
Now, more than two years following his release, Powell is in trouble again – he faces burglary and other charges after he was found driving a car stolen from Jennifer Katz, a mother of two from Mamaroneck, New York who was stabbed to death in her home on December 30, 2010. Powell also had some of her jewelry in his possession.
Quite naturally, Powell is the prime suspect in Katz’s death; he was indicted on first- and second-decree murder charges in June 2011. If found guilty, Powell will be among the rare paroled murderers who are re-convicted in subsequent homicide cases.
A 2002 study by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), which tracked 272,000 paroled prisoners in 15 states, including New York, found that 1.2 percent of those released after serving a sentence for murder were rearrested on homicide charges within a three-year period. In absolute terms, of course, that’s 1.2 percent too many additional homicides.
But in relative terms, 1.2 percent was the lowest rate among all reported crimes committed by paroled prisoners, according to the BJS report.
A study specific to New York came to a similar conclusion. Between 1999 and 2003, New York released 368 convicted murderers on parole. Of those, only six, or 1.6 percent, returned to prison within three years on a new felony conviction – and none for a violent offense – based on a January 2011 study by the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services (the state parole board).
In a second analysis, New York’s state parole board found that of the 1,190 convicted murderers released on parole between 1985 and 2003, only 35 – or 2.9 percent – returned to prison within three years due to a new felony conviction.
According to John Caher, a spokesman for the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services, “Individuals who are released on parole after serving sentences for murder consistently have the lowest recidivism rate of any offenders.”
Notwithstanding that fact, paroling convicted murderers remains controversial and politically dangerous. “This whole business is about managing risk,” stated Martin F. Horn, a former Commissioner of the New York City Department of Corrections who now teaches at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
In Horn’s apt assessment, “There’s always going to be risk in the criminal justice system. The only way to eliminate it is to never let anyone out, and we can’t afford that and it would not be just.”
Sources: www.lohud.com, New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services, http://larchmont.patch.com
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