Judicial Branch reaching out to victims or their survivors prior to parole discharge hearings

The state Judicial Branch's Office of Victim Services has been reaching out to crime victims prior to the Board of Pardons and Paroles' first hearing Wednesday under a new law that enables the board to terminate a form of strict community supervision known as special parole if parolees have proven they can live "an orderly life."

Future hearings could involve offenders who have committed major crimes, including homicide, and the OVS wants victims and family members to know they have a right to receive notifications and submit statements to the parole board.

"It's just really trying to assure, as best as we can, that victims are not further hurt," said Linda J. Cimino, director of the OVS.

Public Act 19-84 went into effect on Oct. 1, 2019, but the first cases are scheduled for parole discharge review hearings Wednesday at the Board of Pardons and Paroles office in Waterbury. 

The Judicial Branch has spoken with some of the families involved, but asked the parole board to continue the cases of at least two offenders convicted of committing violent crimes.

"Those cases are not going forward at this time out of concern for not being able to reach those families," said Mary Kozicki, a victim services supervisor for the Judicial Branch.

Most of the cases on the docket for hearings involved narcotics charges or other crimes with no personal injury, but some were connected to homicides in the 1970s and '80s with lifetime supervision sentences that now have changed. The offenders were sentenced prior to the existence of a registry in which victims or their families could be notified of such changes, according to Kozicki.

Cecillo Deleon, convicted of a 1980 murder in Hartford, was on the docket for Wednesday, but the Judicial Branch requested a four-week continuance as it attempts to reach and notify the victim's family.

The Office of Victim services also requested a month's continuance in the case of Damon Falcon, convicted of shooting his former girlfriend's boyfriend and severing his spine in 1999.

Special parole is a strict form of supervision that is imposed by a judge as part of a prison sentence. If a person is found in violation of the conditions of special parole, he or she can be taken back to prison without the benefit of a court hearing. It is sometimes confused with regular parole, in which a parole board decides to release a prisoner early.

Victims or family members who want to sign up for notifications from the Office of Victim Services should call 1 (800) 822-8428 or email ovs@jud.ct.gov.

k.florin@theday.com

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