For Larry McDonald, whose son Police Sgt. Patrick McDonald was gunned down in the line of duty last fall, the passage of House Bill 1567 would mean that his son didn't die in vain.
"Very simply put, 33 days after Daniel Giddings was paroled, he murdered my son," McDonald said at a news conference yesterday at the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5 near 13th and Spring Garden streets. "He never should have become eligible for parole."
The bill, spearheaded by Rep. Brendan Boyle, D-Phila./Montgomery, would dramatically lengthen sentences for repeat violent offenders, including increasing the sentence for second-strike violent offenses from a 10-to-20-year term to 15 to 30 years.
Boyle said the bill also would eliminate parole for second- and third-time offenders.
"That means we can look into the eyes of the families [of those hurt or killed by violent offenders] and tell them if they are sentenced to 20 years, they will serve every day of that sentence," Boyle said.
Other supporters in attendance were FOP President John McNesby; Democratic candidate for district attorney, Seth Williams; family members of fallen officers McDonald and John Pawlowski; and representatives from the state House Judiciary Committee and Gov. Rendell's office. The bill is scheduled for a June 16 vote in the Judiciary Committee.
"These are the people we have to use our resources for," said Williams, who added that roughly 5 percent of criminals commit 60 percent of crimes.
Boyle recognized that Pennsylvania faces the obstacle of crowded prisons and high incarceration costs but said that long-term costs of violent crime are higher than prison costs.
He said that growing up and living with his own family in Northeast Philadelphia, where many police officers killed in the line of duty and their families resided, impacted his decision to propose the bill.
"It makes it personal," he said, adding that after McDonald's death, he learned that they had several mutual friends.
McNesby echoed support for the legislation, citing that if the bill had been in effect two years ago, four Philadelphia police officers' lives may have been saved.
The bill has 37 co-sponsors, including House Judiciary Committee Chairman Tom Caltagirone, D-Berks.
"I don't understand anyone that wouldn't want these people off the streets," said McDonald. "I plead with the people who are going to vote. Let's start making the streets safer." *