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40 years Later, Historic Victims’ Rights Leader Roberta Roper Still Fighting for Victims in Court, Parole Commission Attempts to Silence Victims Voices Once Again

October 9th, 2022 by WCBC Radio

Over ten years ago, the Supreme Court ruled adolescent brains do not completely develop until the age of 25 and because of that, juveniles should not be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. At that time, the Maryland parole system needed the governor to grant parole to a person sentenced to life. Historically, parole was being granted to lifers but that changed in 1995 when the incoming Governor declared that he would not grant parole to lifers. In 2016, the ACLU filed a lawsuit against the State of Maryland challenging the parole system for juveniles sentenced to life in prison, stating the setup was unconstitutional since youths did not have a meaningful chance for release. In the settlement of the case, the State agreed to consider making a change to their parole regulations. However, the State then adopted new regulations that changed not only the parole process for juveniles but also the challenged regulation affecting adult parole hearings. Also last year, the legislature voted to remove the Governor from the parole process.

When reviewing a case for parole, a number of factors must be taken into consideration, including the circumstances of the crime and an updated victim impact statement. This portion of the consideration allows for survivors the right to be heard during the parole hearing with an 8-minute Victim Impact Statement. In a new movement occurring in Maryland, for a new parole regulation which states that after an initial parole hearing the circumstances of the crime have a diminished significance on the parole commissioners’ decision, again silencing survivors’ voices.
An official complaint against the Parole Commission has been filed by historical victims’ rights advocate, Roberta Roper and the Maryland Crime Victims’ Resource Center (MCVRC) on behalf of Roper and several other aggrieved survivors of murder victims. MCVRC was founded by Roper in 1982 and is the nation’s premiere victims’ rights organization. The complaint will appear in the Charles County Circuit Court before Judge Donine Carrington Martin on Wednesday October 12, 2022, at 9:30am.

Kurt Wolfgang, Executive Director of MCVRC states “By now I think most of us know that there is a movement in this country to diminish responsibility of criminals who have committed violent crimes. The people who want this also want to make crime victims as irrelevant to sentencing as possible. People need to be deterred from committing crimes and as a society also need proper penalties and sentences to keep our society from coming unglued. Violent criminals should not be treated as merely misguided instead of those who must be punished for their horrific acts.”
Kurt goes on to say “Murderers should not expect to be released from prison when they have forever deprived someone of their time on this earth and deprived the victim’s family. A rapist shatters the life and well-being of someone. These obvious consequences of their outrageous acts should never, never, never be looked on in a diminished fashion. The insult of this diminishment is especially hurtful because it is intended to improve the plight of the violent criminal who has caused the problem in the first place.”
MCVRC is focused on educating the community this complaint was filed and, in an effort to bring additional awareness to the legislative process and its impact on our citizens.
About Maryland Crime Victims’ Rights Center, Inc.

Maryland Crime Victims’ Resource Center Inc. ensures that victims of crime receive justice and are treated with dignity and compassion through comprehensive victims' rights and services. MCVRC is a grassroots non-profit organization that became a statewide organization dedicated to serving the interest of crime victims throughout Maryland. MCVRC is the longest running and largest legal clinic serving victims of all crimes in this country. MCVRC attorneys have argued in State, Federal and the Supreme Court on Victim Right’s issues which have resulted in major legal victories.