HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Advocates for crime victims in Pennsylvania sharply criticized the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Pennsylvania for advocating for the mass early release of prisoners, including rapists and murderers, while simultaneously orchestrating a legal effort that blocks victims and their family members from having the constitutional right to be notified of the release.
Marsy’s Law for Pennsylvania, a statewide advocacy organization for victims of crime, and Kelly Williams, an advocate for sexual assault survivors, submitted a legal filing in response to the ACLU’s King’s Bench petition to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
The ACLU’S application, on behalf of the PA Prisoner Society, requests extraordinary relief and would effectively release prisoners without any input from victims. Earlier this month, the ACLU also sent a letter to Governor Tom Wolf that called for the mass early release of prisoners.
Marsy’s Law, also known as the Crime Victim Rights Amendment, was a ballot question in the November 2019 election and was approved with 74% of the vote in Pennsylvania. A lawsuit by the ACLU has blocked those constitutional protections from going into effect. Those protections include the right for victims and family members of victims to provide input during deliberations on the early release or parole of offenders, as well as timely notification when an offender is released from prison.
The organization is calling on the ACLU to drop their lawsuit, and for Court and policy makers to enact Marsy’s Law as approved and uphold the will of the voters in their actions.
“We are not opposed to the early release of an inmate, particularly non-violent offenders, but we do want to ensure the rights and safety of victims are protected,” said Jennifer Riley, State Director of Marsy’s Law for Pennsylvania. “Therefore, we urge state and local officials to ensure compliance with victims’ rights when making any decisions. Without constitutional protections, victims may be forgotten and be left without any recourse. Therefore, we also call on the ACLU to do the right thing and drop its lawsuit so that these constitutional rights for victims can go into effect.”
“We recognize that we’re in the middle of a global pandemic, but we think it’s important to take into account the rights and safety of victims, not just prisoners,” said Riley.