D.C. City Council member John A. Wilson said yesterday he will introduce a Wilson to Offer Package of City Anticrime Bills By Tom Sherwood and Joe Pichirallo Washington Post Staff Writers
D.C. City Council member John A. Wilson said yesterday he will introduce a series of far-reaching anticrime bills, including a measure that would require persons on parole who are rearrested for serious crimes to be returned to jail automatically.
The parole bill, which Wilson (D-Ward 2) said would "slow the revolving door of crime," would take away the parole board's authority to decide such cases individually and would keep offenders in jail while the new charge is being prosecuted.
Wilson also is proposing a "victims' rights" bill that he said would "bring the horror of the crime into the courtroom" by allowing victims or their families to testify at sentencing, probation and parole hearings.
Other bills would increase from 15 years to 25 years the minimum term stated in a life sentence and eliminate a provision of the city's prostitution laws that requires police in some cases to prove that the person solicited was over 16 years of age.
Meanwhile yesterday, a council committee approved a bill that would ban the possession or use of "armor piercing" bullets, which cannot be stopped by safety vests, except by law enforcement authorities and licensed dealers. The committee action was related to a continuing public campaign to raise $500,000 to buy safety vests for police officers.
Wilson's proposals are expected to rekindle public debate over ways to fight crime in Washington. "Some of my libertarian friends are going to have a hard time dealing with this," Wilson said. "Maybe we can begin to focus some attention on these questions, because the major issue in this city is crime."
Wilson's parole measure would apply to new arrests for a broad range of serious offenses, including violent crimes such as murder and rape, narcotic cases, and some property offenses, including major burglaries and white-collar crimes.
Currently, the parole board has up to seven days to decide whether to issue an arrest warrant to detain a parolee arrested for a new crime. Local prosecutors have felt for a long time that the city's parole board has been too reluctant to use that power to keep parole violators in custody.
Joseph E. diGenova, principal assistant U.S. attorney here, and Bernice Just, chairman of the parole board, said they had not seen Wilson's proposals and declined comment.
Arthur Spitzer, legal director of the local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Uunion, also said he had not seen Wilson's bills, but suggested his organization would oppose the parole measure. "In general, we think mandatory sentences are not a good idea," Spitzer said.
The victims' rights measure, based on an Arizona law, would give victims or their families legal standing to appear at court proceedings involving their cases. Currently, the prosecutor's office represents the victims, but is not required to involve the victim or family in sentencing and parole decisions.
Wilson's minimum sentence proposal would increase from 11 1/2 to 20 years the actual amount of time a person under a life sentence would have to serve before being considered for parole.
Asked about the effect of his measures on the city's already overcrowded prison system, Wilson said, "Maybe the jails are too filled with people who haven't committed serious crimes and not filled with ones who have committed serious crimes."
In the Judiciary Committee yesterday, the bill banning armor-piercing bullets was approved over the strong objections of National Rifle Association officials, who argued that the legislation was too broad and could ban ordinary hunting bullets.
Committee Chairman Wilhelmina J. Rolark (D-Ward 8) said in an interview that said the bill would outlaw only bullets that are specifically designed to pierce armor.
The bill, which was supported by police officials, would make possession of armor-piercing bullets for handguns a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum penalty of one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.