Parole of cop killer prompts calls for new sentencing laws

"Cop killer" is the description by which most people know Herman Bell. In 1971, he and his accomplices lured two NYPD officers into an ambush and murdered them. While a parole board thought it was time for the 70-year-old convict to reenter society, some lawmakers disagree.

State Sen. Marty Golden, a former cop, has proposed one of four separate pieces of legislation to tighten parole rules, including mandatory life sentences and no parole for those convicted of killing a police officer. Some of the bills go further, including imposing life sentences for people convicted of three or more violent felonies.

But Fortune Society CEO Joanne Page says that most inmates who have served decades-long sentences no longer pose a risk and that parole boards are right to release inmates that fulfill their requirements. Otherwise, critics say, our prisons will become expensive geriatric facilities. Page says the U.S. has historically turned prisons into nursing homes by holding inmates beyond the age where they post a risk to society.

While Golden's bills were well received in the Republican-held Senate, most expect the legislation will be fiercely challenged in the Democratic-controlled Assembly.