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Relatives of Victims Make a Case

February 25, 1999

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Parents and other relatives of murdered people urged Congress to punish states by withholding grant money if they fail to stiffen sentencing and parole guidelines for major crimes.

They suggested to reporters Thursday that the threat of financial penalties would discourage states from paroling murderers, rapists and child molesters who might later commit other crimes.

``If they are going to lose funds for failing to protect citizens, then they are going to start listening,″ said Marc Klaas, whose 12-year-old daughter, Polly, was taken from her Petaluma, Calif., home and killed in 1993 by a man with a long criminal record.

Two mothers brought pictures of their slain children to a news conference in urging support for a bill that would make a state liable for costs incurred by another state for apprehending, prosecuting and incarcerating an offender released from the first state.

Under the bill, introduced Thursday by Rep. Matt Salmon, R-Ariz., the transfer of money would occur by withholding federal crime grants from the first state and adding the amount to the second state’s share.

Salmon said more than 14,000 murders, rapes and sexual assaults are committed each year by repeat offenders. Salmon’s bill, dubbed ``Aimee’s Law″ for a Aimee Willard, a Virginia college athlete raped and murdered near Philadephia by a man on parole from Nevada, died in Congress last year.

Critics of the bill contend it does not give criminals a chance to rehabilitate and holds states responsible for events they cannot control. Many states also cannot afford to keep prisoners locked up without overcrowding.

Salmon said his bill was about accountability.

``If the state is saying the criminal is rehabilitated and is not a threat to society any more, they have to back it up with something,″ he told the news conference.

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