Dec. 18, 2019 / Press Release

HARRISBURG – The House of Representatives today overwhelming passed legislation that would preclude the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole from paroling an inmate at the expiration of his or minimum sentence if the inmate was convicted of a violent offense or an obstruction of justice while incarcerated.

House Bill 1855 or Markie’s Law, authored by Rep. Aaron Bernstine (R-Beaver/Butler/Lawrence), was named after Mark Mason, an 8-year-old from Lawrence County, who was brutally stabbed to death by a man who was paroled at the end of his minimum sentence for homicide, even after committing two separate assaults of other inmates while behind bars.

“Today, we made another step toward protecting our citizens across the Commonwealth,” said Bernstine. “We cannot change what has already occurred, but we have an obligation and responsibility to do everything possible to make sure it does not happen again.”

The bill would also postpone consideration of a violent inmate’s parole an additional 24 months following the inmate’s minimum release date for each conviction for a violent offense while incarcerated. In addition, it would suspend consideration of an inmate’s parole an additional 12 months if the inmate attempts to escape, smuggles contraband, or retaliates or intimidates witnesses while incarcerated.

“If House Bill 1855 had been in place on July 8, when the tragedy occurred, this animal would have been kept behind bars for a significantly longer period of time due to his actions in prison and Markie would be in school today interacting and studying with his classmates,” said Bernstine. “Violent individuals who are sent to prison and continue to commit violent acts while incarcerated should not be released on the streets after serving the bare minimum of their sentence,”

Keith Burley is a convicted murderer who was released from prison in March after serving 20 years in a robbery/shooting death. After serving his minimum sentence, Burley was arrested in early July in the stabbing death of Mason, who he abducted in a car with his 7-year-old brother during a domestic dispute with the boys’ mother.

“Working closely with Sen. Elder Vogel (R-Beaver/Butler/Lawrence) on Markie’s Law from the outset, it is my hope that this legislation will be approved by the state Senate and then signed into law by Gov. Tom Wolf,” Bernstine added.

Representative Aaron Bernstine
10th Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: Rick Leiner
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