ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Rhannad Burch, a convicted child rapist accused of committing the same crime again while on parole, would not leave his court appearance Tuesday — not without having the last word.
“When the truth comes out how it does, everyone starts getting teary-eyed and getting choked up on their words, and it’s just a matter of, ya know, gotta keep fighting it,” Burch shouted out to reporters Tuesday while deputies tried to shepherd him into his transport van.
Burch seeming not only confident, but dismissive of a witness’ testimony through tears during his preliminary hearing.
“The family as a whole is struggling. This is a horrific event for all of them,” said Prosecutor Alaina Finan.
Finan says Tuesday’s hearing was held in part because current laws limit revoking Burch’s parole. As NEWS10 reported, Burch had been previously convicted of rape and was paroled in March 2021, violated his parole, and was sent back to jail until he was paroled again March 31. Within five days, he had allegedly broken into a home and raped a 15-year-old girl on April 5, according to Watervliet Police during a Friday press conference.
“New York State parole is declining to revoke Burch’s parole status, largely in part due to the new procedures set forth within the Less is More legislation,” said Lt. Brian Strock on Friday.
“Sometimes in the past with parole, if parole had lodged a warrant for a violation of parole, then there may not have been a need to have a preliminary hearing. The reason for that being because they’re being held on something else without the ability to make bail,” explains Finan.
Lt. Strock telling reporters he believes the Less is More Act and some of it provisions that took effect March 1 make it more difficult to keep victims safe.
“I personally feel as though these policies have forgotten our victims, and I think this Less is More legislation is a classic case of that,” he said.
“There’s clear, clear evidence that Burch has demonstrated an unwillingness to change his ways,” he went on to say.
Governor Hochul signed the Less is More Act into law September 2021, and it says even when a parolee is accused of a new crime, they cannot be automatically reincarnated without a hearing. Even if a violation is upheld, the parolee can only be sent back to jail for a maximum 30 days. Both Strock and Finan say under the new guidelines, the 15-year-old victim would have been required to testify at the hearing to revoke Burch’s parole, and they made the ultimate decision not to put her under such strain.
However, the law’s supporters say a case like Burch’s has little to do with why the Less is More legislation was written in the first place.
“That’s really not part of it at all. It’s just about, you know, missing appointments, staying out past curfew, things like that,” says Vincent Schiraldi, a senior fellow at the Columbia University Justice Lab.
Schiraldi also co-authored the study for which the Less is More Act was named. As a former parole commissioner, he says the act focuses on technical violations that often clog the system.
“My staff was, they did not like incarcerating people for frivolous, bureaucratic reasons,” he explains. “Parole had merged with corrections in 2008. After they merged, there was a lot of pressure on parole officers to lock people up for even the most minor rule violations.”
He says the parole system in the United States is far removed from its origins that were originally designed to better help offenders reintegrate into society.
“Parole systems started in New York State in Elmira Prison in the 1800s, and its purpose was helping and encouraging people to go to programs, behave well while they’re in prison, and then get them out of prison as a reward a little earlier as a result of that,” Schiraldi explains. “Most parole officers were actually volunteers and the focus was on helping people get jobs and housing and things of that nature.”
He says now, he and other supporters of the Less is More legislation believe the parole system has become a vicious cycle leading to higher recidivism rates.
“There’s inadequate resources to help people. So for example, half of everybody paroled in New York City ends up paroled into a homeless shelter. That’s not a place where you go to succeed,” Schiraldi says.
“Additionally, there’s probably 20 or 30 neighborhoods throughout New York State that encompass 75 percent of everybody on parole. They’re very heavily concentrated in poor neighborhoods,” he adds.
He says Less is More was never meant to be a standalone cure. He says New York now needs to follow it up with better rehabilitation resources.
“Less is More needs to be accompanied by supportive services, otherwise you will have law-enforcement, you will have district attorneys angry because folks coming out of prison need help stabilizing,” he concludes.