Founder of Interfaith Mission nominated for parole board

Herb Konowitz is the founding board member at the Dover Interfaith Mission House. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DOVER — When an unexpected call from the governor’s office arrived recently, Herb Konowitz was ready and quite able to do his duty.

A longtime advocate for the homeless and a founder of the Dover Interfaith Mission, the 81-year-old Mr. Konowitz was well suited to join the Delaware Board of Parole, pending state Senate confirmation.

The official nod came with a unanimous vote at Legislative Hall on June 20. The part-time position is a two-year term, subject to reappointment.

“The governor’s office called and I thought, ‘Wow’ this is an honor just to be considered,” Mr. Konowitz said. “For the governor to reach out that way, I was nearly floored.

“They said I had the experience that would work well on the board. I started thinking about it and realized that I really do.”

Through his connection with the homeless shelter, Mr. Konowitz has often seen the effects that a criminal past has on a parolee upon release, and hopes to promote a streamlined process to quicken the pace of their proper re-entry into society.

“There’s a lot of things that need to be changed,” he said. “When guys come out of prison, they often have no birth certificate, no personal identification or social security card, all of which will help them when it comes to finding work and a place to stay.

“All that can sometimes take up to six months or more to complete and I’d like to work together with the Department of Correction to begin the process before upcoming release to give them a better chance to succeed and find a more stable lifestyle quickly.”

Mr. Konowitz, Gov. John Carney’s first nomination to the board, joins full-time chairman David Henderson (appointed 2012), county representatives James F. Jestice (Sussex, appointed 1994) and Joyce M. Bembry (New Castle, appointed 2012) and City of Wilmington representative LeeAnn Bullock (appointed 2012).

The Board of Parole meets about three times a month and at least three members must be present to conduct hearings.

According to the Board of Parole’s Website, “For eligible inmates sentenced prior to the Truth-In-Sentencing Act, the factors used to determine parole release include prior criminal and motor vehicle violation history or history of domestic violence, the nature of and time served on the current offense, rehabilitative efforts, residence and employment plans and input from the community, the police and the Department of Justice. …

“Parole differs from Probation: Parole is the release of an inmate to community supervision prior to the expiration of a prison sentence. Probation is a judge’s order suspending all or part of a prison sentence to allow supervision in the community instead of a prison. Only the Parole Board can grant or revoke a parole; only a judge can order or revoke a probation …

“In addition to the authority cited above, the Board has authority to issue warrants for the apprehension of parolees or conditional releasees; issue subpoenas requiring attendance of witnesses and production of documents at hearings; approve or modify conditions of parole, conditional release or pre-parole; issue revocation orders returning parolees or condition releasees to prison to serve the balance of the prison sentence; issue rescission orders to prevent release on parole pre-parole inmates who have been guilty of institutional misconduct or illegal activity.”

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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