Advocates rally in Albany for elder parole, fair and timely parole bills

May 9, 2023 Rob Abruzzese
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Claiming to have a majority of legislative support behind them, hundreds of New Yorkers gathered at the state capitol on Tuesday morning to march and rally in support of the Elder Parole and Fair and Timely Parole bills.

The event, dubbed “Freedom at the Finish Line — Breaking Chains and Winning Parole Justice,” saw 350 passionate advocates take to the Empire State Plaza Concourse, accompanied by a full-size marching band and the powerful voices of freedom songs.

The two bills at the center of the rally aim to address the crisis of aging and dying in New York State prisons and the racially biased practices of the Parole Board.

The Elder Parole bill would allow the State Board of Parole to conduct evaluations for potential parole release for incarcerated adults aged 55 or older who have already served at least 15 years of their sentence. This bill aims to provide release opportunities to some of the state’s oldest and sickest incarcerated individuals, reflecting the belief in redemption and change.

The Fair and Timely Parole bill seeks to provide more meaningful parole reviews for those who are already parole-eligible. This legislation would ensure that the Parole Board takes into account an incarcerated person’s current status, their efforts towards rehabilitation, and their potential risk to public safety if released.

The rally began with an emotional press conference, where Senate Judiciary Chair Brad Hoylman, sponsor of the Elder Parole bill, issued a heartfelt proclamation to families of incarcerated individuals. The recognition honored the tireless work and dedication these families have shown in supporting their loved ones while navigating New York State’s complex and often unjust parole system.

TeAna Taylor, Co-Director of Policy and Communications at the RAPP Campaign, emphasized the significant impact these bills would have on the lives of countless mentors, parents and community leaders who are currently incarcerated.

Several prominent lawmakers lent their voices to the cause, including Senate Crime Victim, Crime, and Correction Committee Chair Julia Salazar, who highlighted the urgent need for parole reform in order to improve community safety and address the systemic racial disparities plaguing the current system.

“2023 must be the year that we finally pass Fair and Timely Parole and Elder Parole,” Salazar said. “Until we pass them, we continue to deprive our communities of the public safety benefits our incarceration elders can offer when they are home with their families and communities.”

Assembly Member Latrice Walker argued that the state should redirect the funds currently spent on mass incarceration towards education and community support initiatives.

“We are standing in the face of the confederate flag,” Walker said. “We are not afraid to speak truth to power, to those keeping us in bondage and chains generation after generation. Send our people home. They need to be in the neighborhoods that they belong to. Our state is spending over $240K to keep elders incarcerated. This is how they prioritize us. Put your money where your mouth is. We need money for education, not in mass incarceration.”

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