Lawmakers champion crime reduction by formerly incarcerated leaders 

October 24, 2023 Rob Abruzzese
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In anticipation of the 2024 New York State Legislative Session, a group of state lawmakers, violence interrupters and advocates converged to honor the crime reduction endeavors of previously incarcerated individuals and families of those still in prison.

The ceremony unfolded as part of the “Breaking Cycles of Harm and Violence” event in Manhattan on Wednesday, marking the inception of a statewide campaign with ensuing events slated across Long Island, Westchester, Troy, Syracuse, Rochester, Poughkeepsie and Buffalo.

“Today we at the People’s Campaign for Parole Justice are coming together to celebrate the crime reduction successes of formerly incarcerated New Yorkers and families of people in prison,” said Theresa Grady, Harlem community leader with the Release Aging People in Prison Campaign. “We’re also here to call for passage of parole reform legislation to bring home more leaders to break cycles of harm and violence. 

“We know that people harmed by incarceration and those harmed by crime are often the same people,” Grady continued. “The same families. The same communities. My family. My community. And while some may try to divide us — to make us out to be either all good, or all bad — they will fail because we as directly impacted people are getting organized and we are speaking out.”

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The ceremony spotlighted the substantial contributions of individuals who, despite past convictions, have emerged as community catalysts in combating violence and aiding the incarcerated. The accolades were shared among violence interrupters, scholars, peer counselors and others who have been lifelines to both the incarcerated and their neighborhoods.

Lawmakers and advocates at the event jointly endorsed the Fair and Timely Parole and Elder Parole bills, asserting that these reforms are imperative to repatriate community-ready leaders to their neighborhoods.

Assembly Member Latrice Walker emphasized the detrimental impact of incessant punishment, saying, “Perpetual punishment does not keep our communities safe. Instead, it further divides families and deprives neighborhoods of credible messengers, who are necessary components of public safety.” 

Walker underscored the fiscal burden of the state’s current incarceration policy, spotlighting the potential annual savings of more than $522 million that could be redirected towards genuine public safety measures, should the parole reforms be enacted.

State Sen. Andrew Gounardes lauded the instrumental roles played by those who have endured the penal system, stating, “Those who have been personally impacted by incarceration have a uniquely valuable view into what changes must be made to the criminal legal system to make it more just.” 

Gounardes extended his applause to the concerted efforts of these New Yorkers and their families in bettering their communities.

As the legislative session looms, the impassioned calls for parole reform reverberate through the state, mirroring a broader national discourse on the nexus of criminal justice reform and community rejuvenation. 

The “Breaking Cycles of Harm and Violence” event not only highlighted the imperative of integrating the formerly incarcerated in crime reduction efforts but also set the stage for a robust deliberation on the envisioned parole reforms in the forthcoming legislative rendezvous.

The collective advocacy for the Elder Parole and Fair and Timely Parole bills posits a pivotal step towards a more equitable parole system that aligns with the enduring quest for a safer, more just New York.


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