Lawmakers and advocates respond to legislature’s inaction on parole reform

June 11, 2024 Robert Abruzzese, Courthouse Editor
State Sen. Julia Salazar, a Brooklyn-based advocate for parole reform, vows to continue the fight for Elder Parole and Fair & Timely Parole bills, she said. NYS Senate photo
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The New York State Legislature is ending its 2024 legislative session without passing the Elder Parole and Fair & Timely Parole bills, despite both measures having garnered majority support in both houses. Advocates argue that older, formerly incarcerated adults have the lowest recidivism rates and can enhance community safety through mentorship and violence prevention. 

Advocates project that more than 70 New Yorkers, predominantly Black elders, will die in state prisons before lawmakers reconvene due to this legislative inaction.

“New York State Legislative leaders’ failure to pass the Elder Parole and Fair and Timely Parole bills demonstrates a disregard for the plight of tens of thousands of Black and Brown families that have been devastated by generations of racist criminal justice policies,” said Jose Saldana, executive director of the Release Aging People in Prison Campaign.

“These reasonable, common-sense bills have the support of a majority of lawmakers in both houses, as well as a diverse coalition of stakeholders, including law enforcement officers and some of the state’s top crime survivor advocacy organizations,” Saldana continued.

There is significant disappointment among advocates and community members due to the Legislature’s decision not to bring the Elder Parole and Fair & Timely Parole bills to a vote. They argue that this inaction will unfairly impact many incarcerated individuals who have demonstrated accountability and personal growth during their time in prison, preventing them from having a fair chance at parole consideration. 

Advocates stress that these individuals are determined to contribute positively to their communities if given the opportunity for release. State Sen. Julia Salazar, the Brooklyn-based Senate Sponsor of the Fair & Timely Parole bill, vowed to continue the fight for parole reform. 

“I’m going to fight for parole justice until we get this done,” Salazar said. “As the chair of the Senate Committee on Crime Victims, Crime, and Correction, these bills remain my top priorities. The only way we can begin to resolve the crisis of mass incarceration is by giving incarcerated people who have changed their lives fairer chances for release on a case-by-case basis. This is a public safety issue and racial justice issue. We’re going to win parole justice.”

Assemblymember Maritza Davila, Assembly sponsor of the Elder Parole bill, added, “I’m ready to continue fighting for and pass my Elder Parole and Assemblymember Weprin’s Fair and Timely Parole bills when we come back next legislative session. Our elder, incarcerated individuals deserve an opportunity to be heard by the parole board to help them identify the progress that they have made, some of whom have been in prison since they were young. These bills are a step forward to reunite families and give incarcerated people the opportunity to return and integrate into society. We must get parole justice done in 2025.”

The People’s Campaign for Parole Justice is urging lawmakers to pass both bills, which would provide meaningful opportunities for individualized consideration for parole release based on current rehabilitation and risk factors rather than solely on the original conviction. Advocates assert that without these reforms, many New Yorkers, particularly those who are Black and Hispanic, will continue to age, get sick, and die in prison, irrespective of their personal transformation and potential benefits to society.

The Elder Parole (S.2423/A.2035) bill would allow parole consideration for those classified as older adults who have served at least 15 years. The Fair & Timely Parole (S.307/A.162) bill aims to ensure that the Parole Board evaluates individuals based on their readiness for release and current risk rather than focusing primarily on their original crime.

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