Support Parole Reform in NY State

Release Aging People in Prison (RAPP) and Correctional Association of New York (CANY) propose revised parole rules to enhance public safety, encourage release of aging people from prison

On Wednesday, December 18, 2013, Release Aging People in Prison (RAPP) and the Correctional Association of New York (CANY) sent the New York State Board of Parole a proposed draft of regulations to govern parole decisions. By promoting release based on reliable guides such as age, length of time already served, and risk of committing a new crime, these regulations would improve public health and safety. They encourage the release of elders who have been incarcerated for many years and pose no threat.

Since 2000, the population of people over age 50 in New York State prisons has risen from 5,111 to 9,269, while the total incarcerated population fell by some 22%. These are not newly incarcerated elders; they are people who have already served long sentences and have repeatedly been denied release on parole, despite the very low risk that they would commit a new offense or fail to follow the law.

“These elders do not need to be incarcerated,” said Mujahid Farid, lead organizer for RAPP. “They are the real low-risk group of incarcerated people. The risk of committing a new crime is about 5% for older people, compared with an overall recidivism risk of nearly 40%,” he said. “If the parole board followed the law, many of these men and women would safely be released, saving millions of dollars a year in unnecessary medical and custodial costs.”

New York has been leading the nation in reducing its prison population. We can continue to lead by releasing older people whose incarceration costs are high and whose risk of unlawful activity is low. This just makes good sense,” said Soffiyah Elijah, Executive Director of CANY.

A 2011 executive law directed the parole board to begin using risk assessment tools in making release decisions. The use of such tools has been shown to reduce irrational and incorrect release decisions, and thus to promote public safety. However, the board of parole has until now failed to embrace this law.

On December 18th, the Division of Parole posted new regulations to comply with the 2011 law. But their proposed regulations, open to public comment, do not ensure that real risk would determine release decisions. They would allow the current situation to continue. Advocates and former parole officials have stated repeatedly that the current situation is irrational and does not serve community safety.

“Here’s how unreasonable the current procedures are,” Mr. Farid said. “An 86-year-old who has served 40 years and is in a wheelchair was denied at his sixth parole hearing because, the board said, release would ‘undermine respect for the law.'”

The regulations proposed by RAPP and CANY, by contrast, ensure that incarcerated individuals receive fair and evidence-based consideration for release. The media and public are invited to review our draft regulations on the Correctional Associations website.

Press contacts:
RAPP: Laura Whitehorn, 646-469-7329; lwhitehorn@earthlink.net
RAPP: Mujahid Farid, 646-312-9853; mfarid@correctionalassociation.org
CANY: Caitlin Kundrat, 212-254-5700, ext. 332; ckundrat{at}correctionalassociation.org

One response to “Support Parole Reform in NY State

  1. Pingback: Analysis on Prison-Parole Reform Strategy by Jalil Muntaqim | south brooklyn anarchist black cross

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