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IND Resolution on Parole Justice Resolution

Resolution calling on the New York State Legislature to pass the Elder Parole bill (S.2423/A.2035) and the Fair & Timely Parole Act (S.307/A162).

WHEREAS, the mission of the Independent Neighborhood Democrats (IND) includes “bring[ing] the people of the 52nd Assembly District into active participation in the political process; engag[ing] with neighborhood organizations and groups to foster a greater civic and political voice for our community, translat[ing] civic activity into positive political activity, encourag[ing] enrollment in the Democratic Party, and elect[ing] Democratic candidates responsive to the needs of the community;” and

WHEREAS, the General Membership of IND was moved by the presentation of the Release Aging People in Prison campaign at the March 2023 Meeting; and

WHEREAS, the population of roughly 31,000 New Yorkers in state prison is getting older and sicker year by year; and

WHEREAS, forty percent of Brooklynites in prison are serving life sentences. Many of them were incarcerated as teenagers, some as young as 16, maturing behind bars, yet denied a chance under current law to be fairly considered for release, either because their extreme prison sentences are longer than their natural lifetimes, or because the Parole Board repeatedly denies their release with no regard to their rehabilitation; and

WHEREAS, seventy percent of Brooklynites in New York State prisons are Black people and 97 percent are people of color, and even within the context of these disparities, yet such individuals face further disparities in parole release; and

WHEREAS, the investigations by both The New York Times and the Albany Times Union documented sharp racial disparities in parole release determinations, with Black and Latine people far less likely to get released, when controlling for all factors, even relative to the racial disparities in the overall prison population; and

WHEREAS, the Times Union specifically found that, if Black and Latine New Yorkers were granted parole release at the same rate as white New Yorkers, there would be 675 fewer people behind bars; and

WHEREAS, an analysis of parole hearing transcripts conducted by the nonpartisan Vera Institute of Justice found that a majority of denials were based solely on the nature of the applicant’s conviction, with no regard for their self-rehabilitation and transformation behind bars; and

WHEREAS, nearly one in five people from Brooklyn in state prison is categorized by the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision as an older adult, or 55 and older. That age might not seem elderly to people in the community, but in prison experts have identified what they describe as accelerated aging because of the stress, the separation from families, the substandard medical care, and the lack of nutritious food; and

WHEREAS, the average age of death due to so-called “natural causes” behind bars in New York is only 58; and

WHEREAS, recent research by the Center for Justice at Columbia University found that New Yorkers die in state prison once every three days; and

WHEREAS, this same report found that more people have died in our state’s prisons in just the last 10 years than the total number of people executed during the 364 years in which New York applied the death penalty, with deaths of people over 55, in particular, skyrocketing; and

WHEREAS, the report called long sentences and racially-biased parole denials “New York’s new death penalty”; and

WHEREAS, IND opposes condemning people to die in prison without any hope for redemption, especially in light of the disparate impacts on Black and Latine people; and

WHEREAS, IND recognizes that aging and death behind bars impacts entire families, with an estimated 80,000 children of incarcerated parents across New York State; and

WHEREAS, IND believes that providing community-driven and transformed people behind bars a real chance to be considered for release and an opportunity to serve as mentors, non-profit leaders and drug counselors for young people in their home communities can improve safety for all; and

WHEREAS, the “Elder Parole Bill” (S. 2423 / A. 2035), sponsored by Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal and Assembly Member Maritza Davila, would allow incarcerated New Yorkers classified as older adults who have already served 15 or more years on their current sentence to appear before the Parole Board for case-by-case consideration for parole release; and

WHEREAS, the “Fair & Timely Parole Act” (S. 307 / A. 162), sponsored by Senator Julia Salazar and Assembly Member David Weprin, would restore parole determinations to their original purpose of evaluating people’s readiness for release based on their rehabilitation and current risk to public safety; and

WHEREAS, both bills are supported by New York State’s largest racial justice organizations, including the NAACP of New York State and the National Act Network, as well as advocates for victims and survivors of crime, including the New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault and the Crime Victims Treatment Center, along with faith leaders, advocates for older adults, and re-entry organizations; and

WHEREAS, “Unlocking Billions,” another Columbia University Center for Justice report, found passage of Elder Parole and Fair & Timely Parole would save $522 million dollars annually—money that could be invested in expanding community-based, public health-centered violence prevention programs, services for crime survivors, quality mental health care, education, and more; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, that the Independent Neighborhood Democrats call on the New York State Legislature to pass and Governor Hochul to sign the Elder Parole bill and the Fair & Timely Parole Act.

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