Around 500 activists and lawmakers packed the Million Dollar Staircase at the Capitol today calling for an end to lifetime prison sentences.
Two bills are being proposed and have already been introduced in both houses.
First is the Elder Parole Bill. This bill would allow anyone who has served 15 years in prison to come before the parole board when they turn 55, no matter how long their original sentencing was or what they were convicted for.
Activists say that if prison really is for rehabilitation, then life sentences do not give someone another chance.
Which leads to the second piece of legislation, called the Fair and Timely Parole bill. This bill would change the standards for parole and allow someone to be released if they show signs of rehabilitation.
Both bills have been introduced in the Senate and the Assembly in the past, but have never made it out of committee to go to the floor for a vote.
"These woman they can’t even get out of bed much less commit another crime so the opportunity for them to come home is great," said Roni Minter, a woman who was formerly incarcerated and is now a criminal justice advocate.
The Senate Republicans held a press conference in response to the rally, saying that these bills are equally as bad if not worse than the bail reform bill passed last year.
"To think that just because someone is 55 if they’re a serial murderer or a serial rapist that they would get parole ... I think every New Yorker needs to know how bad a piece of policy that is equally as bad as bail reform," said Senator Fred Akshar from Binghamton.
This push by a group of Senate Democrats comes at a time when lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, and even the governor, are calling for changes to the criminal justice reform bills passed just last year, particularly bail reform.