Families of people in state prison and New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams are urging Gov. Kathy Hochul to use her clemency power this holiday season.
At the same time, advocates and Williams are calling for the passage of two measures to meant to release more people from prison through changes to the parole system and based on a person's age.
"I am proud to stand with formerly incarcerated leaders, their loving and courageous families, and a broad coalition in calling for urgent and immediate action to co-produce community safety while combating systems of mass incarceration," said Williams, who is running for the Democratic nomination for governor. "Over-incarceration is not justice, it only prevents re-entry and produces recidivism. The Governor must expand the use of clemency, and the state legislature must pass the Elder Parole and Fair & Timely Parole bills, as we work to undo decades of systems built on oppression and injustice."
The push comes as state lawmakers are set to return to Albany in the coming weeks for the start of the 2022 legislative session, where advocates for changes to the state's criminal justice system will once again call for the measures' passage.
New York has made multiple changes in recent years that has resulted in a reduced population in the state prison system and has led to the closure of multiple facilities. More prisons are expected to close in March.
But advocates have pointed to the COVID-19 pandemic and the ability of the virus to quickly spread in congregate settings like prisons. Advocates, including the Peoples' Campaign for Parole Justice, have called for the approval of a bill that would have the state parole board evaluate for potential release people in prison age 55 and older who have already served 15 years or more.
At the same time, advocates want the passage of a bill meant to provide a deeper parole review for people who are in prison and already eligible for parole.
“I want to thank Public Advocate Jumaane Williams for his strong support for me, my family, and so many other families across the state who are separated by mass incarceration," said TeAna Taylor of the Release Aging People in Prison Campaign. "With another holiday approaching we’ll once again have an empty seat at our table and a hole in our hearts, and we need Governor Hochul and the legislature to act. The Governor must grant clemency to countless rehabilitated women, men, and non-binary people and all lawmakers must act to pass the Elder Parole and Fair & Timely Parole bills."