A proposal that would make it easier for people who have served more than a decade in prison to be considered for parole is gaining ground in the state Senate with a majority of lawmakers in the chamber now signing on to support the bill.
Supporters of the legislation on Tuesday announced the bill has the backing of 32 lawmakers as advocates hope to approve the measure before the legislative session ends on June 8.
If made law, older adults who have served 15 or more years in prison would appear before the state Parole Board for case-by-case consideration for release. Lawmakers have pointed to the measure affecting older people in prison.
“I’ve long believed that personal transformation, not endless punishment, is the path to justice and safety," said state Sen. Brad Hoylman-Sigal. "That’s why for the last five years, I’ve been proud to be the lead sponsor of the Elder Parole bill. Today, a majority of my colleagues and I officially have our names on this bill, sending a clear message that we are ready to pass it."
The measure is being pushed as Republicans in the state Senate have argued the opposite by calling for stricter parole measures in the state. Republicans over the years have sought measures that are meant to enhance the role of crime victims, make it easier to remove Parole Board members and have people convicted of violent felonies to serve a maximum term.
But Democrats hold supermajorities in both the Senate and the state Assembly. Lawmakers have approved packages of criminal justice law changes in over the last four years meant to provide more equity in the system.
“When I was released from prison, I pledged to not forget those I left behind," said Jose Saldana, the director of Release Aging People in Prison. "Many of the people who positively influenced me in prison, those who served as school teachers, and anti-violence educators, and founded and facilitated victim awareness programs remain behind bars. They have so much to offer the outside world and this bill just gives them the hope that they will one day be able to contribute their positive contributions to the outside world. I thank Senator Hoylman-Sigal and the majority of New York State Senators who have signed onto Elder Parole. We’re ready to work with them and the Senate Majority Leader to pass it.”