The effort to change New York's parole laws is taking shape this week as advocates plan to bring their case to the districts of the top lawmakers in the state Senate and Assembly.
The People's Campaign for Parole is set to unveil billboards highlighting a pair of parole reform bills they want the legislature to take up in the coming days. One bill makes it easier for older people who are incarcerated to gain their release from prison. Another bill is meant to streamline the parole process in New York overall.
Billboards highlighting the issue will appear in the districts of Democratic Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins. The ads will feature pictures of people with family members who are in prison in addition to the call for the parole measures.
The billboards are being packaged with an overall six-figure paid social media campaign to highlight the issue as well.
Efforts to change the parole laws in New York gained heightened urgency amid the COVID-19 pandemic and the susceptibility of people in prison to the virus.
"My brother has been incarcerated for 38 years. He went to prison at 16 years old," said Lisette (Lisa) Nieves, a leader with the group and Bronx resident who is featured in one of the billboards. "Today he is 55 years old and a completely different person than the teenager he was when he first went to prison. My family and I are ready to support his return home but without the Elder Parole and Fair & Timely Parole bills, he won’t appear before the Parole Board for another 10 years. As a lifelong Bronxite, I’m calling on Bronx leader and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie to do what’s right. Give my brother and other New Yorkers a second chance."
The campaign comes as New Yorkers United for Justice earlier released its own six-figure ad campaign on TV to highlight the issue.