Fri. Jun 18th, 2021

The top Democratic lawmakers in the state Senate and Assembly on Tuesday were urged to take up a trio of bills meant to smooth the process for parole in New York. 

The measures represent an overhaul of the state’s parole system in New York, making it easier for older people who are incarcerated to be granted release as well as cut through what criminal justice advocates have said is a complex process. 

In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, Legal Aid advocates from around the state called for the passage of the measures by the end of the legislative session in June. 

“New York State’s parole laws have driven a humanitarian crisis,” the groups said in a statement. “Thousands of incarcerated New Yorkers, who pose no risk to public safety, have been denied release and an opportunity to reunite with their families. And thousands of New Yorkers who have been released from prison, and begun the work of reintegrating into their communities, have been needlessly returned to jail for technical violations of parole like missing an office report, testing positive for marijuana, or breaking curfew.”

Though at times politically fraught, advocates this year have pointed to the COVID-19 pandemic as one of the main drivers for granting early release to incarcerated people as the virus has spread through prison and jail facilities. 

Parole law changes would be the latest in a slate of criminal justice reforms to be considered by state lawmakers in recent years, which most recently included the legalization of cannabis products in the state. New York over the last decade has also closed state prisons as the incarcerated population has steadily decreased.