Last week, criminal justice reform advocates from across the Empire State joined together for a virtual advocacy day where they called on the state to address the “crisis” in the state’s parole system.
Carol Shapiro, a former New York State Parole Board commissioner, told Capital Tonight that the state is at a “boiling point” and needs to pass two bills, “Fair and Timely Parole," sponsored by state Sen. Julia Salazar and Assemblymember David Weprin; and “Elder Parole," sponsored by Sen. Brad Hoylman and Assemblymember Carmen De La Rosa.
The Fair and Timely parole bill would allow the state to release a person once their minimum incarceration sentence has been served unless there is a threat to public safety. The elder parole bill would allow the parole board more discretion when considering the cases of older incarcerated people. Shapiro said too many of the parole decisions are made in relation to the crime and these bills would allow the parole board to consider how old the person the incarnated New Yorker has become.
Shapiro argues that the bail law changes, which have been criticized by law enforcement and Republicans, and parole reform are two separate issues because the parole reforms are handling issues at the back end.
New York’s incarcerated population is predominantly people of color. Proponents argue that these bills could address any issues of racial bias in the parole system. Shapiro said the parole board is diverse but there needs to be a commitment to believe in the “transformation” of an incarcerated person.
Both of the bills are still in committee and haven’t passed either legislative house.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been edited to correct the sponsors of the Elder Parole bill.