The statewide Parole Justice New York Coalition, with RAPP as a member, has released this new short film, “The Nature of the Crime,” featuring RAPP lead organizer Mujahid Farid, former parole commissioner Ed Hammock, and other experts on the issue.
The film shows how 14 people in New York State control the freedom of tens of thousands of men and women. The 14 people are called the Parole Board and they determine whether people in prison with indefinite sentences (such as 25 years to life) should be released. Every year 10,000 incarcerated New Yorkers are denied parole. Most of these people are denied repeatedly despite the fact that they pose little if any risk to public safety. For the skyrocketing population over age 50 in the New York prisons—a group that poses the lowest risk of committing a new offense if released—this means a future of illness and death behind bars. For New York as a whole, this means the destruction of our communities and families, and the immense waste of public funds spent keeping people behind bars for no reason. It means a continuation of the culture of revenge and permanent punishment that has filled the prisons in this country and threatens to keep doing so. It means continuing a racist system of “justice” that treats Black people and other people of color as criminals unworthy of a second chance at life.
“The Nature of the Crime” refers to the reason the Parole Board gives when it denies an incarcerated person parole: no matter what you have accomplished in the 20, 30, or 40 years since your conviction, no matter how much support you have in the community, no matter how low a risk you pose of returning to prison or committing a new crime, you cannot be released because of the nature of the crime for which you were convicted, often many years ago. That is something you cannot change. And it is an unreliable measure of whether you are ready to be released. It only means that there is a political gain for the Board to deny you: they can show how “tough on crime” they are.
The film premiered in Albany at the state Capitol in May to pressure the legislature to pass the Safe and Fair Evaluations (SAFE) Parole Act. RAPP is part of a statewide effort to use this film to increase public support for the SAFE Parole Act and for the wisdom and humanity of releasing aging people from the New York prisons.
If the risk is low, let them go. Bring our grandparents, our fathers, our mothers, our loved ones and friends home. Please share the video and the campaign homepage with your friends and family, then join the campaign for justice for New York.