By: Victoria Law, The Nation
California and New York legislators are trying to undo the damage caused since the 1994 Crime Bill. But elder parole isn’t working as hoped.
Rita De Anda has spent decades in prison waiting for a chance at parole. Two years ago, when the then-56-year-old learned it might come about a decade earlier than she expected, De Anda was overjoyed. “I’m going home!” she thought.
Several years earlier, in 2014, a federal court had ruled that California prisoners age 60 and older who’d served at least 25 years of their sentence must immediately become eligible for parole. The ruling flowed from a class-action lawsuit charging that extreme overcrowding in the state’s prisons prevented the facilities from providing adequate medical and mental health care, resulting in “needless suffering and death.” Six years later, in 2020, legislators expanded the eligibility for “elder parole” in California to people 50 and older who had served at least 20 years. De Anda believed she would qualify.