The History of RAPP
RAPP was founded in 2013 by three formerly incarcerated people who collectively served 70 years in state and federal prison, along with a civil rights attorney who had long represented political prisoners and other incarcerated elders. They shared and understood the all-too-common experience of growing older—and watching others grow older—in prison as a result of long prison sentences and few opportunities for release. Our work began with the purpose of not just releasing older people from prison, but also ensuring that people serving long sentences for violent crimes were included in any movement for criminal legal system reform and prison abolition. We saw an all-inclusive movement to end mass incarceration as critical to uprooting the racism and perpetual punishment baked into U.S. prisons and jails and society as a whole.
Since our founding, we’ve helped to lead several successful campaigns to change the regulations and personnel associated with the New York State Parole Board as a means of promoting the release of more people from prison. At the time of our founding, the population of older people in New York State prisons exceeded more than 10,000, and while the overall prison population in the state had fallen by 23% since 2000, the population of older people serving long sentences had doubled. Today, partly as a result of our work, there are just under 8,300 incarcerated older New Yorkers in prison. While we’ve made great strides since our founding, we still have a long way to go before all New Yorkers have a real opportunity for freedom and justice.