Parole: RAPP initiated and helps to lead the People’s Campaign for Parole Justice.
The People’s Campaign for Parole Justice is a grassroots coalition started by 18 organizations across New York State that works to promote fair and meaningful release opportunities for incarcerated people in New York State prisons. The primary goals of our campaign are decarceration and family reunification. With our closest ally, the Parole Preparation Project, RAPP built this coalition to help lead a statewide strategy to expand release opportunities and end the cycle of endless punishment for people of color in New York.
Thousands of New Yorkers are serving brutally long prison terms as a result of our state’s draconian sentencing laws rooted in white supremacy and a parole release process plagued by racial bias that is designed to punish and re-sentence rather than acknowledge change and transformation. In response to these realities, the People’s Campaign for Parole Justice advocates for the passage of two key pieces of legislation, the Fair and Timely and Elder Parole bills, as well as a change in the composition of the New York State Parole Board.
We advocate for these initiatives because we value the worth and dignity of all people. We believe no one is disposable, nor should anyone be defined by the worst thing they’ve ever done. Further, no one, regardless of the harm they have caused, should die in prison. We believe in redemption and transformation. We believe in families, communities, and collective care. We also recognize that prison sentences that don’t allow for meaningful opportunities for release don’t keep us safe.
New York State must end mass incarceration and promote racial justice by uprooting NY state’s culture of permanent punishment and replacing it with systems of healing, accountability and care. Our coalition, with the support of more than 275 grassroots groups across New York State, leads New York’s People’s Campaign for Parole Justice.
- There are more than 356,000 people incarcerated in New York State prisons, the large majority of whom are Black and Latinx people.
- Due to sentencing laws and an ineffective parole release process, people are serving longer sentences with fewer opportunities for release.
- One in four New Yorkers in prison is serving a life sentence, which includes 1,000 people serving life without the possibility of parole and other equivalent sentences (for example, a sentence of 75 years to life). More than 3,500 people have already served over 20 years in prison and 830 have served more than 30 years.
- While nearly 8,000 people are serving parole-eligible sentences and are eligible for release during their natural lives, the NY State Parole Board denies release to the majority of incarcerated people who appear before them, thus lengthening sentences and compounding the effects of long-term incarceration.
- Racism permeates the sentencing and parole processes, meaning that Black and Latinx New Yorkers are far more likely to be sentenced to lengthy terms of imprisonment and less likely to be released than their similarly situated white counterparts.
- It costs New York between $120,000 and $240,000 annually to incarcerate one older person (compared to an average of $60,000 for all people in NYS prisons) — money that should instead be spent on meeting the needs of communities harmed by COVID-19 and mass incarceration to promote real health and safety.
2021 Campaign Platform
The People’s Campaign for Parole Justice is calling on New York State lawmakers and Governor Cuomo to pass a package of comprehensive reforms that promote justice and safe communities:
- Elder Parole: Provides incarcerated people aged 55 and older who have already served 15 or more years an opportunity for parole release consideration. This includes some of the state’s oldest and sickest incarcerated people.
- Fair and Timely Parole: Provides a more meaningful parole review process for incarcerated people who are already parole-eligible, and ensures that people are evaluated for release based on who they are today, including their rehabilitation, personal transformation and their current risk of violating the law.
- A Fully Staffed Parole Board with Commissioners who Share our Core Values: The Parole Board must be staffed with 19 commissioners as the law allows, and should be comprised of people who share our values of redemption, transformation and mercy. Commissioners must reflect the identities of incarcerated people and come from professional and clinical backgrounds including social work, nursing, reentry services, and other fields that allow them to evaluate incarcerated people for who they are today.
RAPP participates in coalitions across issues of injustice in the system of prisons, policing, and immigration
The Justice Roadmap NY is one example. It brings together 27 separate organizations advocating for a legislative agenda designed to address the harms caused by the deeply entangled criminal legal and immigration systems.
RAPP participates in the national movement to end life imprisonment
Since our founding, RAPP has worked with The Sentencing Project to promote expansion of parole systems nationally and to end life sentences. We partner with the California-based movement to Drop LWOP and the Pennsylvania-based movement to Decarcerate PA and Abolish Death By Incarceration. In all these coalitions we push for policies that do not exclude any incarcerated person, no matter the crime or the sentence. We believe in second chances for all individuals.