On September 28, 2016, the New York State Board of Parole published proposed changes to the regulations that govern their release practices. We the public have 45 days to comment on the proposed regulations, and we ask that you join us by doing so. Comments must be received by November 12th, so time is of the essence! (Keep reading for links to everything you need to submit a comment.)
By submitting our comments, we show the Parole Board—as well as policy-makers (including Governor Cuomo), the media, and the public—that currently and formerly incarcerated people, advocates, organizations, campaigns, and family members are a powerful chorus of voices demanding change in the parole system. Through our comments we also demonstrate that we have a stake in this process, are deeply affected by its outcome, and are prepared to hold the Board accountable for its actions.
THE BOARD’S PROPOSED CHANGES TO THE REGULATIONS
Some of the proposed changes to the regulations may provide greater protections to parole applicants seeking release. Specifically, the proposed changes require commissioners to consider risk assessment scores, as well as a person’s age at the time of the crime (for those who were under 18 and face a life sentence), with more purpose and intention than is current practice. In the same spirit, the new regulations also require that in their denials, commissioners must give “factually individualized” reasons for their conclusions. READ the Parole Board’s proposed regs.
However, the proposed regulations do not fundamentally change the structure or methods of the Parole Board. While they may be a small, positive step towards change, the rules are not as explicit and clear as they should be in making sure that the Board assesses applicants based on their current risk, rehabilitation, and readiness for release. As such, the regulations could result in a continuation of the Board’s current practice: refusing to release people from prison even when they pose a low risk of endangering public safety and are undeniably suitable for release. (THIS sample comment, which can help you in drafting yours, explains this more fully.)
HOW YOU CAN CONTRIBUTE
Comments can take the form of a letter, or even just a bulleted list. We encourage you to include your own personal stories of how you or your loved ones have been impacted by current parole policy, as well as criticisms of the current proposed regulations. HERE are instructions for how to submit your comments.
HERE are key points for you to consider when drafting your comments. These are merely meant as suggestions—undoubtedly it is those most impacted by parole who are the experts in its reform. However, we believe there is great power in sending a unified and consistent message. We can demand that the Parole Board create clear regulations to begin doing what Parole Boards should: release people for whom further incarceration serves no purpose—neither protecting public safety nor advancing personal growth and rehabilitation. With your help, we can work toward parole reform and reunite people with their families and communities.
Read comments filed by:
Center for Appellate Litigation
NYC Council Member Daniel Dromm, 25th District Queens
National Lawyers Guild New York City Chapter
Community Service Society
New York State Bar Association Committee on Civil Rights
Quinnipiac University School of Law
Christopher Seeds, Attorney at Law
Milk Not Jails
Kathy Manley, Attorney at Law
Brooklyn Defender Services
Legal Aid Society and Prisoners’ Legal Services
Correctional Association of New York
Claude Marks/Freedom Archives
Glenn Martin/Just Leadership USA (JLUSA)
Rise & Shine Community Services, Inc.
Issa Kohler-Hausmann, PhD, JD; Avery Gilbert, JD; Christopher Seeds, JD
The Osborne Association/Elizabeth Gaynes
Moira Meltzer Cohen, Esq.
New York State Prisoner Justice Network
Nancy Jacot Bell
Prison Action Network
Parole Justice Committee of Capital Area Against Mass Incarceration
Center for Community Alternatives
CURE-NY/Deborah Bozydaj, President
Donna M. Accettulli
Sister Honora Kinney
Mary Frances Burek and Pat Case
Robert Rose III
Richard Kuhn, Criminon
Wil Van Natta
Rhys Mateo Klauser