Advocates rally for reforms to parole system

Families with incarcerated loved ones and formerly incarcerated individuals rallied in MacDonald Park in Forest Hills last week demanding state lawmakers pass the People’s Campaign for Parole Justice platform.
The People’s Campaign for Parole Justice is a statewide, grassroots campaign pushing for parole reform in New York State by calling on lawmakers in Albany to pass two pieces of legislation.
The first bill would allow the state Board of Parole to provide an evaluation for potential parole release for incarcerated people aged 55 and older who have already served 15 or more years.
The second piece of legislation would provide more meaningful parole reviews for incarcerated people who are already parole eligible.
“We are facing a crisis of mass incarceration and must enact change to foster a culture of rehabilitation over punishment,” said Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi of Forest Hills. “These bills would promote racial justice and ensure that older adults serving long sentences have an opportunity to demonstrate their transformation, safely return to their communities, and save the state hundreds of millions of dollars that could be reinvested to meet critical community needs.”
The rally was joined by other organizations like Release Aging People in Prison (RAPP) where
Roslyn McLeod of the group Release Aging People in Prison (RAPP) lost her husband while he was still behind bars.
“My husband was supposed to come home May 6, but somehow something happened and he wasn’t released,” said McLeod. “So they sent me his torn up clothes and today I have his death certificate. It is undetermined, I still don’t know why he died.”
Jamell Henderson of New York Communities of Change said bills do not guarantee parole, but rather guarantees opportunities for parole for everyone eligible.
“Someone is crying behind bars because they were before the parole board not the fifth time,or sixth time, some cases not even the tenth time, and were denied parole,” said Henderson. “They were told that they need to continue on the path of punishment rather than the path of progress and redemption.”
“The thing about The People’s Campaign for Parole Justice is that we are fighting for something that should already exist: a fair, timely, and just parole process,” added Sandrea Mandell of One Queens Indivisible. “We all believe in redemption, rehabilitation, second chances, and helping families and communities heal.”

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