Bronx families and advocates rally for parole justice

Residents a rally in the east Bronx demanding parole justice.
Photos courtesy of RAPP

Racism infects the parole release system in the Bronx just as it does every element of the criminal justice system.

A white person in a New York prison is on average significantly more likely to be released on parole than a Black or Latinx person and the disparity widened in 2020, according to a Times Union analysis of the nearly 19,000 parole board decisions over the last two years.

Recognizing how mass incarceration affects the Bronx, elected officials, advocates and residents held a rally in Baychester on April 20, demanding state lawmakers pass the People’s Campaign for Parole Justice platform, which includes Elder Parole and Fair & Timely Parole.

The People’s Campaign for Parole Justice is a statewide, grassroots campaign pushing for parole reform in New York. The campaign is supported by nearly 300 organizations across New York and led by a coalition of the social justice and criminal justice groups, including the Release Aging People in Prison Campaign (RAPP).

“My husband has been in prison for 22 years,” said RAPP community leader and Bronx resident Janette Colon. “He went in as a juvenile. He’s in college. He’s a paralegal. But I still worry about him not having hope for his first Parole Board because everyone gets denied the first time. I’m here because I believe that Fair & Timely Parole will give incarcerated people an opportunity to show who they are today. People are not the sum of their worst mistakes. We as God’s children are calling on Speaker Carl Heastie to take action today.”

All five State Senators representing parts of the Bronx, Senators Jamaal Bailey, Gustavo Rivera, Jose Serrano, Luis Sepúlveda and Alessandra Biaggi co-sponsor both Elder Parole and Fair & Timely Parole.

The People’s Campaign for Parole Justice is calling on lawmakers in Albany to pass two bills that will address this pandemic behind bars and prevent similar tragedies in the future:

  • Elder Parole would allow the State Board of Parole to provide an evaluation for potential parole release to incarcerated people aged 55 and older who have already served 15 or more years, including some of the state’s oldest and sickest incarcerated people.
  • Fair and Timely Parole would provide more meaningful parole reviews for incarcerated people who are already parole eligible.

The campaign is also calling on Governor Cuomo to fully staff the Parole Board with 19 commissioners who come from communities that have been directly affected by mass incarceration and who have  professional and clinical backgrounds in areas such as social work, nursing, reentry services and other fields that allow them to evaluate incarcerated people for who they are today. The board currently has three vacancies.

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