Former NY Chief Judge Jonathan Lippmann, New York State Bar, District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, Former Head of NY Parole, & More Call for Passage of #LessIsMoreNY
Major Parole Reform Event Highlights #LessIsMoreNY as Cost-Effective, Actionable and Moral Solution to Mass Incarceration Driven By Parole
Contact: Sumeet Sharma - 646-591-9483 - [email protected]
Follow online: #LessIsMoreNY | www.lessismoreny.org
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - Today, at a major event about parole supervision and parole reform in New York, top public safety officials, legal experts, and community groups explored the urgent need for parole reform in New York, highlighting in particular the urgent need for reforms like those found in the #LessIsMoreNY Act.
New York’s massive parole system is driving mass incarceration — and all the inequities that come with it. The state sends more people back to prison for non-criminal, technical parole violations than any other state. The first two people to die of COVID-19 at Rikers Island were incarcerated for technical violations and, prior to the pandemic, people incarcerated for technical violations in Rikers were the only population increasing there. New York disproportionately supervises, violates, and imprisons Black and Latinx people for technical parole violations at far higher rates compared to white people. The annual cost of this practice: over $680 million.
The event, titled ‘Parole Supervision in New York: Policy Problems and Actionable Solutions’, included Former Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman; Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez; former U.S. Attorney, Western District of New York, and former New York State Assistant Secretary for Public Safety, Denise O'Donnell; CUNY Professor of Criminal Justice and former Director, New York State Reentry Services, DOCCS, Vanda Seward; Wayne McKenzie, Chair-elect, American Bar Association Criminal Justice Section; and Donna Hylton, founder of A Little Piece of Light, which is a member of the executive team of the #LessIsMoreNY campaign.
The Less is More bill, S.1144 (Benjamin) / A.5576 (Forrest), will transform the parole process in New York to focus resources on helping people get back to life after prison by limiting the incarceration of people for technical parole violation and by incentivizing rehabilitation through successful completion of parole. The Less Is More Act is supported by over 270 community & advocacy groups across New York, 8 District Attorneys from the counties of Albany, Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Nassau, Tompkins, Ulster, & Westchester, and law enforcement leaders from across New York including the Albany and Erie County Sheriffs. A full list of supporters and more information on the Less Is More Act can be found at www.lessismoreny.org.
Statements from elected officials, impacted community members, and advocacy groups:
Senator Brian Benjamin, Prime Senate Bill Sponsor, said: "Sending people to jail for months or years for minor, non-criminal, technical violations of parole costs New Yorkers millions each year with no proven benefit to public safety. Instead of incarcerating people for minor things - like missing a parole appointment or being late for a curfew - we need to make sure that people who are navigating re-entry after prison have the support they need to successfully complete parole and continue their contributions to New York's communities. The parole reforms in Less Is More are moral, smart, and will save us millions; we must pass this bill now.”
Assemblymember Phara Souffrant-Forrest, Prime Assembly Bill Sponsor, said: "New York takes far too many people, mostly people of color, out of their communities for incarceration on a minor technical parole violation - a practice that disrupts lives, wastes millions, and does nothing to keep people safe. We must pass Less Is More this year to limit the incarceration of people for non-criminal technical parole violations and take action to stop the cycle of incarceration caused by parole in New York."
Assemblymember Latrice Walker said: "The Less is More NY Act is an essential part of our reforming our criminal justice system. Technical violations should not be a continuation of a served sentence, for an otherwise law abiding citizen, to be reincarcerated. The continuation of criminalizing behaviors that are non felonious and in many cases not illegal or a danger to society must come to an end. The provisions of this bill are aligned with moving our criminal justice system in a direction where we are being restorative instead of continuing to damage people's lives further."
Donna Hylton, President and Founder of A Little Piece of Light, said: “Today I am not only speaking as a woman who spent 27 years behind bars. I'm also speaking for the women who are not here. Women I know, who are doing their best to reenter society and who live in constant fear of making a minor parole mistake that lands them back in prison. Women who are balancing jobs, managing childcare, looking for housing and navigating a world that left them behind long ago. I often imagine how my life and theirs would be different if we worked with a parole system that recognized the trauma-responsive care we needed. The solution is quite simple. We need to care about the human dignity of people, and recognize the good in them. The #LessIsMoreNY Act must be passed immediately. The benefits will be far-reaching.”
Emily NaPier Singletary, Co-Founder and Co-Executive Director of Unchained, said: "With just four weeks left in the legislative session, the New York Legislature must act quickly to pass the Less is More Act and not continue to allow New York to lag behind other states across the country with fairer and more effective parole systems. The experts at this event make it clear: there is a better way to administer community supervision, and there are models across the country and even within our own state for the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision to follow. The Less is More Act incorporates best practices from around the nation, including eliminating and severely restricting incarceration for non-criminal technical violations of parole and allowing people who follow their parole conditions to earn early discharge from community supervision. This is not rocket science. Further delaying passage of the Less is More Act would be unconscionable - continuing to disrupt the lives of thousands of New York families every year with unnecessary incarceration and wasting $680 million of taxpayer money annually. The Legislature must immediately pass this common sense bill supported by criminal justice reform advocates and law enforcement alike, and the Governor must sign it as soon as it is delivered to his desk."
Francis Pascuzzi, Member of the Katal Center for Equity, Health, and Justice, said: "Oftentimes we see that people on parole are not given the chance to get off supervision early. Even if you are abiding by everything and doing the absolute best to move forward with your life. I support #LessIsMoreNY because it will give people on parole the opportunity to finish their sentences quicker. For every 30 days, you spend without violating your parole conditions you can earn a 30-day credit reduction. This is so important to me because it will give me the chance to get off parole sooner and finally reunite with my mom. I haven’t seen her since 2008. She is very sick and I’d like to hold her one more time before she passes away. I demand that our elected officials support and pass #LessIsMoreNY now!"
Anthony Maund, Member of the Katal Center for Equity, Health, and Justice, said: "Throughout the years I have experienced many different kinds of traumas. I have made some very poor choices and as a result went to prison. In the years that I spent in jail, I took an active role in my recovery and received my education. Once I was released I found myself on parole. I then realized that I was unable to do any of the things needed for my recovery. The parole system put so many barriers in my life that made it very difficult for me to reconnect and be closer to my family. I had promised my family that once I was released I would go visit them and I did. For this exact reason, I was incarcerated. I know that as much as I work to improve my life, there are things that are out of my control. A lot of my mental health conditions have gotten worse due to incarceration and because of the isolation I experience while on parole. The Less Is More Act is important to me because I believe that if there was a more fair system we would grow and become more productive for our society, for our families, and for our friends. We need parole reform in the state of New York!"
Kenyatta Muzzanni, Director of Organizing with the Katal Center for Equity, Health, and Justice, said: "It's time for smart parole reform in Albany. This panel discussion only underscores the enormous impact that #LessIsMoreNY will have for the 35,000 plus people on parole in New York. We have only a few weeks left in the legislative session - the legislature has to move immediately to pass this life-altering bill. As many of the panelists have stated previously, New York will continue to fall behind every other state when it comes to parole reform. We need #LessIsMoreNY now."
For more information on the #LessIsMoreNY campaign, please visit www.lessismoreny.org