Press Release - Rally July 15th, 2021 in NYC
Contact: Yonah Zeitz - 347-201-2768 - [email protected]
Follow online: #LessIsMoreNY | www.lessismoreny.org
#LessIsMoreNY Coalition, Community Members, and People Directly Impacted by Parole Rally Outside the NYC Office of Governor Cuomo Demanding the Governor Sign the Less Is More Act
New York, NY - Today, outside Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Manhattan Office at 633 3rd Avenue in Manhattan, the #LessIsMoreNY Coalition, including people directly impacted by parole, rallied to demand Governor Andrew Cuomo sign the Less Is More parole reform bill, S.1144A (Benjamin) / A.5576A (Forrest). Speakers at the action shared the effects of being impacted by parole in New York, described the arduous and often arbitrary parole process, and reflected on the immense consequences of being incarcerated for a technical parole violation - like missing a curfew, or being late for a parole appointment - can have on an individual, their family, and their community. Speakers then called on Governor Cuomo to sign #LessIsMoreNY.
Right now there are more than 34,000 people on parole in New York subject to incarceration at any moment for noncriminal technical violations, like missing an appointment. Parole supervision, and the resulting incarceration of people for technical parole violations, disproportionately impacts Black people, families and communities. Parole in New York is wrought with racial disparity: In New York City, Black people and Latinx people are respectively 12x and 4x more likely to be incarcerated for a technical parole violation. In New York State, Black people are incarcerated for technical violations of parole at 5x the rate of whites, and Latinx people are 30 percent more likely than whites to be reincarcerated for technical parole violations.
The Less is More bill, S.1144A (Benjamin) / A.5576A (Forrest), passed the New York Senate and Assembly in June. Once signed into law, the bill 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 reforms in the Less Is More Act are supported by over 280 community advocacy groups, 9 District Attorneys from the counties of Albany, Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Nassau, Queens, 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 impacted community members, and advocacy groups:
Derek Singletary, Co-Founder and Co-Executive Director of Unchained, said: "Unchained joins the nearly 300 groups and dozens of public officials across New York State in demanding that Governor Cuomo immediately sign and implement the Less is More Act. This bill will keep thousands of New Yorkers - predominantly Black and Brown - home with their families where they belong, rather than sending them back to jail for petty non-criminal parole rule violations. As New York attempts to rebuild after the devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic, we cannot afford to spend $680 million a year locking people up with no benefit to public safety. Families need stability now more than ever, and the Less is More Act will help provide that for the more than 30,000 people across the state under parole supervision and their loved ones. We cannot afford the financial or human impact of further delays. Governor Cuomo, sign and implement Less is More now!"
Paul Rivera, Member of the Katal Center, said: “It is time to restrict, and ultimately to remove, the harm inflicted by the weaponization of technical violations. People on parole should not be filled with the fear of being incarcerated for something like being late for curfew. In addition, there must be a strengthening of compliance to due process and not the automatic imprisonment of those constructively involved in their communities. This is why it is imperative that Governor Cuomo sign #LessIsMoreNY Now!"
Tyler Nims, Executive Director, Independent Commission on NYC Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform, said: “The passage of the Less Is More Act through the legislature was a major step towards common-sense parole reform that will limit New York’s revolving door of incarceration for technical violations, help people return home to their communities, and save hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars currently wasted on jail and prison. New York locks up more people for parole violations than any other state in the nation and Governor Cuomo has spoken out about the need for parole reform for years. With his signature on the Less Is More Act, he will take New York State from worst-in-the-country to a leader in smarter and safer parole practices.”
Leah Faria, Peer Mentor at A Little Piece Of Light, said: “As an African American woman currently on parole, I know first-hand how the parole system in New York functions. Presently, there are 5,000 people incarcerated for a technical parole violation, and this alone shows you how punitive this system is. No one on parole should be living with the constant threat that any little human error you make can send you back to prison. With the passing of the #LessIsMoreNY bill, I will no longer have to worry about being violated if (for reasons beyond my control) I am late for curfew or I couldn’t report on time. This will allow me to move forward with my life and ease my transition back into society. That is why I urge Governor Cuomo to sign #LessIsMoreNY!"
Kenneth Edwards, Leadership and Organizing Specialist, Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO), said: “It has been a month since both houses passed the #LessIsMoreNY bill. While we wait for Governor Cuomo’s signature, individuals continue to return to prison for technical violations that pose no threat to public safety. Elected officials, present and former law enforcement are in support of this bill. Today we stand united asking to have this bill delivered to your desk and for your immediate signature. Thousands of lives will change as many injustices in the parole system become a thing of the past.”
Lorraine McEvilley, Director of the Parole Revocation Defense Unit at The Legal Aid Society, said: “Less Is More legislation is essential to reforming New York’s punitive and racially discriminatory parole revocation system. The legislation will end mandatory detention for those accused of parole violations, provide greater procedural protections during the parole revocation process, and create an earned path to discharge from supervision. We urge Governor Cuomo to sign the bill into law immediately.”
Lee Winkelman, Lead Organizer, RAC-NY, said: “We call on Governor Cuomo to sign Less Is More, a landmark bill that transform’s New York’s parole system that currently is the worst in the country. Reform Jews throughout the state worked hard to win the support for the bill because it embodies the Jewish principle of T’shuva, that everyone can turn their life around. The Governor should sign Less Is More into law because it increases racial justice in New York’s criminal justice system, strengthens public safety, and saves the State money.”
Tim Donaher, the Monroe County Defender, said: “All New Yorkers should be ashamed that our state leads the nation in reincarcerating people on parole due to minor, non-criminal parole violations. This does nothing to improve public safety; it instead perpetuates the over-incarceration of the poor, many of whom are People of Color. I urge Governor Cuomo to sign the Less Is More Act to end these unjust incarcerations.”
Yamirca Vazquez, Member of the Center for Employment Opportunities, said: "When I got out of prison, it was an exciting day for me. I was finally home with my family. I thought, "I'm going to get a job and get my life in order." I did not know the incredible toll that being on parole would have on my mental health. While on parole, I always felt the threat that any little mistake I made, whether it was showing up late for an appointment or being late for curfew, my parole officer would send me back to prison. My last parole officer would use any opportunity to dehumanize me. People on parole should not be punished when life gets in the way. This is why we need parole reform, and it starts with Governor Cuomo signing #LessIsMoreNY now!"
Alison Wilkey, Director of Public Policy, John Jay College Institute for Justice and Opportunity, said: “To truly commit to public safety and community justice, Governor Cuomo must sign the Less is More: Community Supervision Revocation Reform Act into law immediately. The Governor has an opportunity to transform New York’s parole system for the tens of thousands of New Yorkers on parole and their families, and there’s no reason to wait.”
Jared Trujillo, Policy Counsel of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said: “The New York state legislature took a common-sense and overdue step towards ending mass incarceration by passing the Less is More Act, which will bring our state’s inhumane practice of detaining New Yorkers for non-criminal technical parole violations to an end, and shorten the length of time that New Yorkers are subjected to parole supervision. This legislation recognizes that people on parole who have committed no new crimes should be with their communities and families, not behind bars for missing an appointment. Governor Cuomo must curtail one of the most regressive parole systems in the country by signing the Less is More Act into law without delay.”
Avion Gordon, Member of the Katal Center, said: “There are endless stories out there that shed light on the reality of the parole system in New York. Our current parole system is punitive; it adds unnecessary hurdles and burdens upon individuals that have been released from prison. If the parole system actually assisted formerly incarcerated people with their reentry process, then upon my release I should have been able to find employment and keep that employment. In addition, there wouldn’t be roughly 5,000 people incarcerated for these non-criminal technical parole violations. The need for legislation like Less is More to be implemented has been long overdue. We need to make sure that we are giving our people the proper chance to move forward with their lives in the community. I urge Governor Cuomo to sign #LessIsMoreNY!"
Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, Senior Rabbi, Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, said: “Congregation Beit Simchat Torah believes in the ability of every human being to pursue a path of teshuva, the Jewish concept of restoring one’s relationship to the community and to one’s self, and we support New Yorkers' efforts to build better lives for themselves, their families, and their communities following incarceration. We strongly urge Governor Cuomo to sign #LessIsMoreNY in order to create a more just New York by eliminating reincarceration for most technical parole violations.”
Marcellus Morris, CEO of Reign 4 Life, said: “We support #LessIsMoreNY because our communities deserve justice. Studies showed that in 2019 roughly 40% of returned citizens were reincarcerated not for a new crime but for a technical parole violation. In the years that followed, this punitive process has continued. There are now 5,000 people incarcerated in jails and prisons across New York for a technical violation of parole. While incarcerated they can spend months awaiting a hearing. We cannot leave out the effect that this has on the entire family. That is a good enough reason to support Less is More. Governor Cuomo do the right thing and keep families together by signing this legislation into law”
Robin Lawrence, Member of the Katal Center, said: “I have been impacted by the parole system, and I have noticed the mental toll it takes on you. You are constantly worrying about finding employment and then making sure that it is within your jurisdiction. You worry about making sure that you are not late for curfew because all these things can lead to your incarceration. Presently, there are 5,000 people incarcerated for a technical violation of parole in the state of New York, and they shouldn’t even be there to begin with. Every day that they spend behind bars they run the risk of contracting COVID-19. I implore Governor Cuomo to sign the #LessIsMoreNY and decarcerate our people!”
Rashaan Brown, Founder of Gangsters Giving Back, said: “The State of New York spends $680 million dollars incarcerating people for an alleged technical parole violation. Incarcerating people on parole because they were late for curfew, or because they tested positive for alcohol does not bring anyone any form of justice. All the parole system is doing by ripping apart individuals from their families, communities, and jobs is hindering their reintegration back into the community. This system needs to move towards rehabilitation and end its punitive practice of incarcerating people for minor infractions of parole. Governor Cuomo, we cannot wait any longer, the community needs to sign #LessIsMoreNY now!”
Gabriela Vazquez, Member of the Katal Center, said: “Many of the members in my community have expressed the need for parole reform in the state of New York. New York leads the nation in sending people back to prison for technical parole violations. The Less Is More act will give people the chance to rehabilitate and successfully reintegrate back into the community by removing the threat of incarceration for minor infractions of parole. It is time for NY to be more progressive when it comes to our parole system especially during such a critical time like a global pandemic. Governor Cuomo the people have spoken and we are demanding that you sign #LessIsMoreNY immediately!”
Courtney Burke, Member of the Katal Center, said: "New York imprisons more people for non-criminal "technical" violations than any other state in this country. This drives up the jail/prison population and wastes taxpayer money. Many states have already successfully implemented reforms similar to #LessIsMoreNY. I thank the NYS Legislature for passing #LessIsMoreNY. Governor Cuomo needs to sign this Bill into law.”
Tomas Garita, Co-chair of NYC Brown Berets, said: “Black and brown communities are the ones who are constantly falling through the cracks. Be it through mass incarceration or deportations, these two are interconnected. Governor Cuomo has the opportunity to rectify years of social injustice, by liberating thousands of people who shouldn’t be behind bars to begin with. The same prisons and jails that are incarcerating our black and brown brothers and sisters are the same ones jailing immigrants who are about to be deported. Every day Governor Cuomo waits is another we are robbing from the people currently incarcerated for nonsensical parole violations. It’s been long past the time to bring them home.”
DeAdre Simmons, Youth Leader at the Youth Anti Prison Project, said: "I've seen youth get violated for being shot or being the victim of crime, it's like your guilty for being Young & Black and outside."
Five Mualimm-ak, President of the Incarcerated Nation Network, said: "There is a valid reason every District Attorney in NYC has signed onto #LessIsMoreNY, we have far too many of our young adults constantly being violated for minor technical violations that destroy their lives, that are often unstable from the beginning. As the president of Incarcerated Nation Network we provide post-incarceration redirection, our biggest challenge is keeping our clients' violation free. Being late or having an overnight job should not be reasons that people are sent back to jail."