UTICA, New York (WUTR/WFXV/WPNY-TV)– Parole reform is the new objective for the New York State Legislature. Last week the assembly passed a bill that will give people on parole the ability to register to vote no matter their crime, that bill is currently waiting to be signed into law by the governor, and there are two more bills the legislature hopes to pass this year that focus on parole reform.
But there are also members of the legislature that are not in favor of these bills, Assemblywoman Marianne Buttenschon believes people should complete their sentence, which includes parole before they are given the right to vote and the type of crime should be taken into account as well.
“If we’re concerned with what the parole board is doing at this point then that is where we should be having our discussions,” Buttenschon said. “We should not be having discussions in regards to an attempt to manipulate the system and have individuals leave at an earlier time.”
A huge basis for this reform is the disproportionate number of people of color who make up about 70% of those under community supervision.
According to the Columbia University Justice Lab, New York sends more people back to prison for non-criminal, technical parole violations than any state except Illinois, additionally, people of color are significantly more likely than white people to be under supervision, to be jailed pending a violation hearing, and to be incarcerated in New York State prisons for a parole violation, because of this, members of the legislature hope to pass additional bills that focus on parole reform.
There’s the Elder Parole Bill, which would allow people 55 and older who have served 15 years in prison the chance to go before a parole board. The other bill, the Fair and Timely Parole bill, focuses on changing the standards of parole, basing release on a person’s rehabilitation while incarcerated not on the original crime. Buttenschon believes there needs to be a bigger conversation before any changes are made to the system.
“So again we need to take time to look at what we have in place right now to determine if there should be modifications,” Buttenschon explained. “But be sure that the victim’s families are at the table, be sure that we bring defense attorneys, the district attorney, law enforcement and activists to come sit at the table to determine what is best for society as a whole.”