Prisoner advocates urged New York state lawmakers to make sweeping changes to the state’s cash-strapped Parole Board during a public forum Tuesday. (Reuven Blau / New York Daily News)
The Bronx lawmaker last year successfully introduced a bill “requiring the parole board to publish annual demographic data including race, ethnicity, region of incarceration” for prisoners who go before the board. Criminal justice reformers are pressing state lawmakers to pass several other sweeping bills.
That legislation includes the “Presumptive Release” to “require the Board to parole all individuals at their first hearing unless there is a current unreasonable public safety risk.” They also want Elder Parole legislation to give parole consideration to all people aged 55 and older who have served 15 years or more in prison.
“These bills recognize and value humanity, remorse, and transformation of individuals who are parole eligible,” said Liz Gaynes, president of the Osborne Association, which helps people in prison. Currently, the board has only 12 out of 19 commissioners. They have to decide on an average of 12,000 cases each year. In a rare agreement, the union representing police officers is also calling on state lawmakers to revamp the board.
The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association wants convicted cop killers to be permanently blocked from parole. Currently, the board uses a risk-assessment system to determine if a prisoner should be set free. But the PBA believes the current system does not give enough weight to the families of slain officers. The board does not meet them in person or talk over the phone. “We recognize that the judicious use of parole for certain offenses makes sense, but never in the case of cop killers,” Police Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch said last month.