Release Aging People in Prison (RAPP) Campaign and Correctional Association of New York propose revised parole rules to enhance public safety, encourage release of aging people from prison

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From CA Press Release:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, December 19, 2013

Contact:
Laura Whitehorn, RAPP, 646-469-7329; lwhitehorn{at}earthlink.net
Mujahid Farid, RAPP, 646-312-9853; mfarid{at}correctionalassociation.org
Caitlin Kundrat, Correctional Association, 212-254-5700, ext. 332; ckundrat{at}correctionalassociation.org

New York: On Wednesday, December 18, 2013, the Release Aging People in Prison (RAPP) Campaign and the Correctional Association of New York (the CA) proposed draft regulations to govern New York Parole Board decisions. By promoting release based on reliable guides such as age, length of time already served, and risk of committing a new crime, these regulations would improve public health and safety. They encourage the release of elders who have been incarcerated for many years and pose no threat.

Since 2000, the population of people over age 50 in New York State prisons has risen from 5,111 to 9,269, while the total incarcerated population fell by some 21%. These are not newly incarcerated elders; they are people who have already served long sentences and have repeatedly been denied release on parole, despite the very low risk that they would commit a new offense or fail to follow the law.

“These elders do not need to be incarcerated,” said Mujahid Farid, lead organizer for RAPP. “They are the real low-risk group of incarcerated people. The risk of committing a new crime is about 5% for older people, compared with an overall recidivism risk of nearly 40%,” he said. “If the parole board followed the law, many of these men and women would safely be released, saving millions of dollars a year in unnecessary medical and custodial costs.”

“New York has been leading the nation in reducing its prison population. We can continue to lead by releasing older people whose incarceration costs are high and whose risk of unlawful activity is low. This just makes good sense,” said Soffiyah Elijah, Executive Director of the Correctional Association.

A 2011 executive law directed the parole board to begin using risk assessment tools in making release decisions. The use of such tools has been shown to reduce irrational and incorrect release decisions, and thus to promote public safety. However, the board of parole has until now failed to follow this law.

On December 18, the Division of Parole posted new regulations to comply with the 2011 law. But their proposed regulations, open to public comment, do not ensure that real risk would determine release decisions. They would allow the current situation to continue. Advocates and former parole officials have stated repeatedly that the current situation is irrational and does not serve community safety.

“Here’s how unreasonable the current procedures are,” Mr. Farid said. “An 86-year-old who has served 40 years and is in a wheelchair was denied at his sixth parole hearing because, the board said, release would ‘undermine respect for the law.’”

The regulations proposed by RAPP and the CA, by contrast, ensure that incarcerated individuals receive fair and evidence-based consideration for release. The media and public are invited to review our draft regulations at http://www.correctionalassociation.org/news/nys-parole-regulations.

ABOUT THE CORRECTIONAL ASSOCIATION: Founded in 1844, the Correctional Association of New York is an independent non-profit organization advocating for a more humane and effective criminal justice system and a more just and equitable society.  The only private organization in New York with unrestricted access to prisons, the CA was granted authority by New York State Legislature to inspect prisons and to report its findings and recommendations to the public. Through prison monitoring, strategic advocacy, and movement building, the Correctional Association works to improve conditions inside of prisons, reduce the use and abuse of incarceration, promote transparency and accountability in the justice system, strengthen communities, and amplify the voices of the people most impacted by the criminal justice system.

ABOUT THE RELEASE AGING PEOPLE IN PRISON CAMPAIGN: The Release Aging People in Prison Campaign, or RAPP, is an independent organizing and policy project that aims to establish a parole process in New York State that is transparent, all inclusive and fair, in which the Parole Board bases its decisions on legitimate public safety risk and individuals’ personal growth while in prison.  RAPP focuses on the rapidly expanding population of aging people in prison — many of whom are long-termers convicted of serious offenses. RAPP’s work is made possible by a Soros Justice Fellowship through the Open Society Foundation. The RAPP Campaign is located and hosted at the Correctional Association of New York. but operates independently of the organization.

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