Exclusive: Families of inmates rally Tuesday for fair parole laws

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Families of those incarcerated are expected to gather on Tuesday morning in the hope of securing clemency from their loved ones, amNewYork Metro has learned.

With the holiday season quickly approaching, many New Yorkers are planning how they will spend the social occasions on the horizon with their friends and family. However, for those who have husbands and wives, sons and fathers, daughters and mothers behind bars, the time will be less than commemorative. Still, members of the Release Aging People in Prison (RAPP) community tell amNewYork Metro that they are fighting for leniency and parole justice to make sure this new year is worth celebrating.

Scheduled in Foley Square at 11 a.m. on November 23, the rally will take place along with several other simultaneous protests in Long Island and Albany, each calling on the governor and state lawmakers to pass the parole bills of the seniors and fair and timely parole (which are supported by more than 300 organizations in New York State).

According to prison advocates, Governor Kathy Hochul has yet to grant any clemency, but they report that at the end of January 2020, former Governor Andrew Cuomo had received 6,405 pardon requests in four years and granted only 21 sentences. switching. Those who join the rally say there is a grave injustice to parole in New York City and that the aging and death crisis in New York City prisons is due to extreme sentences and widespread parole denials .

The Seniors’ Parole Bill, sponsored by Senator Brad Holyman, clarifies that anyone 55 years of age or older who has served a 15-year sentence has the opportunity to speak with the Parole Board to determine whether she needs to be released (within 60 days of their 55th birthday or the last 15th year of their sentence, whichever is later.) Additionally, the bill states that if release is not granted, they may have a subsequent parole interview 24 months later. The Parole Board will also be required to provide quarterly reports to the governor’s office, legislatures and the public on the results of the parole of seniors.

The second bill, the Fair and Timely Parole Bill, sponsored by Senator Gustavo Rivera, makes changes to the existing parole law, which would require that parole be offered to incarcerated persons if they are eligible, unless they present an actual or unreasonable risk that cannot be managed by parole supervision. This law underscores the current stigma often placed on incarcerated individuals who committed low-intensity crimes or violent crime over 25 years ago, or a high-profile case which they believe “belittles the seriousness of the crime”, although the individual is fully rehabilitated with excellent prison records. It allows for more meaningful parole reviews for incarcerated individuals who are already eligible for release.

Passing these bills is something Janette Colon says she is living through day in and day out, in the hope that she will have the opportunity to lead a normal life. Her husband, José Colon, has been in prison since the age of 17 for a failed robbery that left two dead. Janette credits her husband’s past error as a teenager manipulated by peer pressure from the “bad crowd”. Since serving 20 years behind bars at Sing Sing Correctional Facility, Janette says her husband has dedicated his life to preventing other at-risk teens from falling into the same traps he does.

“The key here is the trauma. He is the only one in his family who has ever been to jail, ”explained Janette,“ He said he was sure there were a lot of young adults and even teenagers going through a crisis and they were going through a crisis. did not have a platform. and they have nowhere to go. He wants to create a safe haven for them so that they don’t make the same mistake.

With Jose being forced to literally become a man inside the prison system, Janette says she has seen him change as a person, take college courses, get an education, and even serve as a father to her daughter from an early age. previous relationship. With his past behind him, she believes he could make a difference in the lives of others. It is with this in mind and others aging inside the system that she says she will join the rally on Tuesday to fight for those aging behind steel and concrete.

“There are a lot of old people dying in prison. There is a man, when he was finally allowed to go home; he died alone in prison, never returning home. And that’s just a story that touches me at home, ”Janette said.

Arnie Raimondo, a Vietnam War veteran with undiagnosed PTSD, knows all too well the importance of these bills. At just 30, he was jailed in 1981 and was not released until February 1, 2021, when former Governor Cuomo granted him clemency. Raimondo was just one of 41 people Cuomo granted clemency to during his 11-year tenure.

“This is the first Thanksgiving I have spent with my family in over 40 years and I am really moved,” said Raimondo, 71. “The pardon process needs to be speeded up and happen more often than just during the holidays, and the Elderly and Fair and Timely Parole Bills need to be passed so that other rehabilitated people can return home as well. at home I know I’m not the same guy who was locked up in 1981, nor are they the same people as before.

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