ALBANY, N.Y. (WUTR) — Parole reform is the new objective for the New York State Legislature.
Last week, the assembly passed a bill that gives parolees the ability to register to vote no matter their crime. That bill is currently waiting to be signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and there are two more parol-focused bills on the docket that state Democrats hope to pass this year.
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.”
Some lawmakers 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. She says 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 major basis for this reform is that people of color who make up about 70% of those under community supervision, a massively disproportionate figure.
According to Columbia University’s Justice Lab, New York sends more people back to prison for non-criminal, technical parole violations than any state but Illinois. People of color are also significantly more likely than white people to be under supervision, jailed pending a violation hearing, or incarcerated in New York State prisons for a parole violation.