Parole reform proposals expand eligibility to violent offenders

New York News

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Two bills currently proposed in the New York State Senate would change the protocol surrounding parole eligibility and release. The Elder Parole Act and Fair and Timely Parole Act are receiving mixed reactions in the legislature and in the community.

According to state senate website, the Elder Parole Act would allow people 55 and older who have served at least 15 years of a sentence to be considered for release on parole.

The Fair and Timely Parole Act allows the board of parole to release incarcerated people who are eligible unless they present a current and unreasonable risk that can’t be prevented by parole supervision.

Monroe County District Attorney Sandra Doorley is urging state representatives to vote against the bills. “You’re going to have the most violent offenders in our community be released after serving just a portion of their sentence,” she said.

Jeremy Cooney, state senator in the 56th district, said this isn’t a get out of jail free card, but an opportunity for incarcerated people to succeed. Under the Fair and Timely Parole Act, the review in front of the Parole Board changes to a presumption of release.

“Individuals who may have done a wrong in the past can sometimes, in some instances, change. And the criminal justice system is not about locking up people and throwing away the key. It’s about finding improvement and opportunities for them to better themselves,” Cooney said.

Doorley worries that nobody is thinking about victims in all of this. “They went through the court process. They went through this horrific event in their lives, even though this was not going to bring their loved one back. They had some sense of relief that the perpetrator would be in prison for 25 to life, and that’s not going to be the case,” Doorley said.

Gates police chief James VanBrederode said he believes this legislation would harm the community. “Predicting future behavior from people is not a perfect science,” he said. “I think this would create a lot of anxiety and stress for these victims.”

Press releases on Thursday from Doorley and Erie County District Attorney John Flynn provided a list of gruesome examples of incarcerated people who could be eligible for parole under the Elder Parole Act, mostly comprising individuals locked up for committing murders and rapes. Cooney notes, however, that any older prisoners seeking parole would still be required to appear before a Parole Board if the Elder Parole Act passes. That board would still have the discretion to reject them, keeping dangerous offenders behind bars.

The Elder Parole Act is in the Senate committee, and the Fair and Timely Parole Act is on the floor calendar.

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