Freedom at the Finish Line Breaking Chains and Winning Parole Justice
There was a rally on Monday, May 8th, in Albany, NY to celebrate how far we have come, having secured majority support for the Elder Parole (S2423/A2035) and Fair and Timely Parole (S307/A162) in the Legislature.
What is the Elder Parole Bill?
The Elder Parole Bill provides for parole release consideration, on a case-by-case basis, for people classified by DOCCS as older adults (55 and older) and who have served at least 15 years. The Fair and Timely Parole Bill restores the parole board to its original purpose of evaluating people’s readiness for release, rather than denying people based solely on their conviction.
Together, these bills will improve safety and fairness for all, allowing so many currently incarcerated people to be part of the solution to harm and violence in their communities.
The Day’s Events: According to Solange Muller
We gathered in the concourse and had a chance to meet friends and new folks committed to parole justice from all around NY State. Over 300 people registered for this rally. We sang freedom songs before we walked accompanied by a brass marching band to the entrance to the Assembly.
In the War Room, we heard from 8 legislators who are staunch advocates for these parole bills. David Weprin, Chair of the Corrections Committee who introduced these bills in the Assembly said:
“We have to get these bills through. Everyone is entitled to a second chance. Individuals can change. They are not the same individual as when they came in.”
Knowledge’s good friend Stanley Bellamy, who received clemency this year and walked out of Green Haven two weeks ago after being incarcerated for 37 years spoke passionately of the need for these bills. He held up the memory of Mr. Benjamin Smalls who died of Covid-19 at the age of 74 a few months before his parole release date.
Knowledge had great respect for Mr. Smalls’ wisdom, kindness, and availability to listen and offer counsel to the men inside. The Hudson Valley group visited the offices of Senator Michelle Hinchey, Assemblyperson Didi Barrett, and Assemblyperson Jonathan Jacobson. At each office, we held a silent vigil for 74 seconds in honor of Mr. Smalls. Members of our team provided testimony as well.
These parole bills must pass this legislative session
How can you help? By calling your district’s representative and letting them know how you feel. Please confirm that you are in the district of the person you are calling or call as a concerned Friend. Here are the phone numbers and people to reach out to when you call:
- Senator Michelle Hinchey’s office (518) 455-2350 and ask to speak to Luca Tzimas, the legislative assistant we met with. Please say you are from Bulls Head Oswego or Poughkeepsie Meeting and say you are a constituent. Thank Senator Michelle Hinchey for co-sponsoring the Elder Parole bill (S2423) and ask her to co-sponsor the Fair and Timely Parole bill (S307).
- Assemblyperson Didi Barrett’s office (518) 455-5177 and ask to speak to Tammy Hayner, the legislative assistant we met with. Please say you are from Bulls Head Oswego or Poughkeepsie Meeting and say you are a constituent. Thank Assemblyperson Didi Barrett for co-sponsoring the Elder Parole bill (A2035) and ask her to co-sponsor the Fair and Timely Parole bill (A162).
- Assemblyperson Jonathan Jacobson (518) 455-5593 and ask to speak to Matthew Boyle, the legislative assistant we met with. Please say you are from Bulls Head Oswego or Poughkeepsie Meeting and say you are a constituent. Thank Assemblyperson Jonathan Jacobson for being a co-sponsor of the Fair and Timely Parole Bill (A162) and ask him to co-sponsor the Elder Parole Bill (A2035).
Prepared by Solange Muller, May 9, 2023