Earlier this week Harlem Senator Brian Benjamin sent a statement to Governor Andrew M. Cuomo regarding parolees, here’s Senators Benjamin’s statement and letter.
Here’s the Statement:
“I want to thank Governor Cuomo for agreeing to release New Yorkers who are currently incarcerated for technical parole violations. Earlier this week I sent the Governor a letter and worked with key members of his team to ensure these New Yorkers weren’t behind bars during COVID19. This is the right thing to do and this is what leadership looks like. Thank you to my partners at the Katal Center, the Columbia Justice Lab, A More Just NYC, and to Assemblymember Walter Mosely for your advocacy on behalf of these individuals.”
Here’s the letter:
March 23, 2020
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo
Albany, New York
Dear Governor Cuomo:
In our current state of emergency, I am writing to encourage you to release individuals currently held by the state for technical violations of parole, a step that will further the public health and safety of vulnerable New Yorkers while also righting an injustice.
As the novel coronavirus continues to spread in New York State, we are beginning to see infections in our jails and prisons. The most recent news accounts report that the number of cases in correctional facilities are in the dozens. Due to the physical constraints of correctional facilities, medical experts predict a substantial spread of the virus within its walls. As we all know, COVID-19 has an unusually high mortality rate, and it is also known that many within our corrections facilities have comorbidities that raise this risk even more. Just today, New Jersey has signed an order to release 1,000 inmates in an effort to reduce unnecessary deaths.
Currently, in our correctional system, we have persons who were re-incarcerated on technical violations while out on community supervision. Many such technical violations are as minor as being late for an appointment.
Everywhere in our state, we are asking our institutions, schools, and businesses to make significant operational changes in the interest of protecting our fellow New Yorkers from contracting the coronavirus. Our incarcerated New Yorkers deserve the same care and protection. I would suggest that the extremely high risk posed by presence in a correctional facility, namely potentially contracting a fatal disease, is extremely out of balance with the interests of humanity and justice. To lessen the high risks of a coronavirus spread in our correctional facilities, I am asking you to exercise your power to release those who are now incarcerated on the basis of a technical parole violation to their communities where they will be better protected from the ravages of this pandemic. These are the individuals I have been advocating for with my parole reform legislation, S1343, known as “less is more,” but there is no reason to wait to pass this legislation to address their needs during this crisis.
Brian A. Benjamin
Senator Benjamin is the Sponsor of “Less is More: Community Supervision Revocation Reform Act” (S.1343B – Benjamin / A.5493A – Mosley), which would transform NYS’s outdated and unfair parole system. He represents Harlem, East Harlem and the Upper West Side, and is the Chair of the Committee on Revenues and Budget.