[Pnews] N.Y. must lift punitive practices of state's parole board

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Wed May 10 10:38:24 EDT 2017


  N.Y. must lift punitive practices of state's parole board

By Mujahid Farid,  May 9, 2017

Across the nation there is growing concern that much of the progress 
made in the past five years educating the federal government on the 
harms associated with mass incarceration will be significantly turned 
back. Donald Trump's ascension to the presidency fuels that concern.

However, Trump's counter-progressive platform does not have the power to 
silence a movement whose time has come. Because the vast majority of 
incarcerated individuals are in state prison systems, not the federal 
system, the primary focal point for challenging mass incarceration must 
be at the local and state level, and at policies championed by so-called 
progressive politicians that long precede Trump.

Nationwide and local coalitions of formerly incarcerated men and women 
have been pushing a bold vision for justice and transformation for 
decades. Notably, in New York state, organizations and groups have been 
hard at work, creating and developing coalitions and coming out of their 
silos to address the crisis of a punishment paradigm that has threatened 
the health and well-being of New Yorkers and their families and 
communities since the Rockefeller administration.

Today, groups like the Challenging Incarceration Coalition, which is 
made up of more than 60 organizations and issue-based campaigns, are 
demanding that Gov. Andrew Cuomo and leaders of the state Legislature 
join the movement to transform New York's racist carceral state and the 
rise of the newly emboldened conservative right by championing policy 
that ends mass incarceration, state violence and torture, racism and 
identity-based oppression, and empowers all New Yorkers, not just those 
who are convicted of nonviolent drug offenses.

As a start, the governor could take steps to uproot the punitive 
practices of the state Board of Parole, which continues to annually deny 
release to thousands of people — many of whom are elders — despite the 
incredible extent to which they have transformed over time.

I myself was denied by the board nine times, adding an extra 18 years to 
my original 15 years-to-life sentence, despite having already earned 
four college degrees — two bachelor's and two master's — before my first 
interview with the board.

To continue to deny people parole based on one immutable factor — the 
nature of the original offense — without regard for their life-changing 
transformations, is to follow the lead of the new president, not combat 
him. State and local organizations and individuals will not abandon 
inclusive reform efforts until the governor and Legislature act 
accordingly by changing the composition of the Board of Parole; passing 
the Safe and Fair Evaluations Parole Act (A.4353/S.3095A) which, among 
other things, requires that incarcerated people who are denied parole be 
told what corrective actions they need to take; and championing 
incarceration-related policy that ensures New York remains a steadfast 
leader in the dawn of a new and uncertain day.

The on-the-ground work being done by organizers and advocates on the 
state and local levels will not be uprooted by a new presidential 
administration, but it remains to be seen whether it will be embraced by 
the governor and his peers.

If the elected leaders of our state wish to rout the rise of the 
nationally occupying radical right, then they must join the local 
movement seeking to penetrate its punitive roots.

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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