ALBANY, NY – FWD.us New York State Director of Criminal Justice Reform Rodney Holcombe issued the following statement today addressing the beginning of the 2021 legislative session:
“New York voters presented elected leaders with a clear mandate this past November: go bold on criminal justice reform. Despite the millions spent by opponents of criminal justice reform on ad campaigns riddled with fear-mongering, racism, and lies, New Yorkers stood on the side of justice and are demanding legislative changes that decarcerate jails and prisons. Now is the time to deliver.
“This mandate comes at a time when New York jails and prisons are experiencing repeated COVID-19 outbreaks that underscore how dangerous and deadly these crowded facilities have always been. Thousands of incarcerated people have contracted COVID-19 in New York, and dozens have died as a result. While we support efforts to prioritize vaccine access for incarcerated people, vaccinations alone will not address the incarceration crisis that fueled the spread of the virus and continues to endanger the lives of thousands of New Yorkers.
“For years, far too many incarcerated New Yorkers have been denied meaningful opportunities for parole release, particularly Black and Latinx people. This significantly increased the elder and medically vulnerable population in New York prisons, a reality that is now proving deadly, costly, and unsustainable, especially during the pandemic. With lawmakers back in session, they should work to pass the Elder Parole and Fair & Timely Parole legislation. These bills will begin to address the inadequate release rates in New York prisons, recognize rehabilitation over retribution, reconnect families and communities, and reduce spending at a time when the state is experiencing a budget deficit. Passage of these bills is critical if we allege to value justice over fear and people over cages. In addition, lawmakers must work to protect and build upon the pretrial reform victories they passed in 2019, reforms that are responsible for thousands fewer people being incarcerated during the pandemic.
“The time is now to reduce our reliance on jails and prisons, and New Yorkers are looking to their elected leaders to make this a reality during the 2021 legislative session.”