NYUJ Launches Advocacy Campaign to Fix New York’s Costly and Unjust Parole System
January 21, 2021

New Yorkers United for Justice (NYUJ) Launches Advocacy Campaign to Fix New York’s Costly and Unjust Parole System

NYUJ Coalition Calls on Governor and Lawmakers to Pass Legislation that Streamline the Parole Process, Establish a Rehabilitative and Non-carceral Approach to Parole, and More.

NEW YORK, NY—New Yorkers United for Justice (NYUJ)—a bipartisan criminal justice coalition of 14 national and local organizations—today announced a major statewide campaign to advocate for system-wide parole reform in New York. The coalition held a virtual press conference to call for legislative action to help fix the state’s broken, costly, and unjust parole system. As a part of the campaign this year, NYUJ and its coalition members will also host educational opportunities and rally support for commonsense reforms in the public and state legislature.

“New York State’s costly and unjust parole system is one of the worst in the country. It wastes hundreds of millions of taxpayers’ dollars annually with unfair parole denials and the needless incarceration of thousands of people in prisons and jails for noncriminal technical violations of parole conditions—with no proven benefit to their rehabilitation or public safety,” said NYUJ Executive Director Alexander Horwitz. “It is time for lawmakers to put a stop to this incarceration-first approach to parole that devastates individuals, their families and communities.”

NYUJ is urging the governor and lawmakers to make parole reform a top priority during the current 2021 legislative session and beyond. NYUJ expressed its support for an array of legislative proposals that can be passed in the current legislative session—such as the Fairly and Timely Parole Act and the Less is More Act—and other legislative efforts that address the most urgent issues in the parole system, including: expanding and streamlining the parole process; providing a fair due process to individuals in the parole system; adopting non-carceral or rehabilitative alternatives for individuals who commit noncriminal parole violations; and more.

“Even as we’ve made progress towards a more just criminal legal system, New York remains overly reliant on incarceration and onerous supervision,” said Topeka K. Sam, senior advisor for NYUJ and founder of The Ladies of Hope Ministries. “Legislation like The Fair and Timely Parole Act and The Less is More Act can make a meaningful difference, right now, in the lives of tens of thousands of New Yorkers. In addition to these bills, we must explore every legislative option to rethink parole and create a system that promotes fairness and justice, addresses its legacy of racial inequality and mass incarceration, and supports meaningful opportunities for people to succeed as they reenter their communities after incarceration.”

This year, NYUJ and its coalition members will undertake a concerted public education campaign to generate awareness and rally support among the public and state legislature for parole reform. NYUJ will also host a series of educational events, the first of which will be a virtual roundtable on the state of parole in New York at 10:30 a.m. ET on February 4, 2021 (register here to attend).

For more information about NYUJ’s parole reform campaign and resources on parole in New York, please visit our website here.

Statements from NYUJ Coalition Members in Support of Parole Reform in NYS

Brennan Center for Justice

“All too often, people are reincarcerated for minor violations of parole, such as violating a curfew or failing a drug test. In 2018, more than 7,000 people were returned to prison for such “technical” violations, and Black men and women are sharply more likely to face this punishment. Being reincarcerated — cut off again from family, work, and school — can be a major setback for someone trying to reenter society. Our research shows that people who go to prison suffer enormous financial losses that can last for decades and entrap them and their families in poverty. Parole and reentry should help people overcome those obstacles, not contribute to them. By reducing or even eliminating incarceration as a sanction for minor parole violations, we can build a fairer and more effective criminal justice system.”

Ames Grawert
Senior Counsel, Brennan Center for Justice

Coalition for Public Safety

“New York has fallen behind other states when it comes to evidence-based parole and community supervision systems. Our current systems are inhumane, inefficient, and ineffective. We routinely incarcerate people for technical violations—separating families and destabilizing communities—without keeping us any safer. Instead of wasting tens of millions of dollars every year locking people up who don’t pose a threat to public safety, it’s time to realign our parole and community supervision laws, and focus our resources on efforts that keep us safer and build community trust. Reducing unnecessary incarceration will also reduce the risk of COVID-19 for incarcerated people, corrections employees, their families, and their surrounding communities.”

Lauren Krisai
Senior Policy Analyst, Coalition for Public Safety

Dream Corps Justice (formerly #cut50)

“There are too many people in the State of NY who are caught in the inescapable web of probation and parole which serves as a revolving door for incarceration. This plan would position people under supervision to have a springboard to success rather than perpetuating the trap doors to failure they have encountered through technical violations, parole hearing denials, and more.”

Louis L. Reed
Director of Organizing and Partnerships, Dream Corps Justice

National Urban League

“We know all too well the disproportionate and devastating impact that racial bias within our criminal justice system has had on communities of color, and that impact extends to our broken parole system. We need a fairer, less punitive system that focuses on rehabilitation for those individuals seeking to reenter society. These eight reform bills would make a measurable difference and bring us closer to a more just and effective system. I strongly urge the New York State Legislature to act.”

Marc H. Morial
President and CEO, National Urban League

FreedomWorks Foundation

“In New York, as in any other state in our nation, poorly structured parole systems can be a major contributor to the cycle of reincarceration that plagues our justice systems. Chief among the structural defects of parole systems are revocations for technical violations and overburdensome supervision requirements that do far more harm to public safety than good. Across the board, our justice systems should create incentives for successful reentry via parole, not put parolees on a path to inevitable failure. We look forward to seeing how the New York legislature is able to address this critical issue.”

Jason Pye
Vice President of Legislative Affairs, FreedomWorks Foundation

Hispanic Federation

“It is critical that we include reform of our parole policies in the greater effort to address the systemic racism which pervades our nation’s criminal justice system. With Black and Latinx individuals disproportionately making up prison populations, largely because of unequal policing and prosecution, parole can be a lifeline for those seeking a second chance. Parole boards should be focused on administering fair and balanced  assessments, providing applicants with an opportunity for a second chance and tools needed to succeed. We look forward to working with NYUJ on making New York’s parole system the model it should be.”

Frankie Miranda
President and CEO, Hispanic Federation

REFORM Alliance

“Across the country, lawmakers are transforming state parole and probation systems through reforms that focus less on punishment and incarceration and more on redemption, families, and safe communities. New York’s parole system is in dire need of reform – it is a dysfunctional system that routinely delays and denies second-chance opportunities to thousands of deserving individuals.

Through common-sense legislative reforms, such as limiting sanctions for non-criminal technical parole violations and providing adequate staffing for the state Parole Board, New York can become a shining example of how a parole system advances not only justice, but stronger families, safer communities, and better lives for the many New Yorkers deserving of a second chance. The REFORM Alliance encourages New York lawmakers to make reforming the state’s parole system a top priority.”

Erin Haney
Policy Director, REFORM Alliance

National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL)

“Parole should facilitate reentry and reintegration rather than serve as a tool that fosters reincarceration. New York needs to overhaul the current broken system to expand presumptive release, streamline the process, and enhance support for parolees. Most importantly, New York needs to promote vastly expanded due process and stop mass reincarceration when other more effective and less costly options can address minor violations without unnecessary punitive measures that harm individuals, families, and communities in the Empire State.”

Norman L. Reimer
Executive Director, NACDL

New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NYSACDL)

“Reformation of New York’s overly carceral and unjust parole system is a moral imperative.  From providing access to counsel at critical initial stages to developing a more rehabilitative and less punitive model in assessing minor, non-criminal violations, parole in New York requires a complete overhaul.  The goal of parole must be converted from a model of continued punishment into one where those we seek to reintegrate into society can be successful in doing so. The New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NYSACDL) fully supports and joins NYUJ in their push to fundamentally transform the broken parole system in NY.”

Tim Hoover
President, NYSACDL

Jewish Community Relations Council of New York (JCRC-NY)

“The issue of parole reform is at the heart of honoring the dignity of those caught in the web of mass incarceration. The Less is More initiative is one that will allow for moving this broken system forward.”

Rabbi Bob Kaplan
Director of The Center for Community Leadership, JCRC-NY

About New Yorkers United for Justice (NYUJ)

New Yorkers United for Justice is a statewide coalition of local and national non-profit organizations committed to supporting a movement that will bring much-needed criminal justice reform to New York State and ensure that policies promote safety and fairness. NYUJ aims for legislative urgency to fix a broken criminal justice system that punishes the poor and communities of color, tears families apart, and makes New Yorkers less safe. NYUJ believes that a system that ensures equal access to justice for anyone accused in New York State, regardless of age, race, ethnicity or socioeconomic status, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin or religion, must be the standard.