Bring them home for the holidays: Families of elder incarcerated individuals call on governor for clemency

Members of the Launch Growing old Folks in Jail (RAPP) group illustrated on Nov. 23, the empty seats that they are going to be pressured to have a good time beside this Thanksgiving.

For these at Foley Sq. on Tuesday, an empty seat is excess of simply the sum of its components. It represents a member of the family who has not solely missed one other vacation, it additionally affirms the lengthy years they’ve been gone — typically a long time. It’s with this in thoughts these inside the RAPP are pleading with Governor Kathy Hochul to grant clemency to incarcerated individuals who’ve spent lengthy stints in the jail system and who’re getting older inside the state’s chilly stone partitions with out being given truthful entry to parole.

“I am an impacted wife of a husband who is serving 40 years. My husband is 67 years old, he’s inside suffering with sickness, ailments that I’m afraid won’t let him get home — I just know it. Today I am asking Governor Hochul: bring them home,” Teresa Brady mentioned, solemnly. “We need our loved ones home. They don’t need to spend another holiday, birthday, or anniversary locked in those prisons.” 

Demonstrators referred to as on Governor Hochul to grant Clemency for older incarcerated individuals. Photograph by Dean Moses

Demonstrators erected a Thanksgiving dinner desk with photographs of family members strapped to the empty chairs to showcase the faces that will likely be missed this 12 months.

Advocates at the rally are pushing for the passage of the Elder Parole and Honest & Well timed parole payments, each addressing points inside the present State Board of Parole system. The Elder Parole would require the board to guage incarcerated individuals who’re 55 years or older, and have served 15 or extra years. Whereas the Honest & Well timed Parole invoice pushes the board to offer significant launch opinions for all of those that are eligible. 

“We want parole justice, now! We are here in solidarity with a lot of incarcerated family members and loved ones who are behind bars that need to come home already. Enough is enough,” mentioned Janette Colon, a frontrunner with RAPP and whose husband has been serving 23 years in jail, “It’s not right that our elders are suffering and languishing behind prison bars unnecessarily. There is a racial disparity taking place in New York State and excessive sentences that don’t do anything except harm the families that are waiting for the loved ones to come home. A lot of these men and women are doing amazing things behind bars and can come out to our community and help our youth.” 

Families of family members nonetheless on the inside are craving to be reunited. Photograph by Dean Moses

These payments assist to alleviate an overpopulated jail system, attendees mentioned, one that’s such on account of excessive sentencing and doesn’t acknowledge the rehabilitation of many individuals locked away in a cell on account of stigmas. Slightly than recognizing the transformative change and steps to raised themselves, supporters say the Parole Board focuses principally on the crime itself. 

 “We have an obligation to meet those transformations that goes into the good deals with a transformed system of justice,” Senator Brian Kavanagh mentioned, “Our system for so long has been focused on that moment when someone is accused and convicted of this thing that they did, and nothing else. We thought for many years in our society that longer sentences were going to keep people safer. Longer sentences were going to solve the problem. And we put them on the books in prior generations. We have begun to recognize that some of those sentences were absurdly long for, in some cases, minor crimes, and we’ve reformed some of those sentences. We need to continue to do that. But at the same time, we need to take steps to make sure that our criminal justice system, the so-called justice system, is not just about accountability. It is also about mercy.”

Janette Colon says she will likely be sitting alone this Thanksgiving. Photograph by Dean Moses

Kavanagh mentioned he believes that as lawmakers and advocates push for reform, the solely approach to undo injustices which have been made all through the years is to make sure that the parole system actually works, particularly for those that have been incarcerated for an extreme quantity of time. 

In honor of all these nonetheless languishing in jail, households ended the rally by writing messages to their family members on a tablecloth throughout a symbolic dinner desk that they propped in Foley Sq..

amNewYork Metro reached out to the governor’s workplace for remark and is awaiting a response. 

Senator Brian Kavanagh spoke at the rally. Photograph by Dean Moses
Writing messages to family members. Photograph by Dean Moses

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