Advocates push for parole reform that puts rehabilitation and release first

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ROCHESTER, NY (WROC)- Advocates with the People’s Campaign for Parole Justice held a press conference Saturday in Rochester, pushing for changes to the parole system that would make it easier for older adults and those who have completed rehabilitation programs to be released. 

Parole advocates say many older adults in prison have completed rehabilitation programs, and they hope that changing the parole system will give these people a chance to make a difference in their communities outside of prison. 

Over 300 state organizations are advocating for reform to the parole system. People like Kerry Gant, whose incarcerated husband is eligible for parole. 

“We’re just asking for him to have a chance to improve the community out here. We are asking that he has a fair shot at parole,” said Kerry Gant, husband incarcerated.

Gant’s husband has served over 20 years and in that time obtained an associate degree and held leadership positions in the prison. 

“What we need to do is recognized that transformation, recognize that growth and the amount of growth people have put in,” said Gant.

That’s why the People’s Campaign for Parole Justice is calling on the state to pass The Elder Parole and the Fair and Timely Parole acts to change the parole release system and give those like Gant’s husband a better chance at release.

According to state senate website, the Elder Parole Act would allow people 55 and older who have served at least 15 years of a sentence to be considered for release on parole.

The Fair and Timely Parole Act allows the board of parole to release incarcerated people who are eligible unless they present a current and unreasonable risk that can’t be prevented by parole supervision.

“What must be considered in a parole hearing is the remorse, redemption and transformation,” said Precious Bedell, advocate.

Monroe County District Attorney Sandra Doorley says she’s concerned the bills will give violent offenders a get out of jail free card. 

Advocates do believe that incarcerated people should serve their time. However, the reform bills focus on older adults who have completed rehabilitation programs-and aims to give them a chance to make a difference in the community outside of prison. 

“The elders in there maintain the communities in there, but they refuse to let them out here to help maintain our communities out here,” said Deacon Jerome Wright, formerly incarcerated advocate.

“Incarcerated lives matter, and we’re talking about the incarcerated elders that are becoming our ancestors in prison and we don’t need to be doing that,” said Wright.

Both bills are currently in the senate committee.

Advocates are also calling on the Governor Cuomo to staff the State Board of Parole with people from diverse communities and educational backgrounds. The board currently has three openings. 

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