Lawmakers Agree on Parole Reform Bill

By Cheyenne Burke

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Lawmakers appear to have struck a deal surrounding the “Less is More” Act, a crucial piece of legislation reforming the state’s  parole system. The bill is one of the association’s top legislative priorities.

The act would end reincarceration for individuals who are alleged to have committed technical parole violations. The fate of the legislation has been unclear up until recently, despite strong support from advocates.

In the waning hours of Monday, lawmakers submitted a final bill for amendment.  The legislation must age for two days before it can be brought to the floor for a vote Thursday, the final day of the legislative session.

Over the last few years, New York has seen a substantial overhaul of the criminal justice system and earned a reputation as a leader in criminal justice reform. These reforms were hard fought and all focus on the “front end” of the criminal justice system – sentencing and diversion courts, speedy trial, bail and discovery.

The New York State Bar Association’s Task Force on Parole conducted a detailed review of the state’s parole process and identified reincarcerating individuals for technical parole violations, as one the largest drivers of mass incarceration. The report found that nearly 40 percent of individuals sent to state prison were not sent for new criminal convictions, but technical parole violations. The state returned approximately six times as many people on parole to state prison for technical violations, such as missing curfew, than it did for new criminal convictions.

“A system that regularly incarcerates individuals for minor, technical violations is not smart policy,” said NYSBA President T. Andrew Brown in a statement. “It is also morally incomprehensible – particularly at a time when we are collectively focused on social justice and equity.”

 

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