(The Center Square) – Republicans in the New York Senate on Tuesday announced a series of bills that counter proposals offered by Democrats in Albany to reform the state’s parole system.
In a news conference to highlight the package, senators in the chamber’s minority party called Democrats plans would endanger more New Yorkers and usurp a criminal justice system that put dangerous criminals away for long sentences.
The Republicans said previous laws passed by the Legislature, such as the 2019 bail reform measure that ended cash bail for several misdemeanor and nonviolent felony charges, have already hurt the state.
“You always hear, we’ve got to lead the nation, be the most progressive,” Senate Minority Leader Rob Ortt, R-North Tonawanda, told reporters. “I don’t think it’s good when you’re leading the nation in out-migration. When you’re leading the nation in crime, leading the nation on these kinds of policies.”
Ortt said the slate of eight GOP-backed bills are common sense measures meant to ensure victims, their families and communities would be protected and heard.
Among the measures unveiled Tuesday was Senate Bill S2046, a bill sponsored by state Sen. Jim Tedisco, R-Glenville. It would require the video recording of all victim impact statements and mandate that parole board members review relevant statements before a hearing.
Senate Bill S6249, a proposal by state Sen. Daphne Jordan, R-Halfmoon, would require parole boards to unanimously agree before granting an inmate parole.
State Sen. Anthony Palumbo, R-New Suffolk, filed Senate Bill S5175, which seeks to extend the reconsideration period for parole from every two years to every five years.
Republicans said, citing data from the Police Benevolent Association of New York, the parole board has granted a release to at least 20 individuals who killed a police officer.
“We need top-to-bottom reform of New York’s broken Parole Board that will tip the scales of justice back in favor of the victims, law enforcement and society,” Jordan said.
A Democratic bill Ortt and his caucus focused on during the news conference was one sponsored by state Sen. Brad Hoylman, D-Manhattan. Senate Bill S2144 would require the Parole Board to review all inmates age 55 or older who have served at least 15 years in prison.
Republicans said if that bill passes, it could lead to the release of notorious criminals like David Berkowitz, the “Son of Sam” killer, and Mark David Chapman, who murdered John Lennon.
Hoylman’s bill, though, states the board does not have to automatically release everyone at age 55. It just allows the state to make a determination if the inmate should be released.
Hoylman, in his bill memo, noted that the state’s prison population that’s age 50 and older has increased by 81 percent over the last two decades. That is forcing prison officials to spend more resources on providing geriatric care as well as treatment for inmates afflicted with diabetes, heart disease and other long-term health issues.
In an op-ed piece last month for amNY, he wrote that the national recidivism rate – the rate that people return to prison – is only 2 percent for people older than 50.
“They keep people languishing in jail cells for decades after they’ve been rehabilitated,” he wrote. “On top of that, continuing to incarcerate rehabilitated elders and cover their medical costs exhausts resources that could actually help us address harm and violence in our communities.”