A Reasonable Request
by Rev. Dr. Herbert Daughtry
“Qualified Re-sentencing -Sentencing courts should be given explicit discretionary authority to convert indeterminate sentences to determinate sentences for incarcerated people who are 50 years old and over, and have demonstrated exceptional strides in post-conviction rehabilitation. The criteria to be considered by these sentencing courts should include the age when the crime was committed; the current age of the prisoner/applicant; the number of years spent in prison; years remaining under indeterminate sentence; rehabilitative efforts; and, the current level of risk to public safety.
“Recommendation No. 2: Evidence-based Parole -As prescribed in the SAFE Parole Act, consideration and the weight to be given to an incarcerated person’s crime should be left to the sentencing judge, not the parole board. The parole board should be mandated to consider only future-focused criteria based on evaluations of dynamic factors and accountability.
“Blue Ribbon Clemency Panel – While the governor has the authority to commute any sentence, the only compassionate release mechanism that tangentially applies to the graying prison population is medical parole for the terminally ill. A special unit or panel should be established in the Clemency Bureau in order to review non-medical geriatric applications.
“Temporary Release/Industrial Training – Rather than dump geriatric prisoners directly back into the community, often, after decades of incarceration, and with gaping holes in their work history, they should be eased back into society through a supervised step-down approach to reintegration that is grounded in industrial training and public safety. DOCCS’s own statistics show that, of all age groups, incarcerated people who are 50 and older have the lowest rates of absconding, and this post the lowest risk to public safety.
“Recommendation No. 3: Community Supervision – Because of their age, and, in many instances, diminished health and years of life lost to incarceration, men and women in the aging prison population find it especially difficult to re-acclimate to society. Most have few, if any, ties to loved ones or community support. Without meaningful programs and policies in place to address their unique needs, members of this vulnerable population cannot help but become drains on society.
“Geriatric Courts -The Center for Court Innovation should establish Geriatric Courts to address the unique needs of the aging population under community supervision. These specialized courts should provide wrap-around services and support, including ongoing one-on-one and group therapy, health services, technology literacy, and a range of soft skills.
“We pray that our recommendations are given the serious consideration they deserve. As stakeholders in public safety and successful re-integration, we implore you to act on them.
“Members of Second Look Think Tank: Nzinger Alimase, Stanley Bellamy, Bruce Bryant, Mario Perez, Joseph Robinson, and Jose Saldana.”
… to be continued.