A Reasonable Request
by Rev. Dr. Herbert Daughtry
On Saturday, April 6, 2013, we gathered again in the Timbuktu Learning Center at The House of the Lord Church in Brooklyn, NY to continue our discussion and organize around the issue of “Mass Arrests and Aging Prisoners.” The crowd had significantly been reduced due to other major events around the city. Nevertheless, it was an informed, enthusiastic, and committed gathering. The discussion focused primarily on an action plan as we had proposed to do in our last meeting.
After considerable discussion, and an exploration of various activities, it was decided upon the legislation entitled, “Executive Law 259-I (2)(c)(A),” which essentially calls for greater influence by judges on determining releases. The idea behind the legislation is to give greater consideration to older prisoners who have served considerable time and continue to go before the parole board even though they have impeccable records inside the facilities.
In addition, it was decided that for the next meeting on Saturday, May 4, 2013, appropriate elected officials would be invited to share their views and to support the legislation. Greater efforts would be put forth to disseminate information and to educate the public. Letters would be sent to key public officials. The following is the legislation that the forum agreed upon.
Below is a statement by Second Look Think Tank (an approved policy group at Sullivan Correctional Facility that researches, analyzes, and proposes policy on parole issues). It was presented at the ABPRL 42nd Annual Legislative Conference at Albany, NY on February 16, 2013.
With America recognized as the leading jailer in the world, the fact that we are literally warehousing our human capital has become, sadly, a cliché. Nowhere is this situation played out more bleakly than among those who are growing old in prison. For nearly 9,000 men and women in New York State, or roughly 18 percent of the state’s prison population, their lengthy indeterminate sentences and consecutive parole board denials have become veritable death sentences.
The degradation of our fellow human beings, including those who are incarcerated, should be intolerable in a civil society. New York must implement a humane and restorative approach to geriatric incarceration, one that replaces a criminal justice model fueled by retribution and exorbitant costs. Factoring in medical costs alone, the already steep $60,000 average annual cost of incarcerating a younger, healthier person balloons to roughly $75,000 a year for an individual who is dealing with the problems and diseases of old age and aging. Even with this conservative estimate, the total cost to taxpayers to incarcerate geriatric prisoners is $675 million a year.
The men of Second Look present the following recommendations to this prestigious legislative conference in an effort to bring about humane, fair, and effective geriatric policies and procedures.
Recommendation No.1: Sentencing
Three factors contribute to the mass incarceration and wholesale warehousing of geriatric prisoners: excessive, often consecutive, sentences that extend beyond their life expectancy; consecutive parole denials; and, technical parole violations for such things as breaking curfew and positive drug test results. Statistics show that approximately 40 percent of new admissions into Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) – or 10,000 of 26,000 – are for technical parole violations, which artificially inflate recidivism rates and squander scarce monetary and other resources.
… to be continued.