Press Release - In Day of Action, Faith Based Groups Call State Legislators & Governor Cuomo to Pass #LessIsMoreNY

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Contact:

Sumeet Sharma, [email protected] | (646) 591-9483 

Follow online: #LessIsMoreNY | www.lessismoreny.org

In Day of Action, Faith Based Groups Call State Legislators & Governor Cuomo to Pass #LessIsMoreNY

#LessIsMoreNY will limit or otherwise prohibit the incarceration of people for technical violations of parole, and support people in re-entry to their communities

NEW YORK, NY - Faith based groups across the state joined community groups today for a Day of Action to call on state legislators, New York State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart Cousins, New York State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, and Governor Andrew Cuomo to pass the Less Is More Act. The parole reform bill will limit or otherwise prohibit the incarceration of people for non-criminal technical violations of parole, while supporting  individuals navigating the process of reintegrating to their community after incarceration.

New York imprisons more people for non-criminal “technical” violations of parole like missing an appointment with a parole officer, being late for curfew, or testing positive for alcohol and other drugs than any state in the country.  Today, approximately 5,000 people are incarcerated in New York for technical violations of parole. Nearly 1/3 of the new admissions to state prisons are due to people reincarcerated for technical violations of parole. The racial disparity is stark: Black people are incarcerated in New York City jails for technical parole violations at more than 12 times the rate of whites. 

There are approximately 35,000 people under active parole supervision in New York State who at almost any time can see their efforts to successfully rejoin the workforce and reintegrate into their families and their communities disrupted by reincarceration for a technical violation. This not only harms individual lives and families without commensurate public safety gains, but also drives up the population in the state prisons and local jails, wasting taxpayer money.

Faith congregations and leaders from across New York took action today to call on the Legislature and Governor to pass the #LessIsMoreAct to fix this problem, including: B’nai Jeshurun, Central Synagogue, Congregation Beit Simchat Torah (CBST), Congregation Beth Elohim, New Beginnings Tabernacle of Deliverance, Park Slope Jewish Center, St. Augustine's Roman Catholic parish, Temple Shaaray Tefila, The Riverside Church, Truah - Human Rights Watch, St. Mark's Church in-the-Bowery, and the Zen Center of Syracuse.

Developed by people on parole, people currently incarcerated, family members, community groups and more, the bill is sponsored by Sen. Brian Benjamin (S.1144). Its provisions include:

  • Restricting the use of incarceration for technical violations.
  • Bolstering due process.
  • Providing speedy hearings.
  • Providing earned time credits to discharge from parole earlier. 

In addition to the support of over 225 community,  advocacy, and faith groups; Less Is More also enjoys the support of law enforcement leaders including the District Attorneys from the counties of Albany, Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Tompkins, Ulster, & Westchester as well as the Sheriffs from Albany and Erie Counties, and a growing slate of community corrections officials.  A full list of supporters and comprehensive information on the Less Is More Act can be found at https://www.lessismoreny.org/

 

Statements from Faith Leaders and Community Groups: 

Peter Cook, Executive Director of the New York State Council of Churches, said: "When it comes to helping people coming out of prison, we too often as a culture shape our policies out of revenge rather than out of a sincere desire to help people restore and reconcile. Our parole system, it could be argued, cannot rid itself of the culture’s desire to seek revenge by littering the post prison experience with spurious rules which can easily entrap a person on parole and send them back to prison. The Less is More bill eliminates using technicalities as a basis for reincarceration and returns the parole system to its original purpose which is to improve the lives of people on parole so that they can productively return to society and thrive."

Rev. Kevin VanHook, Minister of Justice, Advocacy, and Change at The Riverside Church, said: “The #LessIsMore bill is deeply aligned with our faith tradition and allows us to imagine a system guided by compassion for the most vulnerable among us.  We see this as a necessary step toward human rights and racial justice in our state’s criminal law system.”

Rabbi Hilly Haber, Director of Social Justice Organizing at Central Synagogue, said: "We at Central Synagogue are committed to Less Is More NY because to imagine a re-entry system steeped in Jewish values, is to see a system that seeks to keep families safely together, a system which seeks not to profit off of re-incarceration, but to offer New Yorkers every opportunity to heal and to raise families, to care for loved ones, and to serve as leaders and builders of community."

Donna Hylton, President and CEO of A Little Piece of Light, said: "As a formerly incarcerated woman, today I’m speaking for the women who end up back in prison because of a simple parole misstep. And I’m calling on Governor Cuomo and the legislature to pass the Less is More Act. The reality is simple: it is not just and it does not work. These women have served their time and are rebuilding their lives. Re-incarcerating them for a minor infraction affects everyone, not just the person sentenced back to prison. It breaks up families and impacts children who grow up traumatized. Let’s end this punitive cycle and put our efforts and resources behind building people up and not tearing them down. " 

Emily NaPier Singletary, Co-Executive Director of Unchained, said: ""We are grateful today that faith leaders from around the state came together to demand that New York finally pass the #LessIsMoreNY Act. This interfaith coalition reminds our elected officials that a parole system that returns people - disproportionately Black and Latinx people - to prison for petty non-criminal rule infractions is not only unjust and costly but immoral. They also carry with them the message of redemption, emphasizing that people who have served their time in prison are capable of being changed individuals when they return to our communities if we provide them with support and opportunity rather than a reentry obstacle course to navigate. Passing #LessIsMoreNY is the right thing to do in terms of public safety and fiscal responsibility, but more importantly, it is the just and moral thing to do. We join these diverse faith communities in calling on the Legislature to pass #LessIsMoreNY without delay." 

Julia Roberts, Member of the Katal Center for Equity, Health, and Justice, said: “My loved one does not like to celebrate his birthday because most of the time when it comes around, he is behind bars for a technical violation. That's what happened this year. He was incarcerated for a technical parole violation at the height of the pandemic. Every day he runs the risk of contracting COVID-19 because there is no form of social distancing at Rikers Island. People on parole are given these unfair regulations that make it incredibly easy for them to go back into the prison industrial complex. These regulations can be something as minor as merely getting stopped by the police and having minimal contact with them. In turn, their whole life gets disrupted because of incarceration, they end up losing their jobs, and no longer can provide for their families. These are real people suffering, and they deserve better. I'm pushing for the passage of the #LessIsMoreNY Act because it will give people on parole and their families the chance to finally take control of their lives. I urge the legislature to pass #LessIsMoreNY now!"

Kenyatta Thompson, Lead Community Organizer with the Katal Center for Equity, Health, and Justice, said: "Now, more than ever, is the time to pass smart parole reform in Albany. Our faith-based partners have made their voices heard today by calling upon the legislature to pass #LessIsMoreNY, on Ash Wednesday no less. It's time for Albany to get it right this year and pass #LessIsMoreNY."

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