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March 1, 2020

Another timely reminder of NY Gov Cuomo ugly clemency record

This recent New York Daily News piece, headlined "Cuomo, miserly on clemencies: Thousands of elderly New Yorkers who pose no risk are locked in state prison," provides another reminder that New York's Gov continues to fail to lead on the clemency front after having talked big in the past.  Here are excerpts:

President Trump’s recent announcement of clemency for a handful of white-collar offenders was a reminder that proudly progressive New York shows much less mercy than the Trump administration to people on the wrong side of the law.

“Donald Trump commuted the sentences of four people in federal prison; representing more commutations than Gov. Cuomo has issued in 2019 and 2020 combined,” said a statement from the advocacy group Release Aging People in Prison. “With more than 9,000 New Yorkers in prison serving life sentences and over 10,000 incarcerated older adults languishing behind bars, there is ample opportunity for Cuomo to do the right thing.”

As the state Legislature heads into the thick of the annual bargaining over funding various programs, lawmakers should press Cuomo to save taxpayer money — and also make a statement of New York values — by granting clemency to more than a tiny handful of state prisoners and taking steps to release sick, aging prisoners who post no threat to public safety.

Right now, nearly 20% of the approximately 46,000 people in New York prisons are serving life sentences.  Many are getting old and sick, needing medical care. Health-care spending on the most seriously ill elderly inmates can exceed $130,000 per patient, according to a 2015 report by the Center for Justice at Columbia.

A lot of these prisoners, mostly men, were convicted of horrific, violent crimes decades ago.  Everything we know about violent crime — including records stretching back to the 1920s — confirms that senior citizens who have been locked away for 20 or 30 years are extremely unlikely to commit additional offenses. So why are we paying top dollar for the increasingly expensive medical care and incarceration of elderly people?...

Better yet, the Legislature should pass the Elder Parole Act, which died in committee last session.  The bill would allow prisoners over 55 — who have served at least 15 years behind bars — to go before the state parole board and argue for their release....

Our state has allegedly eliminated the death penalty, yet we have effectively sentenced people to death by incarceration.  New York’s governor boasts of being progressive, but is showing less mercy than Donald Trump.  And at a time when we face a multi-billion-dollar deficit, New York continues to lock up reformed and rehabilitated people in the name of vengeance.  Surely we can do better.

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March 1, 2020 at 04:32 PM | Permalink

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