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This year’s state budget forces lawmakers to confront a multi-billion-dollar deficit caused by the pandemic, and the needs of people impacted by this crisis. As lawmakers set priorities, they must take criminal justice into account, where key policy changes could improve the financial stability of millions of New Yorkers.
Parole reform — to reduce unnecessary reincarcerations and shorten excessively long prison sentences — could contribute to New York’s long-term financial health, cut correctional expenses, and, most importantly, change lives. It must be part of any final compromise on the budget, or a priority in the post-budget session.
Economic stability is most fragile in the months immediately following a person’s release from prison. Parole exacerbates this problem rather than ameliorating it by needlessly returning thousands to prison every year for petty non-criminal violations of release conditions.
Take Jamal (not his real name), a Syracuse man affiliated with Unchained, one of the organizations leading the campaign to pass the Less is More Act , which would dramatically reduce the number of people returned to prison for technical violations and allow people to earn early discharge from parole.
According to Jamal, last February, he had completed 22 months of his 30-month parole term without incident. […]