Subject: Request to put SAFE Parole Act on Committee Agenda
Dear Senator Gallivan,
I am familiar with the good work you have done in New York, specifically in the Buffalo community - not just as a political leader, but as a volunteer and fundraiser. I want to appeal to that side today by explaining how supporting the SAFE Parole Act will benefit our New York communities. I hope, after considering my plea, you will place this Bill on your agenda for next year’s Senate Crime Victims, Crime, and Correction Committee.
Though you are probably familiar with the SAFE Parole Act, here is a brief overview: This Safe and Fair Evaluations act calls upon parole boards to consider an individual’s rehabilitation while in prison, and not just the original crime committed, while considering an individual’s readiness to return home. Traditionally, parole is denied based on the "nature of their crime,” which may have occurred 10, 20, 30, and even 40 years ago, and it often ignores, for instance, if an individual has earned college degrees, training certificates, honor block placement, or good behavior. The SAFE Parole Act is founded on the principle that even people in prison deserve fair treatment and should see the benefit in positive change.
It is no secret that our criminal justice system has been in the news a lot more than usual lately. Across the country, we are all calling upon our politicians to pay attention to this issue, and time is of the essence.
If you encourage fair parole evaluations, this is how you will benefit our communities:
- The majority of people in prison are parents. Letting reformed individuals return will help restore the family unit. For many spouses, significant others, and children, the return of a parent means the return of a source of income or another form of stability.
- There are an estimated 105,000 children in New York with a parent in prison. Traveling to visit is costly and oftentimes impossible for families. Restoring this parent-child relationship is healthy for the child and the community.
- Reformed individuals are ready and willing to join the workforce as taxpaying, contributing citizens. Meanwhile, it costs $60,000 a year to keep someone in prison in NY State - a cost that grows with age because of medical expenses.
- People over the age of 55 have the lowest recidivism rate at only 3.5%, including recidivism due to parole violations.
- I know many ex-offenders who get out of prison and immediately begin giving back to their communities through volunteering (not mandatory or court-ordered, by the way), speaking to our youth about avoiding the same mistakes, encouraging our youth to stay in school, and mentoring other ex-offenders on finding and retaining work, maintaining relationships, and having successful reentry. I have witnessed several positive programs spring up in Buffalo, NY run by reformed offenders that show impressive outcomes: The Mentoring and Nurturing Program, The Youth Prison Prevention Project, Back to Basics, and New Generation Ministries.
I am a concerned community member. I have worked with formerly incarcerated individuals for over two years to help them rebuild their lives and honest financial stability after prison, but beyond that, I don’t have a direct connection to the prison system. I simply believe that the SAFE Parole Act is better for our community and promotes humane, fair treatment in a prison system that is becoming too large to function well.
As a community member yourself, and a politician, I hope that you can support individuals who have made honest efforts to educate and reform themselves while in prison - otherwise, how can we encourage them to make positive changes?
Thank you for your time!