Life sentences should be reserved for horrendous criminals, not people who are too old to be a risk to the public, reform activists said Tuesday.
“Far too many people languish in despair and are dying in our state prison systems in all of our names,” said Dave George, associate director of advocacy group Release Aging People in Prison.
George was leading a rally of former inmates and prison reform advocates outside Gov. Cuomo’s Manhattan office.
“We are standing here outside Governor Cuomo’s office because we lay so much of the responsibility on his doorstep,” George said.
Since Cuomo has been in office, 961 people have died in prison in a state that abolished the death penalty in 2007.
Cuomo has backed a “geriatric parole program” for prisoners 55 and older, but RAPP is calling for swifter action in Albany.
George said his group supports legislation that would release prisoners after the minimum span of their term is up.
“There are thousands of people who are behind prison walls who pose very little if any risk to society,” said Sheila Rule, a parole-reform advocate whose husband, Joe Robinson, spent 25 years in prison for murder before he was released in 2016.
“They are continually denied parole because of the nature of their crimes. The problem has been that far too often, the parole board fails to look at who they’ve become.”
(Marcus Santos / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS)
Dozens of advocates traveled by bus to Albany after the rally to urge the Senate to bring the bills to the floor.
George backed the parole board’s decision to release 70-year-old cop killer Herman Bell in April, a decision that Mayor de Blasio and the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association opposed.
George accused the PBA of “intimidating” the parole board in cases where cops are the crime victims.
A PBA spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.