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Criminal justice advocates, lawmakers call for passage of parole reform bills

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Less than one week into the new legislative session lawmakers from across the state are joining with criminal justice reformers to push for the passage of two parole reform bills they say will help to dismantle a system which unfairly harms Black and Brown communities.

The Elder Parole bill would expand parole eligibility for people 55 years of age and older who have spent more than 15 years in prison while the Fair and Timely bill would consider good behavior and merit in cases for granting parole.

District 2 representative April Baskin has been reelected chair of the Erie County Legislature.
April Baskin

Reform advocates argue the propensity for someone to reoffend lessens as they get older and releasing the formerly incarcerated, especially those in their older years will do more to help their communities by serving as mentors and examples of the rehabilitative process.

Erie County Legislative Chair April Baskin said expanding the parameters of parole will help to further breakdown the racialized barriers faced by Black and Brown in the criminal justice system.

“We all know that Black and Brown people are far less likely to get released from prison by the parole board,” she said. “And even when you are accounting for the sharp racial disparities within the prison, we need to continue to dismantle the systemic confines that have segregated black and brown people from society, both inside and outside of prison.”

Baskin believes both bills represent efforts to reinvest back into communities which have lost generations of people to an unjust criminal justice system.

The current legislative session runs through the first week of June.

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Born in Louisville, Kentucky, Thomas moved to Western New York at the age of 14. A graduate of Buffalo State College, he majored in Communications Studies and was part of the sports staff for WBNY. When not following his beloved University of Kentucky Wildcats and Boston Red Sox, Thomas enjoys coaching youth basketball, reading Tolkien novels and seeing live music.