|Fence surround Wende Correctional Facility, Alden, NY|
As many of you know, my son: Shawn Campbell, is on a Journey to Justice (the first of many blogs following his journey through the court system) to correct the wrongs that have been done to him...including imprisoning him for a crime he did not commit. However, since he is incarcerated in the meantime, he has asked me to write this blog to help get exposure for two online petitions and to push for prison reform in New York State.
The S.A.F.E. [Safe And Fair Evaluation of Parole Act] Parole Act "would amend New York’s existing parole statute, Executive Law § 259-i." As it stands now, inmates that go in front of the parole board may get denied several times, for issues that are out of his/her control...specifically: the Parole board looks at the crime committed; dis-allows any good behavior; the completion of necessary programs needed for their eventual release (if under a life sentence) IF available at that specific prison; etc. A full chart of proposed changes can be found here (pdf) and here (versus how the law stands now).
New York State is one of a few that does not have such an act, and when in place, saves the state millions of dollars every year, because it gives inmates who have had good behavior during the course of their sentences and have completed all rehabilitative and educational programming (which the prisons DO require) the ability to earn what is termed "merit time". If an inmate qualifies, it could give him up to two years off his sentence, thus allowing him to come home earlier.
From a letter by Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson, Conference Chairwoman, dated December 2010:
A REVIEW OF SOME OF THE CHANGES PROPOSED BY THE SAFE PAROLE ACT
Seriousness of the crime will no longer be used as a basis to deny parole.
A decision to release a parole applicant to parole shall be based upon good conduct and efficient performance of duties while confined, and preparedness for reentry and reintegration into society, thereby providing a reasonable basis to conclude that, if
such person is released, he or she will live and remain at liberty without violating the law.
There are eight factors to be considered by the Parole Board when making the release decision, some of which are new and some of which are carried over from the previous statute:
(i) readiness for reintegration as evidenced by the applicant’s institutional record pertaining to program goals and accomplishments as stated in the facility performance reports, academic achievements, vocational education, training or work
assignments, therapy and interpersonal relationships with staff and other sentenced persons, and other indications of prosocial activity, change and transformation;
(ii) performance, if any, as a participant in a temporary release program; (contained in existing statute)
(iii) release plans, including community resources, employment, education and training and support services available to the
parole applicant; (contained in existing statute)
(iv) any deportation order...; (contained in existing statute)
(v) any statement, whether supportive or critical, made to the Parole Board by the crime victim or victim’s representative to assist the Parole Board in determining whether at this time there is reasonable cause to believe that the release of the parole
applicant would create a present danger to the victim or the victim’s representative, or would assist the Board in determining the extent of the parole applicant’s readiness for reintegration;
(vi) the length of the determinate sentence to which the parole applicant would be subject had he or she received a determinate sentence for a felony drug offense; (contained in existing statute)
(vii) participation and performance, if any, in a reconciliation or restorative justice-type conference with the victim or the victim’s representative;
(viii) in the case of a reappearance, the progress made towards the completion of the specific requirements previously set forth by the Parole Board for the parole applicant.
In the event that parole is not granted, the Parole Board will be required to state in detail and not in conclusory terms the reasons for the denial and the specific requirements for actions to be taken, programs or accomplishments to be completed, changes in performance or conduct to be made, or corrective action or actions be taken, in order to qualify for parole release at the next Parole Board appearance.
There are probably many of you concerned as I was that this might mean that violent felons, sex offenders, terrorists, etc. would get out only to continue havoc on society, but there are "Safeguards are also in place through this law, the Prison and Parole Systems to keep the most violent offenders behind bars (1st degree murder, life without parole, terrorism, incest, violent sex offenders, etc)" as reads one petition.
I encourage you to sign the Merit Time/S.A.F.E. Parole Act petitions as soon as possible, and please share and ask your friends and family to do the same!
Merit Time (@ http://www.change.org/petitions/all-of-new-york-pass-the-merit-time-law-in-new-york )
S.A.F.E. Parole Act (@ http://org2.democracyinaction.org/o/6220/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=5715 )
Thank you for reading...and signing.