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SAFE Parole Reform Act in the Spotlight

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by Karima Amin

For several years, we have stood on the side of those who advocate for the SAFE Parole Reform Act. SAFE stands for “Safe and Fair Evaluations.” Several of our monthly programs have focused on sharing information about parole in New York State. Formerly incarcerated people have shared their stories; former parole commissioners have expressed their views; parole officers have explained their stance; people with incarcerated loved ones have shared their concerns; and our friends from prisoner justice organizations across the State have encouraged us to be proactive in advocating for parole reform.

The fight for parole reform continues as New York State’s broken parole system continues to ignore the accomplishments of prisoners who have worked very hard to prepare themselves for eventual release and return to family and community. Every parole denial adds two more years to a prisoner’s sentence, two more years of heartache for a family, and two more years of denying a community the benefits of a citizen’s potential. To this end, the Parole Board never gives any clear message to parole applicants about what they need to do to cause a different result.

Yearly, thousands of people in prison prepare to appear before Parole Boards. Most have worked diligently to prepare themselves for release. Sadly, release is often denied due to the “nature of the crime.” While this person’s rehabilitation may be obvious, the crime of conviction, which may have been committed several decades ago, is the deciding factor and this person’s changed thinking and behavior are ignored. If the SAFE Parole Reform Act becomes a reality, parole applicants will be given the benefit of an opportunity to show themselves worthy of parole, families will be reunited and the Parole Board will have abided by the law.

You can get involved in this fight for justice by learning more about the campaign to reform parole and by gaining the tools that are necessary for having a conversation with your State representatives, demanding passage of the SAFE Parole Reform Act. As an alternative to the retribution and punishment that comes from the criminal justice system as it now functions, Prisoners Are People Too, Inc. stands as a proponent of restorative justice that serves to promote the understanding that punishment alone is not effective in changing behavior and is disruptive to community harmony and good relationships.

Prisoners Are People Too, Inc. joins other organizations across the State, demanding passage of the SAFE Parole Reform Act. One of these organizations, “Milk Not Jails,” has produced a documentary, “Nature of the Crime,” which will be screened at our next monthly meeting on Monday, April 27, 2015 at 7:00-9:00pm, at the Pratt-Willert Community Center, 422 Pratt Street, in Buffalo, NY. Mr. Cale Layton, from “Milk Not Jails,” will be present to answer your questions. As members of the New York State Prisoner Justice Network, we work together “to challenge and change New York’s criminal justice system.” Join us in this effort.

“God has not called us to see through each other, but to see each other through.” (Anonymous)

Karima Amin is a longtime Buffalo Activist, Educator, and Storyteller as well as founder and director of Prisoners Are People Too (PRP2).

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