With the Election Over, State Legislators, Advocates, and Impacted People Call for the Passage of “Communities Not Cages” – a Package of Three Bills That Includes the Elimination of Mandatory Minimums, Judicial Review of Excessive Sentences, and Greater Rehabilitative Opportunities for Incarcerated People
WHEN: Wednesday, November 16 at 12pm
- Westchester: 148 Martine Ave, White Plains, NY 10601
- Across the state: Long Island, NYC, Rochester, Newburgh, Albany, and Syracuse
WHAT: On Wednesday, November 16 at 12 p.m., lawmakers and supporters of sentencing reform will gather at seven simultaneous rallies across the state to urge Governor Hochul and the state legislature to pass the “Communities Not Cages,” legislative package early in 2023. This package includes three sentencing reform bills: the Eliminate Mandatory Minimums Act, Second Look Act, and Earned Time Act designed to make New York’s sentencing laws fairer and more just.
On the heels of winning her gubernatorial race and the continuation of historically large Democratic majorities in the Senate and Assembly, Governor Hochul and the state legislature face growing calls from lawmakers, formerly incarcerated people, faith leaders, civil rights advocates, and union representatives to reform New York’s racist and outdated sentencing laws and invest in communities.
Despite months of false attack ads from right-wing donors and billionaires, the movement to end mass incarceration in New York and achieve real safety for all is stronger than ever. The breadth and depth of that strength will be on full display at these November 16 rallies, as supporters of sentencing reform go on the offensive ahead of the 2023 legislative session.
- New York State legislators, including Assembly Member Chris Burdick
- Formerly incarcerated leaders and families who have been impacted by New York’s mandatory minimums and unjust sentencing laws, Jolene Russ (Center for Community Alternatives community leader), Soulangie Leper (Center for Community Alternatives community leader)
- Faith leaders, including Rabbi Mara Young (Tru’ah: the Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, Rev. Kevin Middletown (Acts Church Yonkers)
VISUALS: Dozens of New Yorkers holding photos of incarcerated loved ones and signs calling for the passage of Communities Not Cages across NYS.
- Communities Not Cages was launched in 2021 to advocate for sentencing reform in New York State. The campaign is endorsed by over 150 organizations, including Center for Community Alternatives, labor unions (District Council 37, UAW), civil rights and civil liberties groups (National Action Network, New York Civil Liberties Union, Color of Change, Human Rights Watch), faith groups (United Christian Leadership Ministry, Bend the Arc, Jews for Racial and Economic Justice), policy groups and legal service providers (Legal Aid, Bronx Defenders, Partnership for the Public Good), political groups (Working Families Party, Citizen Action, Community Voices Heard), and grassroots organizations across the state. See the full list here. This summer, these bills received the endorsement of the American Bar Association.
- The campaign is supporting three bills that were introduced during the 2022 legislative session: Eliminate Mandatory Minimums Act (S.7871), Second Look Act (S.7872), Earned Time Act (S.7873). The Eliminate Mandatory Minimums Act would eliminate mandatory minimum sentences to allow judges to consider individual factors and mitigating circumstances in a case. The Second Look Act would allow judges to review and reconsider excessive sentences. The Earned Time Act would strengthen and expand “good time” and “merit time” laws to encourage personal transformation in prison and reunite families.
- Over the past half-century, New York’s sentencing laws have driven the crisis of mass incarceration. From the 1970’s Rockefeller Drug Laws to the 1990’s “tough on crime” era, New York built a sentence regime that funneled hundreds of thousands into cages. Right now, over 30,000 people are incarcerated in New York’s prisons. Nearly 75% are Black or brown. 98% of convictions come through guilty pleas – not trial.
- Over the course of this year’s elections, billionaire cosmetics heir Ronald Lauder and other super-wealthy individuals funded baseless attack ads attempting to spread misinformation about criminal justice reform. While there are still a handful of races too close to call, the election results showing continued success for lawmakers committed to pursuing real solutions to justice and safety.
- Despite efforts by anti-reform billionaires and politicians to perpetuate misinformation, justice and safety go hand-in-hand. Good time and merit time programs support personal transformation by encouraging participation in education, employment, and other rehabilitative programs. Research shows that earned time opportunities help to prepare incarcerated people for reintegration, reducing recidivism rates and correctional costs.
- Despite clear research that longer prison sentences increase rather than reduce recidivism, New York has shifted focus from rehabilitation to warehousing people in prison for as long as possible.
- Over the past three decades, average sentence lengths in New York State have more than doubled even though research shows that longer prison sentences increase rather than decrease recidivism. For example, a 2016 study in four states—Michigan, Missouri, New York, and Utah—found that longer length of stays produces higher recidivism rates. A study in Texas found that each additional year that a person serves time behind bars makes them 4 to 7% more likely to recidivate within three months after release.
- New York is substantially behind other states—including traditionally conservative states—on allowing incarcerated people to earn time off their sentences. For example, Alabama, Nebraska and Oklahoma all permit incarcerated people to earn over 50% earned time.
- Mass incarceration does not deliver justice, safety, or healing.
- Survivors overwhelmingly prefer investments in the community to lengthy prison sentences, by a factor of 15 to 1.
- Incarceration causes further harm. More than 20% of incarcerated people have a diagnosed mental health condition. People in prison are more likely than the general population to have serious health problems (44% struggle with a chronic health condition) due to the inhumane living conditions. Every year, thousands of prisoners report being assaulted and many more cases go unreported.
- The harm is intergenerational. More than 105,000 children have a parent serving time in a New York jail or prison, which devastates families, and increases the likelihood of a child’s future incarceration.
- Mass incarceration is ineffective – and costly. It costs nearly $70,000 per year to incarcerate a person in state prison with an annual prison system price tag of $3 billion. These are billions of dollars New York State could spend on education, housing, healthcare, community-based anti-violence and restorative justice programs — all of which help to create real community safety.