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Katal Center member Avion Gordon speaks about his experience on parole at a Town Hall in support of the Less Is More Act.
Far Rockaway, New York – The #LessIsMoreNY Coalition hosted a #LessIsMoreNY Town Hall with Queens Assemblymember Khaleel M. Anderson Wednesday evening on the Less is More bill, S.1144 (Benjamin) / A.5576 (Forrest), and the need for parole reform. A full video of the town hall can be found here.
People directly impacted by parole, people with experience navigating New York’s parole system, attorneys, advocates, and others, including Avion Gordon from the Katal Center for Equity, Health, and Justice, Tracy Lang from A Little Piece of Light, Cara Hoffman from the Legal Aid Society, and Andre Ward from the Fortune Society, shared first-person accounts of how the current parole system in New York State fails to help people reintegrate into society, and fuels mass incarceration by reincarcerating people for non-criminal, technical violations of parole.
The Less is More bill will transform the parole process in New York to focus resources on helping people get back to life after prison while saving New York at least $600 million in costs by limiting the incarceration of people for technical parole violation and by incentivizing rehabilitation through successful completion of parole. The Less Is More Act is supported by over 250 community groups, 8 District Attorneys from the counties of Albany, Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Nassau, Tompkins, Ulster, & Westchester, and law enforcement leaders from across New York including the Albany and Erie County Sheriffs. A full list of supporters and more information on the Less Is More Act can be found at www.lessismoreny.org.
Statements from elected officials, impacted members, and advocacy groups:
Assemblymember Khaleel M. Anderson said: “Today’s #LessIsMoreNY Town Hall was a critical discussion in collaboration with community leaders, advocates and organizations about parole justice and reform in our district and throughout New York City. We know that Black people are incarcerated for technical parole violations at disproportionately high rates. We know that these cycles of incarceration leads to increased trauma and economic instability in our communities. We must work together to end re-incarceration for non-criminal, ‘technical’ violations so that people in Southeast Queens and throughout New York City can pursue new opportunities without unjust interruption after being released from prison. Instead of trapping predominantly Black and brown people in the carceral system while under parole supervision, we must focus our energy on advocating for and funding critical resources that help formerly incarcerated people back on their feet.”
Avion Gordon, Member of the Katal Center for Equity, Health, and Justice, said: “I was wrongfully incarcerated for a crime I did not commit, so I am no stranger to the wrongful actions and misconduct of law enforcement. The parole system, instead of assisting formerly incarcerated people on their journey back into the community, they give people these rigid stipulations that are set in place to make you fail. They are set in place to easily violate you and put you behind bars. That is unacceptable. As someone who is on parole, I see the passage of Less Is More as a guarantee that I won’t be incarcerated for something as minor as missing an appointment with my parole officer. It will correct the harm that has been done to so many people on parole. The time has come to Pass #LessIsMoreNY!”
Tracy Lang, Peer Mentor at A Little Piece of Light, said: “Seeing the women like myself, broken, scared and with fear on their face is more of a reason the Less Is More bill needs to be passed. Many of us on parole will be able to rest a little easier and walk less on eggshells because they are less worried about going to prison for minor technical parole violations. It’s not an easy walk.”
Cara Hoffman, Paralegal at the Legal Aid Society, said: ‘When you’re on parole, you’re effectively subject to the whims of your parole officer, because there are 13 standard provisions you have to follow in addition to more placed by a person’s conditions of parole. We need the Less Is More Act now.”
Andre Ward, Associate Vice President of David Rothenberg Center for Public Policy at the Fortune Society, said: “This idea of ending the unbridled use for incarcerating people for technical parole violations for minor things is something that we stand against. These are things that require treatment, rather than incarceration and punitive measures.”