BPI Alumni Weigh in on Significance of Newly Passed Less Is More Act6/11/2021
Yesterday saw a major legislative feat as the Less Is More Act passed out of the Senate 39-24 and then passed out of the Assembly at 89-60. This legislation has been driven by our allies in the field of criminal justice and especially by directly impacted leaders including BPI alumni.
BPI alumni Darren Mack ’13, Shawn Young ’19, and Dyjuan Tatro ’18 are quoted in the Less Is More press release reproduced below and found here. The campaign’s pressure now shifts to the Governor, as the bill awaits his signature. If signed, a large number of BPI alum will be off of parole as soon as the law goes into effect.
PRESS RELEASE – LESS IS MORE ACT, TRANSFORMATIVE PAROLE REFORM BILL, PASSES SENATE & ASSEMBLY
Legislation to Address How State Handles Technical Parole Violations Set to be Delivered to Governor; #LessIsMoreNY Coalition Calls for Immediate Approval
Albany, NY – Today, the #LessIsMoreNY Coalition, made up of people directly impacted by parole and mass incarceration, nearly 300 community, faith, and advocacy groups, eight District Attorneys, and a bipartisan group of elected Sheriffs, announced the passage of the Less Is More Act, S.1144-A – Benjamin / A.5576-A – Souffrant-Forrest, in the State Legislature. The legislation, which restricts the use of incarceration for non-criminal technical parole violations, bolsters due process in parole hearings, requires parole hearings take place within a specified time, and provides earned time credit for parole, passed with a broad margin of support – by a 38-25 margin in the Senate and by a 85-64 vote in the Assembly.
The bill’s passage comes days after an agreement was reached to keep main aspects of the legislation intact while amending language to address concerns raised by legislators.
Less Is More is now set to be delivered to the Governor and the #LessIsMoreNY Coalition is urging Governor Andrew Cuomo to sign the Less Is More act immediately to bring transformative parole reform to New York, which currently reincarcerates more people for non-criminal technical violations of parole than any other state in the nation, with deep racial disparities associated with the practice. In New York City, for example, Black people are reincarcerated for technical parole violations at 12 times the rate of white people, and Black people statewide are 5 times more likely to be incarcerated for a technical parole violation.
The Less is More Act was introduced in 2018 to address this problem. Its passage and enactment into law will represent a major step forward in the fight to end mass incarceration, advance racial equity, and strengthen public safety in New York. The Governor’s approval of Less Is More will change New York’s racially disparate, wasteful, and punitive parole system to:
- Restrict the use of incarceration for non-criminal technical violations of parole.
- Bolster due process. Rather than being automatically detained in local jails, people accused of a non-criminal technical violation will be issued a written notice of violation with a date to appear. Hearings will be held in the community, in a location accessible to the public, instead of inside jails, as is current practice.
- Require speedy hearings. Persons under community supervision shall be afforded a speedy adjudicatory hearing upon an alleged violation of their conditions of release. Hearings for people on parole who are in the community will be completed within 55 days. Hearings for people detained will be completed within 35 days, rather than taking up to 105 days as is the case today.
- Provide good time credits: Most people on parole will be eligible to earn a 30-day “earned time credits” reduction in their community supervision period for every 30-day period in which they do not violate a condition of supervision.
With passage of Less is More by the legislature, the next step is for Governor Cuomo to sign it into law.
Statements from bill sponsors, impacted people, and community and advocacy groups from the #LessIsMoreNY Coalition:
Senator Brian Benjamin, Prime Bill Sponsor, said: “The legislature has voted overwhelmingly in favor of Less is More, a common sense reform to stop re-incarcerating people on parole for basic technical violations. In reforming our parole system, our measure of success should be low rates of recidivism and our goal should be to do everything in our power to support reintegration into society. Less Is More will transform our broken parole system and provide a pathway for those who have been released from prison to reconnect with their families and loved ones, obtain good jobs, and live normal lives after their release instead of creating barriers and obstacles to success. It’s now time for Governor Cuomo to sign Less Is More into law.”
Assemblymember Phara Souffrant Forrest, Prime Bill Sponsor, said: “Today’s passage of the Less is More Act represents a win for the movement against racism and economic injustice. For working class and black people in America, mass incarceration and militarized policing have created enormous and accumulated harm. This is evident in the practices of our parole system, which has for too long opted for punishment instead of recognizing the great need for support and care that parolees, their families, and their communities require. By revamping our parole system and ending the policy of ‘incarcerate first, ask questions later’, Less is More will improve the lives of tens of thousands of people on parole.”
Senator Julia Salazar, Chair of Committee on Crime Victims, Crime, and Corrections, said: “New York imprisons more people for non-criminal ‘technical’ violations of parole than any state in the country. Now that the legislature has passed the Less is More Act has passed through the state legislature, the Governor must sign this bill so that thousands of New Yorkers can live their lives without continuously falling victim to the ruthless and unfair cycle of injustice that is our parole system. Mass incarceration not only harms individuals and their families, but leaves a lasting negative impact on entire neighborhoods. We must continue to seek more restorative justice practices rather than penalizing individuals for minor parole violations. While the passage of Less is More is a positive step, which we celebrate, there is more work to do and additional legislation to pass to further reform the parole system and reverse the devastating toll that mass incarceration has taken on communities of color across New York State. I am committed to this ongoing work of making our criminal legal system more humane.”
Assemblyman David Weprin, Chair of the Committee on Correction, said: “I would like to thank Speaker Heastie and Majority Leader People-Stokes for taking on the Less is More Parole Reform Act for a vote, and I would like to thank Assemblymember Forrest for carrying this bill. Now more than ever, we need a robust criminal justice reform that helps communities and formerly incarcerated individuals heal. The Less Is More Parole Reform Act will end a practice that interferes with the rehabilitation and reintegration of formerly incarcerated individuals back into society. The act brings long-overdue reform to a parole system plagued by extreme racial disparities that hurts families and costs tax-payers.”
Assemblymember Khaleel M. Anderson, said: “Today’s passage of the Less Is More Act is a tremendous victory for our communities and the end of a years-long fight to disrupt cycles of needless reimprisonment which have long prevented people under active parole supervision from accessing job opportunities, reuniting with their loved ones and reintegrating into their communities. I applaud my colleagues Assemblywoman Phara Souffrant Forrest and Senator Brian Benjamin, the Katal Center for Equity, Health, and Justice, Unchained, A Little Piece of Light, and many other activists, advocates, organizers and researchers part of the Less Is More Coalition for their tireless efforts to ensure that the legislation was passed this session.”
Assemblymember Zohran K. Mamdani, said: “Less is More will restrict the use of incarceration for non-criminal technical parole violations — the reason 85% of New Yorkers on parole are sent back to prison. Technical parole violations, not new felony charges, account for almost half of admittances to state prisons, making it clear how our system is built for life-long punishment, not rehabilitation. Less is More is a vital step towards ensuring that when our neighbors return home from prison, they can stay at home. I’m proud to be part of the passage of this bill today and of the work my colleague and prime sponsor, Assembly Member Souffrant Forrest, put in to pass it.”
Assemblymember Jessica González-Rojas, said: “It is unjust that 35,000 people in New York are under parole supervision and are systematically undermined in their ability to reintegrate into their communities by rejoining the workforce or accessing other resources because of a technical violation. We must end the ongoing cycle of punishment that only increases recidivism and harm in communities of color and low-income communities. This legislation does that and I am so grateful to Assemblymember Souffrant Forrest for her work on this bill and to the advocates and coalition that worked hard to ensure that our state is more equitable today than it was yesterday. Thank you, all for fighting for less punishment and more justice.”
Assemblymember Kenny Burgos, said: “The passage of the Less Is More Act is an essential step towards the continued goal of making our criminal justice system one geared towards rehabilitation and reentry, not revenge. With this legislation, countless New Yorkers will have a real chance to get back on their feet, and I’m proud to support this critical new law.”
Assemblymember Pamela J. Hunter, said: “Our corrections system should be based on rehabilitation, not reincarceration. Technical violations can occur for numerous reasons and we should be working with people who were formerly incarcerated towards a smooth and stable reintegration into society.”
Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said: “I have long supported the Less is More Act because there is no public safety reason to justify the astronomical sums our state spends on incarcerating people for technical parole violations. Locking people up for technical violations when they have not committed a new crime does nothing to keep us safe and in fact leads to less safety because it impedes the ability of people on parole to go to school, hold down a job, take care of their families – all of the things we want people to do when they get out of prison to get their lives back on track. I commend the two houses of the legislature for having passed Less is More, it is time for Governor Cuomo to sign it.”
Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance, Jr., said: “As Manhattan District Attorney, I have long supported this forward-looking, evidence-based overhaul of our parole system, which currently incarcerates more people for non-criminal, technical violations than 48 other states, at great expense, with intolerable racial disparity. We applaud this coalition of re-entering New Yorkers, their allies, and the bill sponsors and legislative leaders, for enshrining this critical justice reform legislation that will help create a more just, fair, and equitable New York.”
Albany County District Attorney David Soares, said: “I commend NYS representatives and leadership for passing the ‘Less is More’ bill today. This is a smart reform that will offer substantial relief to system-involved individuals and their families. Post-release supervision should be a focused resource targeted at helping people improve their lives, not a revolving door for re-incarceration. By limiting excessive technical violations far more people will have better chances at successful re-entry.”
Tompkins County District Attorney Matthew Van Houten said: “The passage of the Less is More legislation represents a significant improvement in our criminal justice system here in New York State and will provide for a level of due process and fairness that has been long overdue for individuals who are on supervised release in our communities.”
Vincent Schiraldi, Commissioner of the New York City Department of Corrections, said: “Sending people back to jail for technical parole violations is emblematic of a broken, racially disparate, and counterproductive system which for years has been desperately in need of a fix. I applaud the legislature for doing the right thing by passing the Less Is More Act which will help people on parole succeed when they return home, instead of cynically cycling them back into incarceration, which does nothing to make our community safer. I encourage Governor Cuomo to sign the bill with all deliberate speed and for the legislature and governor to immediately work on reinvesting the hundreds of millions of dollars in savings that ‘Less is More’ will generate into services and supports that will help people on parole thrive.”
Former Chief Judge of New York State and Chair of the Independent Commission on NYC Criminal Justice & Incarceration Reform Jonathan Lippman said: “With the passage of the Less Is More Act, the Legislature has shown we can create a fairer, more racially equitable parole system while boosting public safety. Thanks to the leadership of directly-impacted advocates, Assemblymember Phara Souffrant Forrest, and Senator Brian Benjamin, and the essential research of Vinny Schiraldi and the team at the Justice Lab at Columbia University, we are a major step closer to a parole scheme that maximizes the chances of success for people returning home from prison – and by extension to closing the shameful jails on Rikers. I look forward to the bill being swiftly enacted into law.”
Dr. Vanda Seward, Former Director of Reentry Services for New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, said: “The Less Is More Act is not only about supporting the efforts of individuals who have shown that over a period of time, but also supporting their families and loved ones in the community. Passing the Less is More Act allows parole officers to spend more time with individuals on their caseload that have a proven track record of needing more support and guidance to ensure public safety. I am grateful that the bill passed out of the Senate and Assembly, and look forward to Governor Cuomo signing the bill into law.”
Derek Singletary, Co-Founder and Co-Executive Director of Unchained: “We are thrilled that the Legislature has sent a resounding message that, for too long, New York’s parole system has lagged behind that of other states, disrupting thousands of lives and wasting millions of dollars by reincarcerating predominantly Black and Latinx people for petty violations that pose no threat to public safety. That stops today with the passage of the Less is More Act. While the fight for a truly just justice system is far from over, this is a major step toward ending mass incarceration and mass supervision across the state. Rather than subjecting people on parole to a gauntlet of obstacles where one misstep can result in a return to prison, we are establishing a system that incentivizes people to do well on parole, setting them up for success instead of failure. We are grateful to Sen. Brian Benjamin and AM Phara Souffrant Forrest for shepherding the bill through the process and being its champions. Now Governor Cuomo must sign the bill as soon as it is delivered to his desk.”
Donna Hylton, Founder of A Little Piece of Light, said: “I commend our legislators for voting to adjust current parole rules, and I strongly urge Governor Cuomo to sign Less Is More New York into law. As a woman who was imprisoned for 27 years in New York I fully understand how life-changing this will be for women who are doing their best to get their lives back on track. Let’s help – not hinder – their efforts to rejoin the workforce, their communities, and their families. It’s time to make Less is More law, now.”
Kenyatta Muzzanni, Director of Organizing at the Katal Center for Equity, Health, and Justice, said: “The passage of #LessIsMoreNY out of the Senate and Assembly is HUGE for all New Yorkers. We thank primary bill sponsors Sen. Brain Benjamin and Assemblywoman Phara Souffrant-Forrest, our co-sponsors, and the leadership of the Senate and Assembly. Thousands of New Yorkers and their families, who have been impacted by parole, will benefit from Less is More. This has been a fight for racial justice and for fairness. And this fight has been led by the people on the ground impacted by systemic racism and mass incarceration. We can’t wait any longer for the bill to become law- Governor Cuomo must immediately sign this bill into law!”
Lee Winkelman, lead organizer for the New York Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC-NY), said: “RAC-NY celebrates the passage of Less Is More, a landmark bill that transform’s New York’s parole system that currently is the worst in the country. Reform Jews throughout the state worked hard to win support for the bill because it embodies the Jewish principle of T’shuva, that everyone can turn their life around. We call on Governor Cuomo to sign Less Is More into law to increase racial justice in New York’s criminal justice system, strengthen public safety, and save the State money.”
Gregory Floyd, President of the City Employees Union Local 237 International Brotherhood of Teamsters, said: “This is one step towards justice for 35,000+ New Yorkers on parole. Our union includes thousands of essential workers throughout New York, many of whom with families impacted by the parole system. We understand the need to reform that system to help people on parole get back on their feet. We thank the Senate and Assembly for passing this monumental bill, and urge the Governor to sign it into law quickly.”
Sochie Nnaemeka, State Director of the New York Working Families, said: “For too long, New York has held the shameful distinction of incarcerating more people on technical violations than any other state in the country. We are grateful for the leadership and advocacy of the Katal Center, currently incarcerated and paroled individuals, Senator Benjamin and Assemblymember Forrest, and the State Legislature, who made sure this crucial legislation passed. Now, we urge the Governor to sign the Less is More Act so we can begin the work of reuniting families separated by mass incarceration.”
Reverend Peter Cook, Executive Director at the New York State Council of Churches, said: “The New York State Council of Churches gives thanks that the Senate and Assembly worked well together to bring #Lessismore to a vote and final passage. New York can finally join other states in making our parole process work as intended—to help people restore and begin their lives anew. Using technical violations to re-incarcerate people is grossly inconsistent with that mission and our values as New Yorkers and we are glad we can finally bring this revenge— based parole practice to an end.”
Della Smith, Member of the Katal Center, said: “Our state is wasting taxpayers’ money by re-incarcerating individuals for technical parole violations. Stop the waste! Reinvest this money in our communities. This money will support services and opportunities that can help address the barriers and resources, which many individuals on parole are confronted with when they return home to their families and communities. #LessIsMoreNY is the solution to the problem of re-incarceration for technical parole violations. I thank the NYS Legislature for choosing to move forward with the Less Is More. I urge that governor Cuomo follows their lead and sign #LessisMoreNY NOW!”
Kendra Bradner, Director, Probation and Parole Reform Project at the Columbia Justice Lab, said: “The passage of Less Is More represents a long-overdue step forward for New York toward parole justice, reforming an unnecessarily harsh and punitive parole regime that disproportionately harms communities of color. Congratulations to all the directly impacted leaders who led the charge and shared their expertise about what promotes safety and community wellbeing. I applaud the legislature for listening to the voices of directly impacted people, and urge Governor Cuomo to do the same.”
Avion Gordon, Member of the Katal Center, said: “The courage to take a stand against arbitrary and capricious actions is a worthwhile endeavor. It makes sense to fight for a fair and just parole system because people are hurting, they are fearful that their freedoms will be promptly taken away for minor infractions of parole, the Less is More bill passing sends out a clear message. We now need Governor Cuomo to sign and implement it as soon as possible because the parole system has had years to make changes to reevaluate their practices and formulate a better plan instead they fought against us every step of the way. They do not need any more time, I urge Governor Cuomo to sign the #LessIsMoreNY bill into law and implement it by the end of the year.”
Kate Rubin, Director of Policy at Youth Represent, said: “Even with Raise the Age fully in effect in New York, young people are still tried and incarcerated as adults from the day they turn 18. Missing appointments, being late for curfew, and experimenting with drugs are all hallmarks of youth and should never be grounds for incarceration. We thank Senator Benjamin and Assembly Member Forrest and the #LessIsMoreNY campaign for their tireless organizing and advocacy, and applaud the legislature for passing this crucial legislation. We urge the Governor to sign this bill into law immediately.”
Tim Donaher, Monroe County Public Defender, said: “With the passage of the Less is More Act, once again the New York Legislature has addressed a failing in our criminal justice system that had adversely impacted the poor and People of Color. Less is More brings much needed sanity to our system of parole, and will undoubtedly improve the lives of the formerly incarcerated. Thank you to Senator Brian Benjamin and Assemblymember Phara Souffrant Forrest for their leadership in sponsoring the legislation, and to the Legislature for passing Less is More.”
Serena Liguori, Executive Director of New Hour for Women and Children-LI, said: “Less is More is an important piece of legislation in the package of reforms needed to address a carceral system in need of reform as are others on the table right now. As mothers and women impacted by the criminal justice system, we urge the New York State Legislature to pass Less Is More, and Governor Cuomo to sign the bill into law immediately.”
Stan Germán, Executive Director of New York County Defender Services, said: “Today’s long overdue legislation is an important step towards finally bringing the parole revocation process out of the dark ages. To be clear, we still have a long way to go, but by eliminating mandatory detention pending parole revocation hearings, creating a path to earning early discharge, and limiting the use of incarceration for technical violations, Less is More heralds a new era of due process and fairness for people on parole.”
TS Candii, Executive Director of Black Trans Nation, Leader with the Walking While Trans Coalition, and Member of the DecrimNY Coalition said: ”As a black transgender women, who witness parole officers arresting black TGNC humans who violated for maissing curfew. There is noted, city owned homeless shelters purposely lock out the black TGNC community from entering the facility. I also witness city owned homeless facilities targeting those black TGNC humans who are on parole with lock out and close rooms procedures after 5 p.m. business hours. Which prevents blackTGNC humans from gaining access to get rehoused into new homeless facilities. Black TGNC humans are apprehended and sent directly to jail and prisons depending on the amount of violations.”
Rabbi Hilly Haber of Central Synagogue said: “Central Synagogue thanks the Senate Majority Leader, Speaker Heastie, and all the legislators who voted for this urgent and long-overdue reform of our parole system. This bill is supported by a unique coalition of faith communities, nonprofits, district attorneys, county leaders, and people on parole, and includes the best of reforms successfully implemented in many other states. We call on Governor Cuomo to sign this bill into law.”
Kaeshalee Vega, Member of the Katal Center, said: “For far too long the voices of the people on parole have gone unnoticed. Being on parole has been a challenge for me in many ways. The Less Is More Act gives me faith in humanity. It gives me faith in moving towards a more effective parole system in the State of New York. A parole system that doesn’t incarcerate people for a technical parole violation and actually puts measures for people that are doing good to get off it sooner. I am so thankful that the NYS Legislature acknowledged the importance of this Bill and look forward to having the Governor sign this Bill into law.”
Andrew Correia, Wayne County Public Defender, said: “We applaud the New York State Legislature for passing The Less is More Act. This is wonderful news for our clients who have been caught in the cycle of incarceration for being accused of minor technical parole violations. We ask that the Governor sign it into law right away so New Yorkers impacted by parole can begin to get the actual support they need toward rehabilitation, rather than needless months or years of incarceration.”
Shawn Young, Co-Founder of All of Us Community Action Group, said: “Finally! NY has decided to take the steps necessary to ensure that our returning community has an opportunity to actually be successful. I am so excited for the 30,000+ who are currently on some type of supervision and the many more who will be coming home. Much more is needed, but this is a win for all of our communities across the State of New York. Now, let’s get this bill signed by the Governor.”
Jared Trujillo, Policy Counsel at the New York Civil Liberties Union, said: “Today, the New York state legislature took a common-sense and overdue step towards ending mass incarceration by passing the Less is More Act, which will bring our state’s inhumane practice of detaining New Yorkers for non-criminal technical parole violations to an end, and shorten the length of time that New Yorkers are subjected to parole supervision. This legislation recognizes that people on parole who have committed no new crimes should be with their communities and families, not behind bars for missing an appointment. Governor Cuomo must curtail one of the most regressive parole systems in the country by signing the Less is More Act into law without delay.”
Alice Fontier, Managing Director of Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem, said: “Today’s passage of the Less is More Act is a victory in the fight against mass incarceration. Technical parole violations – among the most punitive ways that overpoliced and oversurveiled New Yorkers are trapped by the criminal legal system – have sent thousands of New Yorkers to jail for minor infractions like being late to a meeting. Today Albany took a long overdue step to end that practice. We are grateful to the organizers, community members, impacted people, and legislators who worked relentlessly to bring this bill to fruition. As a result of their efforts, communities like ours in upper Manhattan will be safer.”
Linda Gehron (Executive Director), Piotr Banasiak (Managing Attorney, Criminal Programs), and Craig Schlanger (Supervising Attorney, Parole Program) of the Hiscock Legal Aid Society, said: “By passing Less Is More, the Legislature recognizes that the traditional practice of imprisoning people for non-criminal parole violations is not only fundamentally unfair but counterproductive. The Less Is More Act represents a significant shift of emphasis from punishment for its own sake to fostering rehabilitation and successful reintegration into society, while providing meaningful due process for persons on parole. As a major provider of representation for alleged parole violators and persons working to re-enter society after incarceration, we look forward to this transition.”
Dyjuan Tatro, Government Affairs Officer & Alumnus of The Bard Prison Initiative, said: “Parole won’t help you find a job, secure housing, or enroll in college but will send you back to prison for coming home after 9:00 PM. It is a system that only knows how to perpetuate failure. Over 4,000 people are imprisoned in New York State on technical violations of parole like coming home after curfew, drinking alcohol, and missing an appointment at a cost to taxpayers of over $600 million a year. New York’s parole system is wasteful, harmful, and ineffective. I have been on parole for over three years and that agency has done everything to hinder me and nothing to help me. Despite never having had any parole violations, completing a college degree, being an active member of my community, and building a career, I remain on parole. We need to pass LessIsMoreNY now to put a halt to senseless technical violations and incentivize good conduct. I, nor anyone else on parole, should have to live under the constant threat of being arbitrarily returned to prison nor subject to a system that perpetuates failure instead of facilitating success.”
Richard John, Member of the District Four Tompkins County Legislature Public Safety Task Force, said: “This is real news that the LessisMore Act is moving. With the significant efforts to think hard about our criminal justice system in New York State, making our parole process more efficient, effective and productive for the people coming out of our prisons is timely and a positive step.”
Emily and Robbie of Spoke & Feather said: “The passage of the Less is More Act feels like the dawning of a new day, a day filled with hope, possibility, and community. After four and a half years living with constant anxiety that something as simple as a fender bender or a late F train could send our world into a tailspin, years of saying “no” to pro-social community activities and family gatherings because they were too far or too late, today’s news feels like the beginning of something better. Last night we heard the news that there were enough votes and we wept at the idea of being able to dream again. Today’s joyous news would not be possible without the incredible bravery and boldness of the bill’s sponsors, New York Senator Brian Benjamin and Assemblymember Phara Souffrant Forrest, the leadership and steadfastness of everyone in the #LessIsMoreNY Coalition, and the activists and friends who shared their stories, raised their voices and told their truths. Of course there is still work to be done. We urge Governor Cuomo to sign this bill quickly and confirm his support for the success of returning citizens and their families. We also acknowledge there may be disappointment from those in the law enforcement and DOCCS communities, and we acknowledge their concerns, but firmly believe that a carrot is always a better motivator than a stick and that re-entry is a team effort.”
Courtney Burke, Member of the Katal Center, said: “The amount of people that are impacted by the parole system in New York is immeasurable. We need to realize that when someone is incarcerated their whole family and community is impacted. It’s time to end mass incarceration and address the racial disparities that exist. I have loved ones that are on parole and the Less is More Bill will address their concerns. I thank the NYS Legislature for passing #LessIsMoreNY and I now demand Governor Cuomo to sign this Bill into law.”
Kenneth Edwards, Leadership and Organizing Specialist, Center for Employment Opportunities, said: “Today marks a critical step towards a more just New York with the #LessIsMoreNY bill passing in both houses. The bill will have an impact on thousands of New Yorkers on parole, including many currently working at CEO who have been proud advocates in the #LessisMoreNY coalition. For too long we have been incarcerated for technical violations, living in fear of returning to prison for missing a curfew after being late coming home from work. This burden gave us an overwhelming sense of anxiety as we worked to reconnect with family, find a job, and take care of ourselves. Governor Coumo, we urge you to sign #LessIsMoreNY into law to free us from the dark clouds that hovered over us for far too many years.”
Jason Cone, Chief Public Policy Officer, Robin Hood, said: “As with so many aspects of the criminal justice system, New York’s parole system disproportionately harms low-income people of color and adds to the challenges formerly incarcerated New Yorkers face upon returning home. The Less is More Act is more than just a reform of New York’s broken and costly parole system, it’s also a powerful poverty-fighting bill that will enable thousands of New Yorkers to live and work in their communities without fear of being reincarcerated for non-criminal, technical violations.”
Jermaine Archer, Paralegal and Case Manager at the Westchester Legal Aid Society, said: “The less people we have incarcerated who are clearly ready to be solutions to society’s problems, the more resources we have in this ongoing struggle for freedom, justice and equality. We are excited that this bill passed the Senate and Assembly. Now, it’s up to Governor Cuomo to sign the bill.”
Imani Webb-Smith, Member of the #LessIsMoreNY Working Group, said: “Today’s vote by the New York State legislature to pass the Less is More: Community Supervision Act (S.1144-A – Benjamin / A.5576-A – Forrest) brings much-needed reform to our punitive, inordinately costly, counterproductive parole system and is a victory for all New Yorkers. The provisions in this bill will have long lasting, far reaching effects and provide increased supports and investments necessary for formerly incarcerated people and under-resourced, overpoliced and surveilled neighborhoods to thrive. Parole reform is not merely a criminal justice issue; it is a racial, economic and social justice issue. This policy change is a crucial, positive step towards a more equitable New York. I implore Governor Cuomo to follow the legislature’s lead and cement this legislation by signing this bill without further delay.”
Kenesha Traynham-Cooper, MAP Engagement Coordinator at the Center for Court Innovation, said: “We are excited that the Senate and Assembly passed the Less Is More Act. This bill will have a positive impact on so many people across New York, and we hope that the Governor signs this bill into law.”
Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, Senior Rabbi at Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, said: “Congregation Beit Simchat Torah believes in the ability of every human being to pursue a path of teshuva, the Jewish concept of restoring one’s relationship to the community and to one’s self, and we support New Yorkers’ efforts to build better lives for themselves, their families, and their communities following incarceration. We strongly urge Governor Cuomo to sign #LessIsMoreNY in order to create a more just New York by eliminating reincarceration for most technical parole violations.”
Scott Levy, Chief Policy Counsel at The Bronx Defenders, said: “The Bronx Defenders celebrates the passage of the Less Is More Act. It is a critical first step toward remaking our broken parole system and decarcerating our jails and prisons. Incarcerating people, disproportionately Black and Brown New Yorkers, for technical parole violations is cruel and counterproductive. This bill will allow thousands of New Yorkers to maintain stable housing, keep jobs, and take care of their families. We call on the Governor to sign the Less Is More Act without delay.”
Tara Klein, Senior Policy Analyst at United Neighborhood Houses, said, “United Neighborhood Houses is thrilled with the passage of the Less Is More NY Act (S.1144A/A.5576A). The settlement houses we work with are attuned to the individual- and community-level trauma that comes from people being removed from their communities for a nonviolent parole violation and placed back in an isolated institution. By ending the practice of arresting someone for a technical parole violation and strengthening due process provisions, we can begin to heal this trauma and strengthen communities, while also reducing over-incarceration and saving the State money. Thank you to Senator Benjamin and Assemblymember Souffrant Forrest for championing this legislation. We urge Governor Cuomo to sign the bill into law immediately.”
Jacqueline Gosdigian, Senior Policy Counsel of Brooklyn Defender Services, said: “No one should ever be in a cell for violating arbitrary parole rules. The risks of re-incarcerating people on parole became even more imminent as the COVID-19 pandemic ravaged New York’s prisons and jails and sadly took many people’s lives. We thank the legislature and sponsors Senator Brian Benjamin and Assemblymember Phara Souffrant Forrest for taking action and passing the Less is More Act, and we urge the Governor to sign it into law immediately.”
Lori Zeno, Executive Director of Queens Defenders, said: “The passage of the LESS IS MORE NY Bill is a monumental step toward fixing a broken parole system that has harmed New Yorkers – particularly Black and Brown New Yorkers – for generations. This bill will drastically reduce re-incarceration, and give individuals returning to their communities the tools, support, and guidance to live successful lives free of the criminal justice system.”
Darren Mack, Co-Director, Freedom Agenda, said: “The arc of justice extended today. It could reach thousands of people who constantly lived in fear over being reincarcerated for arriving home late or some other technical parole violation. Passage of the #LessIsMoreNY Act out of both Houses is a historic achievement. Thanks to the tireless advocacy we are one step closer towards our vision. Now it’s time for the Governor to sign the bill.”
The Criminal Justice Committee of the New York City League of Women Voters said: “The passage of Less Is More through the Senate and Assembly is a first step to stopping the fear, unfairness and injustice of automatic detention of people on parole. Now, please sign Less Is More today, Governor Cuomo!”
Alison Wilkey, Director of Public Policy, John Jay College Institute for Justice and Opportunity, said: “We are thrilled that the New York State Legislature has passed Less is More: Community Supervision Revocation Reform Act. Many of our students can now live without fear of being sent back to jail arbitrarily and risk losing their classes and financial aid. We commend the Senate and Assembly for beginning to transform New York’s punitive parole system into one where people can thrive.”
Dr. Jocelynne Rainey, President & CEO, GOSO – Getting Out & Staying Out, said: “The passage of #LessIsMore is a victory for New York and a milestone on the path to parole justice. It prevents needless and harmful reincarceration and lifts a heavy weight off the shoulders of those returning home from prison. We are grateful to all the activists, especially impacted people, for their leadership in ensuring the passage of this crucial legislation.”
Antoinette Emers, Community Advocate of the NYC Dept. for the Aging, said: “I am grateful that Grandparents like Ms. Della Smith, who had to raise grandchildren due to their children being incarcerated, had the Katal Center’s support to fight for the Less is More bill. A bill that will reduce the number of people in New York that are being reincarcerated for minor infractions of parole. This will prevent senseless incarceration of our people and will keep families together. This is a victory for the family and community!”
Marc Pessin, Steering Committee Member of the Rockland Coalition to End the New Jim Crow, said: “The Rockland Coalition to End the New Jim Crow is in favor of doing everything we can to reduce mass incarceration in New York State. Parole injustice is one of the major reasons that so many people wind up incarcerated and we feel that this needs to end. We are in favor of S.1144-A/A.5576-A as a way to begin the process of changing an unjust system. We need to restore a sense of hope and understanding that everyone in our society deserves a real second chance and that we begin to look at the need for a whole community to help heal and be part of the process of rehabilitation. The Rockland Coalition to End the New Jim Crow has been proud to be part of the process to make an unjust system just and we appreciate the fight led by the #LessIsMoreNY Coalition. We urge Governor Cuomo to sign these bills. ”
Tatiana Pena, Member of the Katal Center, said: “My loved one was sentenced to an indeterminate sentence, knowing when he will come was “any day in between the years’. What was definite were the parole conditions he will receive upon release. I live with the fear that he will become a statistic based solely on the risk of technical parole violations. Imagine going back upstate for being late for curfew, or not having proper housing in a state where the rent exceeds income. Passing less is more is crucial to fix part of our broken criminal justice system. It will not address every element of the system that needs change but it is a beginning for a better reentry and rehabilitation process for recently released people. Today the NYS Legislature did the right thing in passing #LessIsMoreNY. I demand that the Governor also hears the community and signs the Bill!
Danielle Jettoo & Eleazer Bueno of Community Board 12 Public Safety, said: “Community Board 12 Public Safety supports the tenets of the #LessIsMoreNY initiative, and its vision to concentrate finite resources on those most in need. We are grateful that the Senate and Assembly passed #LessIsMoreNY, and look forward to the Governor signing it into law!”
Amplifying Activists Together, said: “New Yorkers need fewer people in prison, period. With policies that support people on parole, their families, and their communities, the Less Is More New York Act will rein in a runaway criminal justice system eager to incarcerate for these minor infractions of parole. Amplifying Activists Together builds solidarity toward justice for every New Yorker, and we are grateful for the Less Is More Coalition’s leadership in this urgent call for parole reform.”
The New York Jewish Coalition for Criminal Justice Reform said: “Less Is More is deeply aligned with our Jewish texts and allows us to imagine and fight for a system guided by teshuvah and compassion for the most vulnerable among us. We are thankful to the Senate Majority Leader, Speaker Heastie, and all the legislators who voted for this urgent and long-overdue reform of our parole system. We call on Governor Cuomo to sign this bill into law.”
Tomas Garita, Co-Chairman of the NYC Brown Berets, Said: “Our goal of putting people over profits is why we are so supportive of the #LessIsMoreNY Act. New York has a history of incarcerating Black and Brown New Yorkers and entrapping them within a system that wasn’t designed to see them succeed. Countless young men and women have been taken from our communities only to be further traumatized and then released on conditional freedom. The Less Is More bill will put an end to the cycle of incarcerating people for technical parole violations. The bill would not only save millions of dollars in the process, but it would bring our people home and give them the opportunity they need to properly reintegrate into society. We thank the NYS Legislature for advancing the Bill and now demand that Governor Cuomo signs the Bill”
Annette Gaudino, Director of Policy Strategy, Treatment Action Group, said: “The Less Is More Community Supervision Revocation Reform Act will provide much needed relief to people in the criminal justice system and their families, and we strongly urge the Governor to sign this legislation. By limiting re-incarceration due to technical parole violations, New York will take a significant step towards ensuring due process and ending punishment when there has been no harm. This is especially important for formerly incarcerated New Yorkers with substance use disorder, who deserve care and support, not a pointless return behind the walls.”
Jordyn Rosenthal MSW, Director of Community Engagement at the Women’s Community Justice Association, said:“On this momentous occasion when the Senate and Assembly have recognized the importance of restructuring parole in New York State through passing the Less is More New York Legislation, the collective conscience of New York calls on Governor Cuomo to sign this bill into law. For too long people have been plagued by issues of technical parole violations and it is time to take ever-lasting action that brings us one step closer to liberation.”
Yahkeef Davis, Member of Black Lives Matter Syracuse, said: “It is good to see that our law makers were able to do their jobs today and execute the will of their most marginalized constituents. We hope this is just the beginning of a sustained effort towards radically shifting how we view and practice justice, not only in New York State, but across the country.”
Cassondra Roberts, Member of the Katal Center, said: “It is a known fact that New York incarcerates more people for technical parole violations than any other state in the country. Even more, our black and brown communities have been the most impacted by this. I have family members that know first-hand the unjust ways in which this oppressive system functions. This is why I view the Less is More Bill as a racial justice Bill. It will give our formerly incarcerated loved ones the opportunity to thrive and not be worried about being incarcerated for a technical parole violation. #LessIsMoreNY addresses the way we process and view criminality in the state. I am grateful that today the New York State Legislature listened to the voices in our communities and hope that Governor Cuomo does the same.”
Gabriela Vazquez, Member of the Katal Center, said: “The Less is More Act will impact the lives of thousands of people on parole and their families. It will allow people a chance to rehabilitate rather than punish them for simple things like missing a curfew. The passage of this Bill is important to me because it will protect our black and brown communities who have been disproportionately impacted by mass incarceration for technical parole violations. I am incredibly thankful that the NYS Legislature passed this Bill and moved us in the right direction of finally changing our justice system for the better. I have no doubt that Governor Cuomo will follow their lead.”
Bobbi Leigh, Member of the Katal Center, said: “The Less Is More act is just the beginning of making transformative change within New York’s Parole System. The Bill will alleviate the reintegration process of our formerly incarcerated loved ones. Incarcerating people for technical parole violations brings absolutely no justice. What it does is it interrupts their lives and all they have built for themselves. Many of my loved ones will finally be given the opportunity to get back to society and properly start their lives with their families. We need to move towards decarceration especially during a pandemic. I thank the NYS legislature for moving us one step closer to implementing transformative parole reform. However, our fight is not over until Cuomo signs this Bill into law. Pass #LessiMoreNY Now!”
Michelle Jaskula, Member of the Katal Center, said: “As a victim of the corrupt system that uses threats and instills fear of reincarceration to continue to punish folks on parole, I know that change is needed. Parole should be about helping folks rejoin their families and become active members of their communities. Instead, fear and intimidation are used to further punish folks after they have served their time. A lot of work needs to be done on this outdated and oppressive system. Less is More is just the beginning of change and hope for a better future for all. I am grateful that the Legislature passed the Less Is More Bill and look forward to the Governor implementing this Bill!”
Michael Hendrickson, Member of the Katal Center, said: “Today the people of New York, through their elected officials in the Assembly and the sSnate passed the most important parole reform legislation of this century, the #LessIsMoreNY community supervision revocation reform act. I personally call for Governor Cuomo to sign this legislation into law. It will stop the needless and senseless re-incarceration for non criminal technical violations and waste of nearly a billion taxpayer dollars every year to perpetuate a broken parole system.”
Francis Pascuzzi, Member of the Katal Center, said: “Less is More would allow me the ability to see my mom again. I haven’t held her since 2008, she’s not doing well. By this law passing, I can earn time off and get to see her and the rest of my family sooner. I spent 18 years of my life in prison, I did it without a single misbehavior report. I’ve been home for a year with only one incident. I deserve a chance at a new life. I want to thank everyone who helped get this passed. Especially the members of Katal who showed me how we can drive change. I am happy to live in a nation where citizens can work with the government to make valuable lasting change. Now it is time for Gov. Cuomo to act, by implementing a graduated rollout of these new laws. Help show New York cares about all of its citizens.”
About the Less Is More Act and the #LessIsMoreNY Coalition:
Parole supervision, and the resulting incarceration of people for technical parole violations, disproportionately impacts Black people, families and communities. Parole in New York is wrought with racial disparity: In New York City, Black people and Latinx people are 12x and 4x more likely to be incarcerated for a technical parole violation. In New York State, Black people are incarcerated for technical violations of parole at 5x the rate of whites, and Latinx people are 30 percent more likely than whites to be reincarcerated for technical parole violations.
The Less is More bill, S.1144-A (Benjamin) / A.5576-A (Forrest) will have an impact on the more than 35,000 people on parole supervision in New York, improving public safety while strengthening the reentry process. The bill restricts the use of incarceration for most technical violations, bolsters due process, provides speedy hearings, and provides an earned time credit for most people on parole.
The reforms in the Less Is More Act are supported by nearly 300 community, faith, and advocacy groups; 8 District Attorneys from the counties of Albany, Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Nassau, Tompkins, Ulster, & Westchester; law enforcement leaders from across New York including the Albany, Erie, and Tompkins County Sheriffs ,and more. A full list of supporters and more information on the Less Is More Act can be found at www.lessismoreny.org.