December 30, 2016
Allen Roskoff-Founder and Co-Chair,Candles for Clemency
E-mail: ARoskoff@gmail.com | Cellphone: (917) 553-7180
Candles for Clemency applauds Governor Andrew Cuomo for granting clemency to 113 people several n who have spent decades in prison have shown that they are completely rehabilitated. 101 pardons have been granted to youthful offenders. This is an historic day for New York and criminal justice.
“We are excited to see that these elderly individuals receiving clemency will not have to die in prison This is a proud moment for New York and our state’s ability to lead the nation in criminal justice reform. Our efforts show that through activism and relentless efforts results can be achieved. Governor Cuomo’s heroic actions should serve as a model for our nation.” said Candles for Clemency founder and co-chair Allen Roskoff.
Today’s deserving recipients of clemency have all been rehabilitated and have taken responsibility for their crimes. One of them, Judith Clark, has earned multiple degrees, and is a respected educator both inside and out of prison. During her incarceration, Clark has taught pre-natal parenting classes for pregnant women, co-founded a ground breaking organization to address the AIDS epidemic, and has raised and trained over a dozen guide dogs for law enforcement agencies and disabled veterans. She has gained the support of a vast array of society.
In the past,mass incarceration was a primary weapon society used to battle the scourge of drugs and other crimes, both violent and non- violent. Due to this reliance on incarceration, the national prison population jumped from approximately 200,000 in the early seventies to 1.6 million in 2009. According to the NY Times since this high point the number of people in prison has dropped by about 2.9%. This reduction has been brought about by a convergence of advocates who want to reduce the amount of tax payer money spent on incarceration and those who believe that there are better ways of dealing with criminal behavior. A report from the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University report states that a reduction in the length of sentences for major crimes would not negatively affect the crime rate and save tax payers significant amounts of money.
Unfortunately, due to the long sentences meted out in the past the number of elderly people in prison has increased dramatically at the same time that the general prison population is decreasing. In New York State, over the past thirteen years, the number of incarcerated people over fifty has increased by 81% while the general prison population has decreased by 23%. This has taken place in spite of the fact that the recidivism rate of elderly people is negligible. In New York State the reduction of elderly prisoners would be a major cost saver by reducing the expenses associated with physical incarceration and medical expenses, especially for the elderly.
“It is possible for justice and mercy to live side by side. It is feasible for the State to fight crime and reduce the cost of doing so at the same time,” says Tony Hoffmann co-chair Candles for Clemency. It is sound government policy for the State to spend more on education and less on incarceration. It makes sense to release elderly people from prison who have served long sentences and no longer are a danger to society. Many serving long sentences have been over sentenced, no longer resemble the person they were when the crime was committed and received arbitrary sentences after trial and arbitrary decisions by parole boards decades later. Candles for Clemency calls on the Governor to continue releasing those still incarcerated who have served lengthy sentences and pose no danger to society."
Candles for Clemency was formed in 2009 and has brought together an array of supporters from all walks of life to advocate, push and demand these long sought clemencies.
Allen Roskoff is long time civil rights leader, co-author of the nation’s first gay rights bill and president of the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club.
Tony Hoffmann has worked for many progressive issues. Hoffmann is former president of the Village Independent Democrats.