From: legislativegazette.com

Republican lawmakers furious over parole of Judith Clark and a new bill that could free some older prisoners

By BRENDAN RONEY
April 25, 2019

Judith Clark, on the day of her arrest on October 20, 1981.
Judith Clark, on the day of her arrest on October 20, 1981.


Republican lawmakers are lashing out at the recent parole of Judith Clark, a 69-year-old woman who spent nearly four decades in prison for her role as a getaway driver in a 1981 armed robbery of Brink’s armored car that resulted in the deaths of two police officers and a security guard.

Clark, who many see as a model prisoner, had the support of 70 state and local officials who have been lobbying for her release for years. But others say she should serve out her original 75-year sentence.

“It is unconscionable that criminals who have demonstrated a complete disregard for human life — especially those involved in the murder of law enforcement officers — are able to walk the streets and enjoy the same privileges as law-abiding citizens,” said Brian Kolb, the leader of the Assembly Republican Conference. “A year ago, this Parole Board let loose cop-killer Herman Bell, who was convicted of executing two New York City police officers. The Board’s decision [on Clark] goes beyond bad judgment. It is malpractice.

“[Their] inexplicable decision only raises questions about its credibility, its priorities and its actual value to the people of New York state,” Kolb said.

Kolb is joined by his fellow Assembly Republicans Karl Brabenec, Ed Ra, Colin Schmitt and Steve Hawley who are accusing the state Parole Board of catering to criminals “while ignoring the needs of everyday citizens.”

On October 20, 1981, six men robbed a Brink’s truck at the Nanuet Mall in Rockland County, and during the robbery, one guard was killed and another was seriously wounded. During their attempted escape, their van was stopped by Nyack police officers Waverly Brown and Edward O’Grady, who were both killed in a gun battle with the robbers.

Clark, age 31 at the time and a member of the May 19 Communist Organization — an offshoot of the Weather Underground, was waiting nearby in a getaway car and tried to flee with one of the robbers and another accomplice. After a brief chase, she crashed the car and was arrested.

Senate Republican Conference Leader John Flanagan was also critical of the Parole Board’s 2-1 decision to set Clark free.

“The decision to parole Judith Clark, a radical leftist member of the Weather Underground, who participated in a bank heist that left two police officers and a security guard dead, is chilling,” Flanagan said. [She] should remain behind bars for the maximum amount of time her sentence allows, which is life.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo commuted Clark’s sentence to 35 years to life in December 2016, which made her eligible for parole. She was initially denied parole in April 2017, with the Boards saying Clark was “still a symbol of violent and terroristic crime.”

In her second attempt, Clark was granted parole on April 17 and is expected to go free on May 15.

A group called Candles for Clemency — founded by gay rights and social justice activist Allen Roskoff — was instrumental in advocating for Clark’s release. The organization brought together 70 elected officials, including 11 Members of Congress, state legislators and New York City Council Members who convinced Gov. Cuomo to grant clemency to Clark in 2016. Without clemency, Clark would not have been eligible for parole.

“Judith’s release has been a long time coming and is justice for elderly inmates,” Roskoff said. “The principles guiding our state’s criminal justice system are starting to shift, and today is truly a historic day.

“No one who has served their time, made a dramatic shift in their lives, and are positively contributing to their community should be left to die inside a prison cell,” Roskoff said.

Candles for Clemency spent more than a decade advocating for Clark’s release by hosting demonstrations at the Governor’s house, bringing elected officials to meet Judith one-on-one, and writing letters of support on Clark’s behalf to the state Parole Board.


Clark now. Photo courtesy of judithclark.org

A new bill in the state Legislature would grant parole eligibility to elderly inmates, such as Clark.

Senator Brad Hoylman, who urged the Parole Board to release Clark last week, is the sponsor of legislation (S.2144/A.4319) that would allow for the consideration of elder parole for incarcerated people aged 55 and above who have already served 15 consecutive years in prison.

More than 10,000 people in New York state prisons — 20 percent of the prison population — are aged 50 or older.

This legislation, sponsored by David Weprin in the Assembly, is geared towards people like Clark, who many believe serves as a model of rehabilitation.

Clark earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees while behind bars, and led programs to improve prenatal care and counseling for inmates with AIDS. She has both publicly and privately expressed the sorrow and remorse she feels for her part in the Brink’s robbery.

Clark was also one of the two first prisoners in New York state to receive certification as a chaplain.

“Our corrections system must center on rehabilitation, and not revenge. In the nearly four decades that she has been incarcerated, Judith Clark has acknowledged her crimes, expressed remorse, and made every effort to repair and transform her life,” said Hoylman, “She has become a role model to many of her fellow incarcerated New Yorkers.”

Weprin, chair of the Assembly Committee on Corrections, joined in praising the Parole Board for releasing Clark.

“Every woman I meet who was formerly incarcerated at Bedford Hills has told me that Ms. Clark was influential in helping them through their period of incarceration and in helping them become a productive member of society,” said Weprin, “If there is anyone deserving of parole in New York State’s prison system it is Judith Clark.”

Officers

BOARD OF GOVERNORS

  1. Hon. Eric Adams
  2. George Arzt
  3. Lance Bass
  4. Charles Bayor
  5. John Blair
  6. Mark Benoit
  7. Hon. Rodneyse Bichotte
  8. Hon. Jonathan Bing
  9. Matthew Bond
  10. Erik Bottcher
  11. Hon. Gale Brewer
  12. Danny Burstein
  13. Robin Byrd
  14. Tiffany Cabán
  15. Christian Campbell
  16. Gus Christensen
  17. Hon. Martin Connor
  18. Tom Connor
  19. Hon. Jon Cooper
  20. Wilson Cruz
  21. Hon. Laurie Cumbo
  22. Alan Cumming
  23. Michael Czaczkes
  24. Hon. Bill de Blasio
  25. Aries Dela Cruz
  26. Jon Del Giorno
  27. Kyan Douglas
  28. James Duff
  29. Hon. Ronnie Eldridge
  30. Hon. Rafael Espinal
  31. Hon. Alan Fleishman
  32. Marc Fliedner
  33. Hon. Dan Garodnick
  34. William Gerlich
  35. Dan Gettleman
  36. Jason Goldman
  37. Emily Jane Goodman
  38. Hon. Mark Green
  39. Tony Hoffmann
  40. Hon. Brad Hoylman
  41. Binn Jakupi
  42. Hon. Letitia James
  43. Hon. Corey Johnson
  44. Camille Joseph
  45. Phillip Keane
  46. Suzanne Kessler
  47. Yetta Kurland
  48. Dodge Landesman
  49. Hon. Melissa Mark-Viverito
  50. Phillip McCarthy
  51. Matt McMorrow
  52. Michael Mallon
  53. Mike C. Manning
  54. David Mansur
  55. Cathy Marino-Thomas
  56. Troy Masters
  57. Hon. Carlos Menchaca
  58. Hon. Rosie Mendez
  59. John Cameron Mitchell
  60. Donny Moss
  61. Barry Mullineaux
  62. Denis O'Hare
  63. America Olivo Campbell
  64. Noah Pfefferbilt
  65. Josue Pierre
  66. Bob Pontarelli
  67. Billy Porter
  68. Hon. Keith Powers
  69. Randy Rainbow
  70. Hon. Gustavo Rivera
  71. Hon. Helen Rosenthal
  72. Maer Roshan
  73. Sheila Rule
  74. Toby Russo
  75. Bill Samuels
  76. James Sansum
  77. Scott Sartiano
  78. Hon. Arthur Schwartz
  79. Lynn Schulman
  80. Cecile Scott
  81. Frank Selvaggi
  82. Rev. Al Sharpton
  83. David Siffert
  84. Hon. Jo Anne Simon
  85. Kathy Slawinski
  86. Tom Smith
  87. Anne Strahle
  88. Hon. Scott Stringer
  89. Wayne Sunday
  90. Hon. Bill Thompson
  91. JD Thompson
  92. Bjorn Thorstad
  93. Hon. Matt Titone
  94. Jessica Walter
  95. Barry Weinberg
  96. Seth Weissman
  97. Hon. Jumaane Williams
  98. Emma Wolfe
  99. Hon. Keith Wright
  100. Zephyr Teachout