NEW YORK STATE ASSEMBLY MEMORANDUM IN SUPPORT OF LEGISLATION submitted in accordance with Assembly Rule III, Sec 1(f)
BILL NUMBER: A9040
SPONSOR: De La Rosa (MS)
TITLE OF BILL:
An act to amend the executive law, in relation to parole eligibility for
certain inmates aged fifty-five or older
To create a process to evaluate older prisoners to determine whether
they pose a significant public safety risk.
SUMMARY OF PROVISIONS:
Section 1 adds a new subdivision 18 to section 259-c of the executive
law. Section 2 provides an effective date.
New York's disproportionate use of long and life prison sentences has
led to a steep rise in the population of older people in the State's
Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS). Nearly 1 in
5 people in DOCCS is serving a life or virtual life sentence (with a
maximum sentence of 50 years or more)-a total of 9,229 people. Of this
group, 1,207 are serving a life without parole or virtual life without
parole sentence (a minimum sentence of 50 years or more) and are effec-
tively sentenced to die in prison without any individualized review or
public safety assessment.
Even as the total DOCCS population has fallen by more than 30 percent
since the year 2000, the number of older people in prison has more than
doubled during the same time period as a result of these long sentences
and more time served. There are currently 10,239 people aged 50 and
older and 5,767 peopled aged 55 and older in DOCCS custody. People aged
50 and older now represent more than 20 percent of all people in DOCCS
Decades of research from corrections experts across the country shows
that people in prison age at an accelerated rate and have a physiolog-
ical age 1015 years older than their actual age because of the adverse
and unhealthy environments of prisons and jails. Incarcerated people
aged 55 are commonly known by experts in the field to be more like 65 or
70 years old. The Federal Bureau of Prisons and most state prison
systems define incarcerated people as "older" beginning at age 50. The
Acting Commissioner of DOCCS and DOCCS Medical Director classify incar-
cerated people as older once they reach 55 years of age.
The steady growth of older people in prison has led DOCCS to open prison
hospice units, units for the cognitively impacted, and other older adult
facilities for people with dementia, diabetes, heart disease, and other
physical and cognitive disabilities relating to old age. In addition to
the toll that long-term incarceration, aging, and dying in prison takes
on people, families, and communities across New York State, it costs
taxpayers $100,000 to $240,000 per year to incarcerate one older adult
in DOCCS custody. The total cost to incarcerate all older adults in
DOCCS is conservatively estimated at roughly $1 billion per year.
Years of evidence, including decades of DOCCS own data, shows that
people `age out of crime,' and that older people pose the lowest risk of
recidivism when released. DOCCS has often credited incarcerated older
people with developing the most effective therapeutic in-prison programs
that have helped thousands of younger incarcerated people transform
their lives. When released at an age when they can still be productive,
many formerly incarcerated older people continue to be of service to
their home communities and enhance community safety.
This bill permits the Board of Parole to evaluate all incarcerated
people over the age of 55 who have served at least 15 years in prison
for possible parole release. It does not mandate release, but allows the
Board to make an individualized public safety assessment to determine
whether an individual is safe to be released to parole supervision even
if he or she has not completed his or her minimum sentence. After making
such an assessment, the Board has the discretion to grant such release.
This bill will save the state money if it results in an increase in the
release rate of older prisoners who might otherwise need expensive
medical care and specialized housing within the prison system.
This act shall take effect on the one hundred and eightieth day after it
shall have become a law.
STATE OF NEW YORK
January 10, 2020
Introduced by M. of A. DE LA ROSA -- Multi-Sponsored by -- M. of A.
QUART -- read once and referred to the Committee on Correction
AN ACT to amend the executive law, in relation to parole eligibility for
certain inmates aged fifty-five or older
The People of the State of New York, represented in Senate and Assem-bly, do enact as follows:
1 Section 1. Section 259-c of the executive law is amended by adding a
2 new subdivision 18 to read as follows:
3 18. notwithstanding any other section of the law, where a person serv-
4 ing a sentence of incarceration has served at least fifteen years of a
5 determinate or indeterminate sentence and has reached the age of fifty-
6 five or greater, the board shall conduct a hearing pursuant to this
7 section and section two hundred fifty nine-i of this article to deter-
8 mine whether such person should be released to community supervision. If
9 the board determines that there is a reasonable probability that, if
10 such person is released, he or she will live and remain at liberty with-
11 out violating the law and that his or her release is not incompatible
12 with the welfare of society, then the board shall release the person to
13 community supervision even if the person has not served the minimum
14 sentence imposed by the judge. If release to community supervision is
15 not granted, the inmate shall be informed in writing within two weeks of
16 such appearance of the factors and reasons for the denial of such
17 release and the board shall specify a date not more than twenty-four
18 months from such determination for reconsideration, and the procedures
19 to be followed upon reconsideration shall be the same. If release to
20 community supervision is granted, the board shall set release conditions
21 and the provisions of this section shall otherwise apply as though the
22 inmate was released after the completion of his or her minimum sentence.
23 § 2. This act shall take effect on the one hundred eightieth day after
24 it shall have become a law.
EXPLANATION--Matter in italics (underscored) is new; matter in brackets
 is old law to be omitted.