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The Fortune Society Unveils 2019 State Legislative Agenda

In the 2019 Legislative Agenda, Fortune is calling on elected officials in Albany to support programs that foster successful re-entry; protect immigrants from deportation and warrantless arrests; and close the homelessness/prison-to-shelter pipeline.

JoAnne Page, President and CEO of The Fortune Society, said, “For more than five decades, The Fortune Society has worked to build a world where people with criminal justice involvement have the tools and the opportunities to thrive as positive, contributing members of society. Today, there is a palpable optimism that true and historic reform is within reach. But we cannot take anything for granted. Fortune will be a strong and ever-present force in the halls of Albany to ensure that our elected officials enact measures that result in a more humane, smarter, more efficient and fairer system of justice.”

Among the key measures on Fortune’s legislative priority agenda are:

Geriatric Parole (A.04319/S.02144) Fortune urges the passage of measures sponsored by Assembly Member David Weprin and Senator Brad Hoylman that would allow the Board of Parole to evaluate for possible release all incarcerated individuals over the age of 55 who have served at least 15 years in prison.

From 2007 to 2016, while the overall New York State prison population declined by 17.3%, the number of people incarcerated aged 50 and over increased by 46.0 percent, many of whom suffer from debilitating and chronic illnesses. People in prison aged 50 and older are far less likely to return to prison for new crimes than their younger counterparts. For example, only 6.4% of people incarcerated in New York State released age 50 and older returned to prison for new convictions; this number was 4% for people released at the age of 65 and older.

Mandatory Early Parole (A.4346/S.497) Sponsored by Assembly Member Weprin and Senator Gustavo Rivera, this bill would require the Board of Parole to release people to community supervision when their minimum period of incarceration has been served unless there is a clear and current public safety reason to keep them in prison.

Community Supervision Revocation Reform Act (A. same-as number pending/S.1343a) The Fortune Society supports this bill, also known as the Less is More Act, sponsored by Sen. Brian Benjamin and Assembly Member Walter Mosley. This bill was developed by people on parole, people currently incarcerated, family members, and advocacy groups across New York. The bill would address the inordinately high rates of re-incarceration of New Yorkers on technical violations including missing an appointment with a parole officer, being late for curfew, or testing positive for alcohol. Of people on parole whom New York sent back to prison in 2016, over 6,300 or 65% were reincarcerated for technical parole violations. Specifically, the measure will provide earned time credits; bolster due process; provide speedy hearings; and restrict the use of incarceration for technical violations.

Prison Minimum Wage Act (A.1275/S.11317) If passed, the Prison Minimum Wage Act sponsored by Senator Zellnor Myrie and Assembly Member N. Nick Perry will be a critical step forward by raising the hourly amount earned by incarcerated individuals who work outside the facility at nonprofit organizations. It will allow incarcerated people to network with prospective employers, explore career pathways, and feel less isolated while confined. This legislation will also give non-profits access to a much larger pool of talented people with valuable skills that encompass a wide range of expertise.

One Day to Protect New Yorkers (A.4469/S.1825) Under current federal immigration law, many immigrants can be deported after a conviction simply because they face a sentence of up to a year of incarceration. Because class A misdemeanors in New York have a potential sentence of one year, even green card holders can be deported for a single misdemeanor conviction, although they might not have been sentenced to a single day in jail.

Sponsored by Assembly Member Marcos Crespo and Senator Jessica Ramos, this legislation – known as One Day to Protect New Yorkers – would reduce the maximum sentence for A misdemeanor offenses by just one day – from 365 to 364 days – giving federal judges discretion in deportation cases and allowing them to assess each case on an individual basis. Reducing the maximum potential sentence by one day could potentially spare thousands of hard-working immigrants from deportation.

Protect Our Courts Act (A.02176/S.00425) This groundbreaking legislation sponsored by Assembly Member Michaelle Solages and Senator Brad Hoylman would prohibit Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents from making civil arrests at New York State courthouses without a judicial warrant or court order. The protection would extend beyond courthouse walls and apply to arrests of individuals going to or leaving a court as well.

According to a new report from The Immigrant Defense Project, ICE courthouse arrests have increased 1,054% since 2016 (11 arrests in 2016 vs 127 arrests last year) effectively disrupting court functions, sowing fear in immigrant communities seeking justice, and undermining public safety. In fact, a report from the ACLU found that courthouse arrests were deterring immigrants from reporting crimes.

Section 8 Shelter Allowances: (A.7859*/S.6433*) Sponsored by Assembly Member Andrew Hevesi and Senator Simcha Felder, this legislation would require that the shelter allowance for those receiving Section 8 housing assistance be equal to the local agency maximum monthly shelter allowance prescribed by regulations of the New York State Department of Social Services. This will increase the subsidy dollars available to NYCHA and other agencies and allow those agencies to provide Section 8 assistance to a greater number of low-income families in need of affordable housing.

New Rent Supplements (A1620/S2375) Sponsored by Assembly Member Hevesi, this bill amends the Social Services Law to create a new statewide rent supplement for families and individuals who are eligible for public assistance benefits and who are also facing eviction, homelessness, or loss of housing due to domestic violence or hazardous living conditions. This important bill will address the pipeline of people coming into the shelter system, including those released from prison. The measure mandates that the local social services provide 85% of fair market rate for the unit size to people facing eviction and allows for a separate heating and fuel subsidy.

* Denotes that this is the bill number from the 2017-18 session and has not yet been re-filed.


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