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THE FORTUNE SOCIETY UNVEILS 2023 LEGISLATIVE PRIORITIES

(January 18, 2023 – New York, NY) – The Fortune Society’s David Rothenberg Center for Public Policy (DRCPP) today unveiled the organization’s 2023 legislative priorities, calling on City and State lawmakers to remove discriminatory barriers for people with criminal justice involvement, expand access to services and legal protections for people with conviction histories, and improve conditions inside jails and prisons.

JoAnne Page, President and CEO of The Fortune Society, said, “Throughout our history, The Fortune Society has worked to provide people impacted by the criminal legal system with the tools, resources and support they need to live as successful, fully engaged, and contributing members of their communities. When people with conviction histories can achieve stability for themselves and their families, everyone in our society benefits. Our legislative agenda, when enacted, will support some of our most vulnerable community members and result in a more humane, efficient, and fairer system of justice. We look forward to working with our elected leaders in New York City and across New York State to achieve these goals.”

Fortune’s legislative priorities include:

Fair Chance for Housing – Int. 0632- 2022 – The Fair Chance for Housing Act would make it an unlawful, discriminatory practice for most New York City housing providers to preform criminal background checks. Currently, most people released from state prisons to New York City and many people released from Rikers Island end up in homeless shelters, creating a cycle of homelessness and instability that can prevent them from moving on with their lives. Because of discrimination based on criminal convictions, individuals and their families too often face rejection from housing that they should be eligible for even after years of constructive life in the community.

● #CLOSERikers – An ongoing and desperate humanitarian crisis at Rikers Island has been decades in the making. We must ensure that the plan to close Rikers Island in 2027 is followed, upon completion and opening of a network of four modern, humane jail sites in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx. We must also ensure that people incarcerated in our City jails are treated humanely.

o #BEYONDrosies #BEYONDrosies advocates for the women and gender-expansive people at the Rose M. Singer Center (Rosie’s) on Rikers Island to reduce the population of those incarcerated to under 100 individuals and close Rosie’s before the City’s 2027 timeline.

o End Solitary Confinement – Int 0549-2022 – The bill would ban solitary confinement in City jails and provide individuals in the custody of the NYC Department of Correction due process protections before being placed in restrictive housing or continued use of restraints.

● Clean Slate NY – A.06399 – The measure would end the perpetual punishment and stigma of having a criminal conviction, reducing barriers to obtaining housing, employment, education and more. The Act, with some exceptions, would automatically clear a misdemeanor conviction three years after sentencing and a felony conviction seven years after sentencing, excluding time spent incarcerated and applying after completion of parole or probation. This automatic sealing would happen so long as the person has no pending charges or new convictions during the three- or seven-year period.

● Youth Justice & Opportunities Act – A.3536A/ S.5749A – The measure would expand Youthful Offender status eligibility for people under age 25 who currently face the threat of permanent criminal convictions and adult prison sentences. Young people’s development continues through their mid-twenties. They should not face lifelong direct and collateral consequences, including a loss of future employment and access to stable housing, for mistakes made during maturation. Given that the vast majority of young people arrested in New York are Black and Latinx, this effort is critical to advancing racial justice.

The Fortune Society also will advocate for the following legislative campaigns and other pieces of legislation in 2023:

● #CommunitiesNotCages, which includes:

o Eliminate Mandatory Minimum Act – S.7871 – This would eliminate mandatory minimum sentences, providing judges with greater discretion in making individualized determinations, with a presumption against incarceration. o Second Look Act – S.7872 – This would allow people who have served half or 10 years of their sentences to apply for reconsideration and possible reduction of their terms of incarceration.

o Earned Time Act – A.8462B – This would expand opportunities to earn “good time” and “merit time” credited against a prison sentence.

● Reentry from the Inside Out – A.7340/ S.8064 – This measure recognizes that “reentry” must start before people have been released from prison. Therefore, RIO would require the NY State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision to coordinate with social service agencies and non-profits to assist with benefits applications before release, and would establish a pilot program to provide access to a range of reentry services before and after release.

● Release Aging People in Prison, which includes:

o Fair and Timely Parole – S.7514/ A.4231 – This measure would provide a more meaningful parole review process for incarcerated individuals who are already parole-eligible, and it would ensure that people are evaluated for release based on who they are today, including their rehabilitation, personal transformation and their current risk of violating the law.

o Elder Parole – S.15A/ A.8855A – This measure would provide incarcerated people aged 55 and older who have already served 15 or more years an opportunity for parole release consideration. This includes some of the state’s oldest and sickest incarcerated people.

● 13th Forward, which includes:

o No Slavery in NY Act – S.308/A.3142 – This measure prohibits involuntary employment of prisoners and provide that no prisoner would be compelled to provide labor against their will by force or threat. In addition, the bill would amend the NY state constitution to abolish modern-day slavery.

o Fairness and Opportunity for Incarcerated Workers Act – S.416A/A.3481B- This measure would establish a New York state prison labor board to create, monitor and enforce an equitable and rehabilitative prison labor system. It would abolish penal servitude by prohibiting the forced labor of incarcerated individuals, providing fair wages and treatment of incarcerated individuals and banning the use of the labor of incarcerated individuals for earnings.

● Treatment not Jails – A.8524A/ S.2881B – which would expand access to judicial diversion for people with mental health issues and cognitive impairments.

For more information about The Fortune Society and the David Rothenberg Center for Public Policy (DRCPP) and the 2023 legislative priorities, visit www.fortunesociety.org.

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ABOUT THE FORTUNE SOCIETY: Founded in 1967, The Fortune Society has advocated on criminal justice issues for over five decades and is nationally recognized for developing model programs that help people with criminal justice histories to be assets to their communities. Fortune offers a holistic and integrated “one-stop-shopping” model of service provision. Among the services offered are discharge planning, licensed outpatient substance abuse and mental health treatment, alternatives to incarceration, HIV/AIDS services, career development and job retention, education, family services, drop in services and supportive housing as well as lifetime access to aftercare. For more information, visit www.fortunesociety.org.

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