Black History Month and the Work to Be Done

27 February 2019

At Osborne, Black History month has long been a celebration of African-American culture, achievements, progress, and an opportunity to honor and remember important people and events in African-American history.

Yet, it is also a reminder of how much work there is to do to achieve racial justice and equity in this country—especially for people of color in jail and prison, and their families.

The facts are both familiar and shocking. Approximately 56% of people in prison are African-American and Hispanic. Yet, they comprise only 32% of the U.S. population. This disparity is built on differences in policing and arrests, bail, prosecution, sentencing, and parole practices. Taken together, the deadly combination of plea bargaining, extreme sentencing, and repeated parole denials has led to a ballooning population of older and aging adults who are ready to come home.

Nearly 10,000 older and aging adults, predominantly people of color, make up 21% of New York’s prison population. Many of them are repeatedly denied parole despite having transformed their lives, having very low risk of recidivism, and posing virtually no risk to public safety. Through individual services and our policy reform efforts, Osborne advocates for the release of older people. Our Elder Reentry Initiative is one of the country’s only reentry programs focused on older people, and the Osborne Center for Justice Across Generations is working with State elected officials to pass parole reform bills that would bring older people home to the families and communities who love and need them, and who have been waiting decades for their return. Specifically, passing the Elder Parole bill would allow individuals who are 55 years of age and older and have already served 15 years of their sentence to go before the Parole Board, even if they have yet to serve their minimum sentence to be eligible for parole, and the Fair and Timely Parole bill would ensure people are released at their earliest possible release date unless the Parole Board finds that “a preponderance of evidence [shows that they pose an] unreasonable public safety risk. 

By working to pass these bills, we advance a vision of justice based on love and common, connected humanity, rather than perpetual punishment with racially disparate outcomes. Learn more here about how you can help to #BringEldersHome and support Osborne’s commitment to advancing racial justice.

#BringEldersHome: William Morton 

The great majority of people we meet through our Elder Reentry Initiative have transformed their lives, pose virtually no risk to public safety, and are ready to return home and contribute to

William, with Osborne's Laura Roan,
enjoying lunch on his homecoming day.

their communities. William Morton was incarcerated at the Fishkill Correctional Facility for 22 years. After going before three parole boards, William was released on parole at the age of 66.

Today, he is one of Osborne’s Elder Reentry Initiative participants and is excited about starting his new life with his fiancé, Gilda. “I don’t have all that much time left, but I do have some. I want to be positive and stay out of bad situations. I want to make a difference in people’s lives.”

In the News 

Last month, the Daily News discussed the current practice of having NYS Parole Board commissioners travel long distances only to conduct parole hearings by video conference rather than in-person. Osborne’s President and CEO Elizabeth Gaynes speaks candidly in the article about the negative impact this practice can have on older and aging individuals.

 

Please make a donation to Osborne today so families can continue to strengthen their relationships during incarceration. www.osborneny.org/donate