Osborne and the New York Executive Budget

19 January 2018

This week, Governor Andrew Cuomo presented his FY 2019 Executive Budget, including proposals aimed at increasing fairness in the criminal justice system. The budget includes needed and humane reforms to New York’s systems of arrest, prosecution, incarceration, and reentry, as well as funding for treatment to address the opioid epidemic and support for implementing last year's legislation that raised the age of entry into the adult criminal justice system. The proposal for geriatric parole is not just cost-effective and logical, it holds the promise of beginning to undo a system of endless punishment that keeps people—including those sentenced for violent crimes—in prison for decades regardless of their remorse, rehabilitation, and readiness to contribute to the community. Unfortunately, no additional funding has been allocated for Alternatives to Incarceration. 

Aging in Prison

The Governor proposes increasing the type and variety of rehabilitative programs offered in state prisons and the ways in which those programs are considered during a parole hearing. There are now more than 10,000 people incarcerated in New York State who are over age 50 and the number is increasing each year. The data is clear: releasing older adults poses little risk to public safety and their recidivism rates are very low. To begin to remedy this, the Governor is asking the Parole Board to consider geriatric release for older adults with serious medical challenges. The Board will balance any public safety risk with the need for age-appropriate treatment in the community. Given the extremely low rate of recidivism of those aging in prison -- and the fact that more than 80% of the beds in the Department of Corrections' Regional Medical Units are occupied by elders -- the balance should tilt easily toward release. 

The Osborne Center for Justice Across Generations looks forward to working with the Governor and legislators to pass this laudable reform and others designed to increase release of incarcerated old adults. Thanks to Osborne's Elder Reentry Initiative (ERI) for demonstrating what is possible: higher parole release rates and successful reentry. In December, we profiled a woman whose experience with ERI shows why this work matters.  

Improving the Re-Entry Process

The Governor proposed removing statutory bans on occupational licensing for professions outside of law enforcement; instead, applicants will be assessed on an individual basis. For many people re-entering their communities, this simple reform will make the transition to stability fairer and more accessible. This common sense change means that Osborne participants like Carlos Rodriguez (pictured) can more easily pursue his dream of owning a restaurant. Read Carlos' story here

Eliminating Monetary Bail 

A growing consensus has emerged that our bail system isn't working. Every day, people who haven't been convicted of a crime are detained because they can't pay bail, which results in huge costs for those detained, their families, their communities, and taxapyers. We support the Governor's intent to eliminate monetary bail for people facing misdemeanor and non-violent felony charges. But additionally, we encourage the growth of innovative alternative to incarceration programs. Since the summer, our Court Advocacy Services has piloted Second Look, an initiative to send women at Rose M. Singer Center at Rikers Island home to their families as quickly as possible. 

What's Next

We are heartened that the governor's proposals align with our vision for a more just and compassionate justice system, and we look forward to working with the Governor and legislators to pass meaningful and progressive reforms in the 2018 legislative session. At the same time, we are deeply aware of the hard work it will take to make these reforms - and so many others - a reality. There are more than two months to go before a budget is passed, and we will continue to press for increasing funding for alternatives to incarceration and other supportive services to address over-incarceration. There is so much farther to go. We need your support to do so.

Thank you for being part of our work to transform lives, communities, and the criminal justice system.

Elizabeth Gaynes
President and CEO