Expanding access to higher education in prisons and for those leaving prison. Extending voting rights to people on parole. Limiting the imposition of fees and fines on those leaving prison.
These are a few of the proposals that reentry advocates will raise with the state legislature today at the 2nd annual Reentry Advocacy Day in Albany.
The New York Reentry Roundtable has created a comprehensive agenda for reform that identifies reentry legislation the Roundtable is supporting on matters relating to employment, housing, family reunification, higher education, healthcare, financial debt, political participation, and sentencing reform.
As we’ve mentioned in past posts, New York’s laws that disenfranchise people on parole are not only unfair, but lead to confusion about who is eligible to vote, even among county Board of Election officials. This confusion further contributes to the de facto disenfranchisement of thousands of eligible voters and dilutes the voting power of the state’s communities of color.
Today, advocates will be lobbying in favor of a number of bills that address these very issues: A. 5555, a bill to extend voting rights to people on parole, S. 1934, a bill to correct the U.S. census policy of counting prisoners where they are incarcerated instead of their home communities, and S. 7012, the Voting Rights Notification and Registration Act, which will provide notice about voting rights eligibility to individuals within the criminal justice system’s supervision or recently discharged who are eligible to vote.
Barriers that discourage formally incarcerated individuals from becoming full, productive members of society are counter-productive to the communal goals of enhancing public safety and reducing the costs of prison. We encourage legislators to open their doors and listen closely to the advocates visiting Albany today. It is in everyone’s interest to make successful reentry a reality in New York.
--Jude Joffe-Block, Research Associate, Democracy Program