Adopt a common-sense approach of releasing elder inmates, who are aging in prison, have already served considerable time, and pose little or no threat to the public.
The state of New York needlessly confines thousands of senior citizens to cruel and degrading conditions in prison. Since 2000, the number of people over 50 years old in New York State prisons has increased by 98%.The risk of committing a new crime decreases as one gets older, and people over 50 who serve long sentences for serious felonies are the least likely to return to prison after release. Many of the elder populations who are in prison have records of positive achievement in prison and are praised by prison officials as peacemakers and role models. Despite these truths, the vast majority of seniors in prison are routinely denied parole and compassionate release by the state.
As this email comes to you, I am on my way to visit Herman Bell in Comstock prison in upstate New York. Herman, just turned 69 and has been in prison for 43 years, he is one of about 20 former Black Panther and Black Power Movement political prisoners aging in U.S prisons. Shocking, but not unique – he is among more than 10,140 people aged 50 and older in New York prisons.
The need to free Herman is what motivates me to ask you to sign this petition and support our goal to release aging people in prison, end not only mass incarceration but also the racist system of punishing people of color and poor people in perpetuity.
People imprisoned years ago, many due to political involvement and activism during the Black Power movement, are now turning gray. Some suffer from heart disease, hypertension, joint disease, and other age related illnesses. Prisons are looking more and more like nursing homes but with bars, metal detectors, and hyper security used against some of our most vulnerable and valuable populations- our elders.
The aging population currently imprisoned is beyond what the prison system can handle. This is why we are demanding that the state of New York adopt a commonsense approach of releasing older inmates who present no danger to the public.
In the state of New York it costs $60,000 per year to keep someone in prison, and older prisoners cost taxpayers even more—as much as two to four times that amount—due to added medical costs and the details of armed guards that accompany incarcerated people on trips to hospitals for tests and treatment.
As we know there are stark racial disparities in incarceration rates, with Black and Hispanic people arrested at a rate that is 2 to 3 times their proportion of the general population. The well-documented racial disparities in the criminal justice system are also reflected in the aging prison population. A vastly disproportionate percentage of aging people in prison are Black people, many of whom are political prisoners such as Mumia Abu-Jamal, Dr. Mutulu Shakur, and many more.
Join us in demanding that New York state release incarcerated seniors who have already served considerable time and pose little or no threat to public safety. Doing so will restore the harmony of our communities, fulfill our commitment to the human rights of ALL people, and save New York millions of dollars a year. Aging people returning from prison pose little risk to public safety and are prepared to contribute positively to the society. Together, we reject retribution and perpetual punishment as the drivers of our justice system.
Until our elders are freed,
Member of Release Aging People in Prison (RAPP) and former political prisoner
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