Friday, February 12, 2016

New York Clemency: Planning to Plan

CUNY School of Law Professor Steven Zeidman praises Governor Andrew Cuomo for a "most laudable agenda item" for 2016, namely, to "further New York's status as a national leader in criminal justice and re-entry reforms."

Zeidman also praises Cuomo for "recently" adding "a clemency initiative" to mix, something he says is "long overdue." Zeidman believes a "vigorous clemency program" would be the "right thing to do" but, from 2011-2014, Cuomo has been asleep at the wheel. "Not a single person had his or her sentence reduced in New York State." Zeidman says clemency:
... is one direct and relatively swift way to address the national blight of mass incarceration. It is cost effective—most people seeking clemency have already served long sentences and are becoming geriatric prisoners with all the attendant costs. Further, given their age, those granted clemency present virtually no threat to public safety as studies consistently reveal an inverse relationship between age and crime. Those most likely to be granted clemency have aged out of criminal behavior. 
Zeidman also wonders, "how long should someone serve even for a violent crime?" The sentences given out in American courts are "dramatically longer than those imposed by any other civilized democracy." In New York, there are "almost 9,000 people serving sentences with a 20-year minimum" and "almost 10,000 people are serving sentences with a maximum of life." And it costs taxpayers "on average $60,000 annually" to house them.

So, Zeidman concludes, "One likely place to begin would be with the eldest and longest-serving men and women in New York's prisons." See full editorial here.

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