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As Legislative Sessions Nears End, Lawmakers Prioritize Criminal Justice Reform Bills

Democratic N.Y. State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins
Mike Groll
Democratic N.Y. State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins

The New York state Legislature is scheduled to end its session in mid June. Lawmakers have a long list of criminal justice priorities that they hope to finish before then.

Criminal justice reform tops the list for many Democratic Senators and Assemblymembers, including changes to the state’s parole system. Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said she backs reforms to the state’s parole system.

“Yes we punish the criminals, but (make sure) that the punishment fits the crime,” Stewart-Cousins said. “And that you don’t continue to pay for the crime long after you’ve done the time.”

Measures under consideration include the Elder Parole Act, which would give inmates an automatic parole hearing if they are over the age of 55 and have served 15 years of their sentence. Another measure, known as the Fair and Timely Parole Act, would require parole boards to give more weight to a person’s rehabilitation record in prison than to the crime that they originally committed.

Another measure under consideration, known as “Clean Slate” legislation, would seal some felony and misdemeanor conviction records for up to 2 million New Yorkers who have completed their prison sentences.

Karen has covered state government and politics for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 New York and Connecticut stations, since 1990. She is also a regular contributor to the statewide public television program about New York State government, New York Now. She appears on the reporter’s roundtable segment, and interviews newsmakers.