Update: Parole Reforms Fall Short

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In an otherwise productive session for progressives, efforts to reform the state’s parole system fell short in Albany in the legislative season that ended this week.

Criminal-justice reformers had targeted parole for tweaks because alleged parole violators are a major slice of the population in Rikers Island, which has to be shrunk for the mayor’s closure plan to work. Parole violators are also a big chunk of state prison admissions, costing taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

An omnibus reform bill, the Less is More Act, that was introduced earlier this year foundered as the session wore on, so sponsors Brian Benjamin, a Harlem Democrat in the Senate, and Walter Mosley, a Brooklyn Democrat in the Assembly, broke off two elements of that bill to try to pass them separately. But neither made it to the floor of either house.

It’s possible there was a sense that the year’s wave of criminal justice reforms had been achieved during the budget season, when bail and discovery rules were revamped, or a feeling that marijuana legalization (which also ended up failing) was a more pressing priority. The parole measure also did face the opposition of the parole officers union. And Albany simply had a lot on its plate, with measures related to rent regulation, drivers licenses, climate change, farmworkers, surrogacy and more needing attention in the session’s final hours.

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