Fri. Apr 12th, 2024

1 of 5,034 Wu-Tang Affiliates, Shyheim Calls for Parole Justice in New York

New York, NY, February 19, 2024 –Today, Shyheim, The Wu-Tang Clan affiliate and founder of the Rugged Road to Recovery, announced his support for parole justice legislation pending in New York State’s legislature to bring home elders from prison like those who mentored him while he was incarcerated. Specifically, Shyheim is urging New York State lawmakers, including Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, along with Governor Kathy Hochul, to enact the Elder Parole and Fair & Timely Parole bills. Together, these two bills would create and expand pathways to case-by-case consideration for parole release. In response, Jose Saldana, Director of the Release Aging People in Prison Campaign and a survivor of 38 years of incarceration, expressed his gratitude and his commitment to partnering with Shyheim and other artists to win parole justice.

Shyhiem said: “I’m a rapper that supports RAPP. Releasing our elders from prison means bringing home a whole bunch of lessons and experience to the community. It would enable parents, grandparents and other caretakers to serve as role models and mentors to give the youth the roadmap of where not to go. If you don’t let the elders out, who is going to stop the youth from ending up where they did? Only they have the power and authority to really deliver the message. When I was in prison, the elders gave me a road map of what not to do. They didn’t just express remorse, they owned their actions and lived to repair and prevent harm. They helped me identify what led me to prison. If we had more of them in the community, they could relay the message and stop the intergenerational cycle of incarceration. One of my friends, who’s a musical genius, was locked up since the 1960’s and just came home. So many decades were wasted without his gifts in the community. I also have a vested interest. My own family members are aging in prison. We need our lawmakers to pass the Elder Parole and Fair & Timely Parole bills to bring home our elders to serve as assets in our communities. All roads lead to rugged, the rugged road to recovery.”

In response, Jose Saldana, Director of the Release Aging People in Prison Campaign and a survivor of 38 years of incarceration, said: “Black entertainers have always been critical to the success of racial and social justice movements. We are grateful that Shyheim is taking the initiative to support the movement to end mass incarceration and acknowledge the inherent dignity of all incarcerated people – and their capacity for change and redemption. Prison sentences that condemn people to age and die behind bars, even those entering prison as teeneagers, have become the norm in our society and we hope more artists follow Shyheim’s lead in envisioning a new way forward. We must reckon with the harm that individuals have caused while also reckoning with the harm caused by our criminal legal system and prioritize transformation and healing over permanent punishment. That’s what the Elder Parole and Fair & Timely Parole bills will do. We hope our elected officials are listening.”

Background:

● There is a crisis of aging and dying for New Yorkers in prison and their families because of decades of extreme sentencing and blanket denials of parole release by a racially biased Parole Board.
● In addition to Shyheim, the rapper Common is calling for passage of the Elder Parole and Fair & Timely Parole bills.
● More than a dozen of the state’s leading crime victim & survivor advocates and anti-violence advocates have called for passage of the Elder Parole and Fair & Timely Parole bills to promote healing and transformation, instead of permanent punishment.
● 55% of the roughly 30,000 people currently incarcerated in New York State prisons are Black people, despite the fact that only 18% of the overall population in the state is Black. 77% are People of Color.

According to NYS Department of Correction and Community Supervision data obtained via FOIL.

● According to a Times Union analysis of the nearly 19,000 parole board decisions over the last two years, racial bias infects parole release determinations and disparities have only widened in recent years. The data, which spans October 2018 through October 2020, shows the Parole Board granted parole release to 41 percent of white people, compared to 34 percent of Black people and 33 percent of Latinx people.
● Without reforms to expand access to parole release and make the process more fair in New York State, New Yorkers, especially those who are Black and Latinx, will continue to age without dignity, get sick, and die in prison regardless of their transformation and potential benefits to the outside community.
● The People’s Campaign for Parole Justice is calling on lawmakers in Albany to pass two bills that, together, will ensure that people in prison have meaningful opportunities for individualized consideration for parole release based on who they are today, what they have done to change, and whether they pose a risk if released:
● Elder Parole (S.2423/A.2035) would allow the State Board of Parole to conduct an evaluation for potential parole release to incarcerated older adults who have already served 15 or more years, including some of the state’s oldest and sickest incarcerated people.
● Fair and Timely Parole (S.307/A.162) would provide more meaningful parole reviews for incarcerated people who are already parole eligible.
● The Elder Parole and Fair & Timely Parole bills are supported by more than 350 organizations across New York State, including some of the largest crime victims and survivor advocacy groups: The New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault, Crime Victims Treatment Center, along with the Rev. Al Sharpton of the National Action Network, Dr. Hazel Dukes of the NYS NAACP, several U.S. Congressmembers and current and former District Attorneys, The Working Families Party, 1199 SEIU, CWA District 1, VOCAL-NY, Citizen Action, New Hour for Women and Children, LiveOn NY, JASA, the Brookdale Center for Healthy Aging, NY Communities for Change, Center for Community Alternatives, Osborne Association, NYCLU, FWD.us, and more.

By team

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