In August 2019, the longest-serving woman in New York State prison, Valerie Gaiter, died of cancer at age 61 after 40 years in prison.

She had become a mentor to young women who were struggling with hopelessness, trained service dogs for wounded veterans, ran the photography program, facilitated the prison’s anger management program and earned multiple degrees.

Her applications for medical clemency were denied though she was in and out of the hospital. She would not be eligible for parole for another decade.

Ms. Gaiter is one of thousands of imprisoned people who have transformed their lives and paid their debts to society but who face a virtual death sentence because of New York State parole laws, and unhealthy, adverse prison conditions with no access to health care. Elder Parole and Fair & Timely Parole (Big push to pass bills in legislature, 5/30) would have given her and eligible persons over the age of 55, meaningful opportunities for parole release, based on their record of accomplishments.

The recidivism rate for this age group is 1 percent or lower. The cost savings for New York taxpayers would be about $522 million annually.

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Our criminal justice system is biased against women and systemically racist. Most women in prison are victims of physical or sexual abuse and black women are incarcerated at twice the rate of white women.

PJR is one step on the long road to ending mass incarceration and correcting a punitive and vengeful system.

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

Jeanette Walowitz, Great Neck
Volunteer Leader, New York Chapter
BEND THE ARC Jewish Action

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