Albany, NY – The New York legislature is considering a bill that would allow all inmates to apply for “elder parole” at the age of 55, including those prisoners who were sentenced to life.
Inmates would also need to have served at least 15 consecutive years in prison in order to qualify, the Associated Press reported.
The bill, introduced by Democratic Senator Brad Hoylman, would not mandate that inmates be released at the age of 55, but would allow them to apply for release on parole.
Under the proposed legislation, inmates whose requests for parole are denied will be given the opportunity to re-apply every two years, The Post-Standard reported.
Hoylman argued that there has been an 81 percent increase in the number of inmates over the age of 50 since 2000, and said that caring for their medical needs has become too expensive, according to the Associated Press.
Older inmates are also statistically less likely to re-offend.
He presented the proposed legislation just one week before 69-year-old convicted cop killer and left-wing extremist Judith Clark was granted parole.
Clark was originally sentenced to 75 years to life on charges of second-degree murder and first-degree robbery for her role in a 1981 Brinks armored truck robbery, the New York Post reported.
She was 31 years old when she drove a getaway vehicle as part of a joint effort between a Weather Underground offshoot group, May 19th Communist Organization, and the Black Liberation Army to steal $1.6 million from the armored truck, The New York Times reported.
They planned to use the stolen cash to finance a guerrilla uprising, as well as the eventual formation of a separate black nation – the Republic of New Afrika – in the southern United States.
Brink’s security guard Peter Paige was murdered during the robbery.
Nyack Police Sergeant Edward O’Grady and Officer Waverly Brown were fatally shot at a roadblock while they attempted to stop a U-Haul van involved in the heist.
Clark was defiant and uncooperative while she represented herself during her trial, and declared that the proceeding was “racist” and “fascist,” The New York Times reported.
She expressed no remorse for her offenses, and said she was “at war with America,” according to the New York Post.
In 2016, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo granted Clark clemency for her crimes, due to what he referred to as her “exceptional strides in self-development.”
Cuomo’s move made Clark eligible for parole 37 years before she would have otherwise qualified.
The parole board member who cast the tie-breaking vote to grant her parole request was Tana Agostini, who married a convicted murderer after Cuomo appointed her to the board in 2017.
The parole board claimed that Clark’s release was justified due to the number of years she had served, her apologies to the families of the victims, her age, her accomplishments in prison, and her claims that she no longer believes in radical ideology, the Associated Press reported.
"There are so many more Judith Clarks out there – elder, incarcerated New Yorkers who have honestly confronted their crimes, taken responsibility, served their time, and worked to change the path of their lives," Hoylman said in support of the bill.
But many lawmakers and local officials were outraged by the proposition.
Onondaga County District Attorney Bill Fitzpatrick, who prosecuted dozens of cases involving some of New York’s most infamous murderers, called the proposed legislation “insane,” WSYR reported.
“In my 40 years of public service I don’t think I’ve ever seen an organization that cares less about victims that they could even consider such a piece of legislation,” Fitzpatrick told The Post-Standard.
"It's nuts," Republican State Senator Bob Antonacci said, according to the Associated Press. "It's unbelievable that a cop killer is being freed."
Antonacci cited a recent case as an example of why he opposes the bill.
“Just yesterday in Onondaga County, a ruthless killer was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole,” he said in a statement to WSYR. “But wait – if my liberal Senate Democrat colleagues have their way, proposed bill S2144 would allow [the convicted murderer] to be eligible for parole at age 55.”
“I am opposed to this bill. Passage of this bill will not make us safer,” Antonacci added.
“The current Senate Democrat Majority continues to show they care more about criminals than they do the victims and their families,” the senator declared. “Subjecting victims and sadly in most cases, the surviving family members, to these parole hearings will cause further pain and suffering, hearings that under current law would not be required.”
The state senate finance committee passed the bill on April 9 with a 5-2 vote, and referred it to the finance committee, The Post-Standard reported.
A similar version of the bill has also been introduced in the State Assembly.