By: Yoselin Person via WKBW Buffalo
BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — The New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision has announced they’ll discharge eight thousand people on parole from supervision by March 31st.
This comes after Governor Kathy Hochul signed the “Less is More Act” back in September of 2021.
Eddie James Henley, who was sentenced to eight years for illegal firearm possession, says this will help move many forward.
“The main reason like myself have been violated for little or nothing,” Henley says. “Like curfew or perhaps marijuana in their system. They’re violated, but this will alleviate these guys going back to jail for small things.
Peaceprints of Western New York helped Henley to get back on his feet.
Henley now works at a truck company.
Peaceprints offers comprehensive re-entry services, including access to housing, mentoring, and food programs for those involved in the criminal justice system.
Its CEO, Cindi McEachon, explains why the discharge of parolees is an important step for the justice system.
“This ties to parole violations and specifically to the technical violations. When you prior to the Less is More Act, if you violated it your parole it was automatic incarceration in the local jail while you waited,” McEachon says. “Unfortunately, someone can be sitting in jail for a hundred days waiting for a hearing, so what Less is More did was give individuals who’s experiencing those violations some alleviation of you would not sit in jail. You’ll remain in the community.”
According to DOCCS, the only people excluded from this legislation would be those serving life sentences.
The department couldn’t say how many people would be released in Buffalo.
However, a Less is More Executive Team member says before this act, people of color would be incarcerated five times more than White people for technical violations of parole.
They believe this will help address racial disparities in our justice system.
“The folks that are getting out of parole and the state is saving money from the Less is More Act that money should now be invested in things that keep us safe and promote public safety like investing in affordable and long term housing,” Yonah Zeitz says.
But the number of individuals getting out of parole may be a challenge.
“Eight thousand people are coming out, and despite the coordinated efforts in Erie County between Peaceprints and the Department of Corrections to mitigate any laps, folks are going to come out with issues, and we don’t have the capacity,” the CEO of PeacePrints says.
Others say they hope the community in Buffalo understands the release of parolees is the next step in transforming the parole system.