NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — Parole reform is on deck in Albany, even as lawmakers focus on fixing the new law on bail.
State Sen. Gustavo Rivera, D-Bronx, is re-introducing a bill that would free convicted criminals from jail if they can prove they have reformed.
"The reason why the Fair and Timely Parole Act is necessary is because, first of all, I believe in redemption. I believe that you as an individual should not be judged by the worst thing you have ever done. You can change, " Rivera said. "Now I'm not saying that there are not knuckleheads out there or inside prison who are never going to accept responsibility, who are never going to move on and who are going to be a danger to society, but that is exceedingly rare and we should not build a criminal justice system based on those cases."
Rivera tells the WCBS 880 In Depth podcast this week that his bill would place a greater focus on remorse and rehabilitation in determining if prisoners should be released.
"What we're trying to do with this bill is to explicitly say to parole board members, 'You must consider in a real way and weigh it in a real way who these people are today, not who they were the day that they committed whatever crime they're in here for,'" Rivera said. "They still have the authority to say, 'We believe that you will present a danger to society if you go back out.'"
The proposed reform is not without its critics, including police unions and victims rights groups, who believe those who try to kill police officers or those who murder police should never be paroled.
Rivera knows it's complicated but he still believes that even in some of those cases, redemption is possible and worth considering.
Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez has said he is in favor of the proposal, while Queens and Staten Island prosecutors called the bill “outrageous and idiotic.”