We must pass this legislation to end mass incarceration in New York.

Eliminate Mandatory Minimums Act

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Mandatory minimum sentencing drives mass incarceration, strips judges of discretion, and grants outsized power to prosecutors to coerce guilty pleas. This bill will eliminate mandatory minimum sentences, including New York’s two- and three-strike laws, allowing judges to consider the individual factors in a case. In doing so, the Eliminate Mandatory Minimums Act (S.7871- Myrie / A.9166 - Meeks) will fully and finally undo the harm of the Rockefeller Drug Law era. This legislation would also create a presumption against incarceration, requiring a hearing before any period of incarceration can be imposed and re-orienting the system towards healing and accountability and away from knee-jerk prison sentences.
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Second Look Act

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The Second Look Act (S.7872- Salazar / A.8894- Walker) will allow judges to review and reconsider excessive sentences. Under current sentencing laws, incarcerated people have no opportunity to demonstrate to a judge that they have transformed while incarcerated or to seek a reconsideration of their sentences based on changes in law and norms. The Second Look Act will allow incarcerated people to apply for a resentencing hearing after they have served 10 years or half of their sentence.
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Earned Time Act

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Following the federal 1994 Crime Bill, New York State slashed programs for incarcerated people and dramatically limited the time people could earn off their sentences. The Earned Time Act (S.7873A - Cooney / A.8462B- Kelles) will strengthen and expand “good time” and “merit time” laws to encourage personal transformation in prison and reunite families.
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Why do we need the Eliminate Mandatory Minimums Act
(S.7871- Myrie / A.9166 - Meeks)?

Mandatory minimum sentencing laws are a significant driver of mass incarceration and grant alarming power to prosecutors to coerce plea deals. 

Because of mandatory minimum sentences, prosecutors can charge or threaten to charge a person in such a way that they would be guaranteed a harsh prison sentence. By “up-charging,” or charging someone with a more serious crime than the case warrants or that they could prove in court, prosecutors purposely intimidate an accused person into pleading guilty in exchange for a reduced sentence. This creates a system where New Yorkers forfeit their constitutional rights to trial and are convicted without a chance to mount a meaningful defense. As a result, 96% of felony convictions and 99% of misdemeanor convictions in New York State are the results of guilty pleas, not a trial.

New York’s mandatory minimums also strip discretion from judges by requiring them to hand down prison sentences based on the charges imposed by prosecutors rather than their evaluations of individual cases. New York’s mandatory minimums and two- and three-strike laws were passed as part of the Rockefeller Drug Laws in the 1970s. It’s time to undo this harm and eliminate mandatory minimums.

Why do we need the Second Look Act
(S.7872- Salazar / A.8894- Walker)?

Over the past 50 years, New York’s laws have resulted in increasingly harsh sentences — with no opportunity for sentencing judges to review and reconsider individual cases.

Decades-long prison terms have become the norm in New York. Every year, nearly 1,000 people are sentenced to 10 or more years in prison, and over 4,000 people—more than 10% of people in prison—have been there for 15 years or longer. New York State has the third-largest population of people serving terms of life imprisonment in the country. Nearly 7,000 New Yorkers are currently serving life sentences. This is unconscionable given the human capacity to grow and change. 

Those who are serving lengthy sentences have no opportunity to demonstrate to a judge that they have changed after years or decades in prison or that, given changed laws and norms, the sentence is no longer appropriate. Judges have spoken out about their inability to review sentences that they later deemed extreme or unjust. The Second Look Act will allow judges to review and reconsider excessive sentences.

Why do we need the Earned Time Act
(S.7873A - Cooney / A.8462B- Kelles)

Despite clear research that longer prison sentences increase rather than reduce recidivism, New York has shifted its focus from rehabilitation to warehousing people in prison for as long as possible.

During the 1990s, New York State slashed programs for incarcerated people and dramatically limited the time people could earn off their sentences. This included eliminating financial aid for incarcerated college students, decimating college-in-prison programs. New York also restricted access to merit time based on conviction type, eliminating key opportunities for rehabilitative programming and earned time for thousands of New Yorkers each year.

This is cruel—and counterproductive. Research shows that longer prison sentences increase rather than decrease recidivism. Research also shows that earned time opportunities help to prepare incarcerated people for reintegration, reducing recidivism rates and correctional costs. New York is substantially behind other states—including traditionally conservative states—on allowing incarcerated people to earn time off their sentences. The Earned Time Act will strengthen and expand “good time” and “merit time” laws to encourage personal transformation in prison and reunite families.  

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