2019 Frederick Douglass Award - Release Aging People in Prison (RAPP)
RAPP’s leadership has become a unique and effective voice in Albany pressing for desperately needed changes to the parole system.
New York state has steadily reduced the number of incarcerated people over the last 20 years. But the state has stubbornly held onto parole practices that have left thousands of people to languish for decades in prison with no hope of release. This is cruel when there is ample research to show that in many cases these New Yorkers pose low risk to communities and could be released without compromising public safety.
But “tough on crime politics” has prevailed, at times silencing the voices of currently and formerly incarcerated people when they demand changes. Yet RAPP’s leadership, made up largely of formerly incarcerated people, has become a unique and effective voice in Albany pressing for desperately needed changes to the parole system.
RAPP leaders have zeroed in on specific policy and personnel changes to the Board of Parole to make it more accountable to its mission and to the public, including adding new members. They have found sponsors for strategic legislation to change parole policy. They have shared stories showing how high the true cost of endless incarceration is. They are shining a light on a part of the state government where the people suffering are carefully hidden from public view.
We’re recognizing RAPP for creating tectonic shifts in parole policy that were unimaginable a decade ago and that open the doors to challenging mass incarceration on multiple levels.