Hochul Bring Them Home: Organizational Sign on Letter
Please join the coalition of advocates across New York State in our collective call for Governor Kathy Hochul to grant clemency in New York State. Please share this letter with your networks and encourage other organizations to sign on.

**Please do not publish this letter on social media, in the press, or anywhere else.**

Full letter here:

Dear Governor Hochul,

New York State’s prison system has harmed countless people, families, and communities for decades. Our state’s prisons disproportionately harm Black and Latinx, poor and homeless, Trans, and other marginalized New Yorkers. They do not promote safety and deter crime, and cost taxpayers billions of dollars.

Over the last several years, incarcerated people and their families, advocates, attorneys, elected officials, and you as Lt. Governor and now Governor have supported various reforms that have helped reduce the prison population and improve some conditions. While we appreciate and support these reforms, and will continue to work for more, New York State’s prison population is still nearly three times the size it was in the early 1970s, when most people mark the beginning of the era of mass incarceration. Incarcerated people are regularly killed, tortured, and harmed by staff abuse and neglect. An incarcerated person in New York State prisons dies every three days, permanently separating families and forever removing community members from regions across the state. These dueling crises and injustices of our state’s prisons demand more and urgent action. That’s why we are calling on you to take action through executive clemency.

As Governor, your vast clemency powers allow you to end mass incarceration tomorrow with the stroke of a pen. The New York State constitution explicitly grants you the power to commute the sentence of any incarcerated person, either through a reduction of their sentence that grants their release, or a sentence reduction that shortens their remaining time behind bars. There are no limits to your clemency power, and given the nature of New York’s prison crisis, we are urging you to use it. The undersigned organizations call on you to move forward a bold, common-sense clemency agenda that rests on three principles:

Frequent: Most governors view clemency as a gift for the holidays or new year. During his 10-year tenure, in almost all instances in which Andrew Cuomo granted clemency, it was to a  handful of people in late December or early January. We don’t believe that values of mercy and redemption, and the exercise of clemency, should be limited to once or twice per year. We call on you to grant clemencies on an ongoing, frequent basis throughout the year.

Inclusive: Incarcerated people are convicted of many different crimes and serving all sorts of sentences. Many people have grown older in prison after decades of incarceration while others have spent far less time in prison. Roughly two thirds of the prison population is serving a term of incarceration for a violent crime, while thousands of others are serving convictions New York deems as “non-violent.” We believe that the power of clemency should be extended across these demographics, categorically including all people for clemency consideration, and not excluding anyone based on the nature of their crime, sentence, or time served. We believe that everyone is deserving of redemption and a second chance, and call on you to promote a value and principle of inclusion in your clemency practice.

Transparent: In 2014, after former Governor Cuomo launched a clemency initiative, thousands of incarcerated people and their families submitted clemency applications. Since then, most of those  people have never received a response from the executive branch about the nature of their application. There is no public information about who in the Governor’s office is responsible for reviewing clemency applications or how applications are processed and evaluated.  There is also no publicly available data provided documenting the number of clemency applications submitted, responded to, granted, or denied. This leaves many incarcerated people and their families in a state of despair. We call on you to center public transparency in your office’s use of and processes associated with clemency review and decision-making.

We call on your office to apply these three principles to all of your administration’s clemency practices and processes because it is the right thing to do and because it will further prove to New Yorkers that there is, finally, a commitment to meaningfully address the crisis of mass incarceration here in New York State. During his time in office, former Governor Cuomo  granted clemency to only  41 incarcerated people despite having thousands of meritorious applications on his desk. In 2020 alone, he granted clemency to less than 1% of all people who applied. 31 times more people died in prison during Cuomo’s tenure than were granted clemency--a total of more than 1,300 people. Unless you break from this  inhumane approach to clemency, these tragic figures will continue to destroy the lives of so many across the state. We urge you to immediately take these clemency actions.


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