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Pushing for parole reform

Black History month is more than celebrating, it's about looking at issues impacting people of color.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — New York State lawmakers are being asked to pass parole reform It's called the Fair & Timely Parole and Elder Parole bills. 

Buffalo Defense Attorney Jeremy Schwartz sees the injustices with many of his clients. 

"Most of my clients are black or people of color and it's just as difficult for those individuals to get a normal job even when they haven't been to prison or to survive in society even when they haven't been to prison. They have all of those same struggles, but then they are multiplied by having to reintegrate into society."

Rev. Al Sharpton of the National Action Network participated in a virtual press conference on Tuesday. He said "when we look at people that can do all kinds of white collar crime and write a check and get probation if they ever get prosecuted and we look at the people that are in jail for minor stuff, they get years, and years and years, and then get set up sometime in jail. We have got to break this up."

He is seeing changes in New York.

"One of the biggest things that has happened recently is that they are not incarcerating people for what are called technical violations. In other words if somebody that hasn't committed a crime, maybe violates their curfew by showing up too late or neglects to tell their parole officer that they received a speeding ticket, they are not necessarily going to be locked up right away," he said.

Greg Mingo was granted clemency by former governor Andrew Cuomo."I lived for 40 years inside the prison system. I can tell you all the horrors and stories of redemption and there are so many elders in there waiting to come home and give back to their community."

Attorney Schwartz said it's important to keep an open mind. "It needs to be understood that someone who has been in jail for maybe 10 years or more is going to make mistakes or have fallbacks because they're not used to society."

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