As an interfaith based organization, we believe that every person has inherent worth and dignity, and it is our responsibility to ensure that they are treated with compassion and justice. In late 2021, VOICE Buffalo launched its Street Certified Coalition, which focuses on providing a restorative space for formerly incarcerated individuals to heal, transform, and empower themselves. The committee recognizes the profound impact of the carceral and injustice systems on justice-impacted individuals, and is committed to supporting their restoration, leadership development, civic education and engagement, personal growth, and accountability. Through this work, the committee seeks to equip participants with the tools and resources necessary to achieve liberation. Leaders are deeply committed to addressing the systemic issues related to mass incarceration that disproportionately impact communities of color, particularly Black and Latino communities, as well as those living in poverty. To achieve this mission, leaders collaborate with community partners to implement strategies for reentry and alternatives to incarceration.
Street Certified is led by formerly incarcerated individuals who have firsthand experience with the challenges and injustices of the injustice system. This leadership structure is intentional and reflects the committee's belief that those who have been directly impacted by these systems are best positioned to understand and address their harms. Members of Street Certified share their stories, reclaim their story of self, and shift false narratives. They help others, including elected officials, to gain a collective understanding of how state and economic violence, mass incarceration and lack of resources has impacted the Buffalo community.
Street Certified believes that the problems within the injustice system are not only a matter of individual policy changes, but rather require a complete dismantling of the current system and a reimagining and building of new, more just systems. The committee sees its work as part of a larger movement towards transformative justice that seeks to address the root causes of harm and violence in society, rather than simply punishing those who have committed crimes. This is done through a multifaceted approach that involves addressing systemic inequalities, investing in marginalized communities, promoting restorative justice, investing in community based violence intervention, expanding access to social and economic opportunities, expanding access to mental health and substance abuse treatment, and diverting individuals away from the carceral system.
The bill would allow individuals to petition the court for the automatic sealing of their criminal records for certain eligible convictions after a certain period of time has passed since their completion of sentence, provided that they have not been convicted of any other crimes during that time. The bill proposes that eligible convictions for automatic sealing would include certain low-level offenses such as misdemeanors and non-violent felonies. The bill also includes provisions for the sealing of criminal records for certain eligible individuals who are currently incarcerated. If passed, this bill would be an important step in reforming New York's criminal justice system and helping individuals with criminal records to move forward with their lives without the stigma of past convictions hindering their ability to access employment, housing, and other opportunities.The bill would allow individuals to petition the court for the automatic sealing of their criminal records for certain eligible convictions after a certain period of time has passed since their completion of sentence, provided that they have not been convicted of any other crimes during that time. The bill proposes that eligible convictions for automatic sealing would include certain low-level offenses such as misdemeanors and non-violent felonies. The bill also includes provisions for the sealing of criminal records for certain eligible individuals who are currently incarcerated. If passed, this bill would be an important step in reforming New York's criminal justice system and helping individuals with criminal records to move forward with their lives without the stigma of past convictions hindering their ability to access employment, housing, and other opportunities.
This bill proposes to amend the state's civil rights law to allow individuals to bring a civil lawsuit against any person who deprives them of their rights under the state or federal constitution, or under any state or federal law. The bill aims to provide a remedy for individuals who have suffered harm as a result of violations of their rights, such as discrimination, retaliation, or violations of due process or equal protection. It would also provide for the recovery of damages and attorneys' fees for successful plaintiffs in these cases. If passed, this bill would provide an additional avenue for individuals to seek justice and hold accountable those who have deprived them of their constitutional or statutory rights.
Eliminate Mandatory Minimums Act A2036 - The bill proposes to amend the state's penal law to remove the requirement for mandatory minimum sentences for certain crimes, including drug offenses and some violent crimes. Instead, judges would have the discretion to impose sentences based on the circumstances of each case and the individual defendant. The bill also aims to establish a sentencing commission to study and make recommendations on sentencing practices and policies in the state, with a focus on promoting fairness and reducing racial disparities in the criminal justice system. If passed, this bill would be a significant step in reforming New York's criminal justice system and promoting more just and equitable sentencing practices. It would give judges more flexibility to consider the unique circumstances of each case and to tailor sentences to the individual defendant, rather than being bound by rigid mandatory minimums.
Second Look Act S321/A531 - seeks to authorize certain individuals who are currently confined in institutions operated by the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) to apply for a sentence reduction. The bill proposes to amend the state's criminal procedure law to allow individuals who have been convicted of certain crimes and are serving sentences of more than 10 years to apply for a sentence reduction. Specifically, eligible individuals would need to demonstrate that they have served at least 10 years of their sentence and that they meet certain other criteria, such as having completed rehabilitative programming and having a low risk of reoffending. The bill also includes provisions for the establishment of a review process for these applications, which would involve a hearing and the consideration of various factors such as the nature of the offense, the individual's criminal history, and their conduct while incarcerated. If passed, this bill would provide a pathway for certain individuals who have demonstrated rehabilitation and a low risk of reoffending to have their sentences reduced, allowing them to potentially return to their communities earlier and to have a second chance at a productive and meaningful life.
Earned Time Act S774/A1128 - The bill proposes to amend the state's correction law to allow individuals who are serving sentences in state prisons to earn credits towards early release based on their participation in rehabilitative programs, academic and vocational education, and positive behavior while incarcerated. Under the bill, eligible individuals could earn up to six months of credits for each year of their sentence, with the potential for additional credits for participation in certain programs or for exemplary conduct. The bill also includes provisions for a review process for these credits, which would involve the consideration of various factors such as the individual's conduct and progress towards rehabilitation. If passed, this bill would provide an incentive for individuals who are incarcerated to participate in rehabilitative programs and to exhibit positive behavior, with the goal of reducing recidivism and promoting successful reentry into society. It would also provide a mechanism for eligible individuals to earn early release from their sentences, which could help to alleviate prison overcrowding and reduce costs associated with incarceration.
No Slavery in NY Act (S.225/A.3412) - seeks to amend the state's penal law and criminal procedure law to abolish slavery and indentured servitude as a punishment for persons convicted of a crime. The bill would amend the definition of "slavery" in the penal law to include any condition of forced labor or services imposed on a person as a result of a criminal conviction, and prohibit such practices as unconstitutional and cruel and unusual punishment. The bill would also establish a commission to study and make recommendations for reparations for individuals and communities impacted by slavery and indentured servitude. If passed, this bill would mark an important step in addressing the ongoing legacy of slavery in the United States and ensuring that individuals convicted of crimes are not subjected to forced labor or services as a form of punishment.
Fairness and Opportunity for Incarcerated Workers Act (S416A/A3481B) - a proposed legislation that seeks to establish a state prison labor board in the state of New York. The bill proposes to create a board that would be responsible for overseeing and regulating labor practices within state prisons, including the use of inmate labor. The board would be composed of seven members, appointed by the governor and other state officials, with expertise in labor relations, criminal justice, and related fields. The board would be tasked with developing and enforcing standards for the treatment and compensation of incarcerated workers, ensuring that they receive fair wages and are not subject to exploitation or abuse. The board would also be responsible for promoting job training and education programs that could help prepare inmates for reentry into society after their release. If passed, this bill would establish important protections for incarcerated workers in the state of New York, ensuring that they are not subject to unfair labor practices and are given the opportunity to develop skills that could help them successfully reintegrate into society. It would also help to promote greater transparency and accountability in the use of inmate labor within state prisons.
Proposed legislation that seeks to establish a statewide emergency and crisis response council in the state of New York. The bill proposes to create a council that would be responsible for developing and implementing strategies for responding to emergencies and crises in the state, such as natural disasters, public health crises, and other emergencies. The council would be composed of representatives from various state agencies and other stakeholders, including local governments, emergency responders, and community organizations. The council would be tasked with developing a statewide emergency and crisis response plan that would outline procedures for responding to emergencies and coordinating resources across different agencies and jurisdictions. The council would also be responsible for conducting regular training and drills to ensure that emergency responders are prepared to respond to a wide range of emergencies. If passed, this bill would help to improve the state's overall readiness for emergencies and crises and ensure that resources are effectively coordinated and deployed in response to emergencies. It would also help to promote greater collaboration and communication across different agencies and stakeholders, which is essential for effective emergency response.
Communities across the country are re-imaging their approach to public safety. One way Erie County can begin to re-imagine its approach to public safety would be to not dispatch law enforcement to every 911 call, especially when there are mental health concerns. The Community Responders for Erie County Coalition, along with experts, community members and directly impacted individuals recommend that Erie County take bold action to reduce community interactions with the police that are better handled by health professionals and peers by investing in a Community Responder Team.