MetroFocus: December 7, 2021

NEW DOCUMENTARY ON THE NOTORIOUSLY DIFFICULT NY PAROLE INTERVIEW PROCESS

In order for one of the approximately 7,000 people in the New York State Prison system serving a life sentence to be released they must first sit for an interview with the State Parole Board. These interviews are notoriously difficult and are often the sole reason why inmates are not released on parole, despite completing all the other necessary steps. “The Interview,” a new short film presented by The New Yorker, examines the parole interview process and how it’s gotten much more difficult over time. One of the directors, Jonathan Miller, joins us along with two men featured in the film who went through this parole interview process and now work to help others through it, Mark Shervington and Anthony Dixon.

 

 

TRANSCRIPT

> THIS IS 'METROFOCUS,' WITH RAFAEL PI ROMAN, JACK FORD AND JENNA FLANAGAN.

'METROFOCUS' IS MADE POSSIBLE BY -- TO SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III, SYLVIA A. AND SIMON B. POYTA PROGRAMING ENDOWMENT TO FIGHT ANTI-SEMITISM, THE PETER G.

PETERSON AND JOAN GANZ COONEY FUND, BERNARD AND DENISE SCHWARTZ, BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG, THE AMBROSE MONELL FOUNDATION.

AND BY -- JANET PRINDLE SEIDLER, JODY AND JOHN ARNHOLD, CHERYL AND PHILIP MILSTEIN FAMILY, JUDY AND JOSH WESTON, DR. ROBERT C. AND TINA SOHN FOUNDATION.

> GOOD EVENING.

WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS.'

I'M JENNA FLANAGAN.

THERE ARE APPROXIMATELY 7,000 PEOPLE SERVING LIFE SENTENCES IN PRISONS ACROSS NEW YORK STATE.

AND IN ORDER FOR THEM TO BE RELEASED, THEY MUST COMPLETE A NUMBER OF TASKS TO PROVE THEY HAVE CHANGED.

THE MOST SIGNIFICANT AND MOST DIFFICULT OF THESE TASKS IS THE MEETING WITH THE NEW YORK STATE PAROLE BOARD.

'THE INTERVIEW' SHINES A LIGHT ON HOW DIFFICULT THESE HEARINGS ARE, AND EXPLAINS HOW THE INTERVIEWS ARE OFTEN THE SOLE REASON WHY MANY REMAIN BEHIND BARS LONG AFTER THEY FEEL THAT THEY HAVE BEEN REHABILITATED.

THE FILM FEATURES SEVERAL FORMALLY INCARCERATED PEOPLE WHO TELL THEIR OWN STORIES OF THE COMPLICATED AND PAINFUL PAROLE INTERVIEW PROCESS.

TAKE A LOOK.

NOBODY WANTS TO TALK ABOUT THE WORST THING THEY EVER DID, ALL RIGHT?

NOBODY WANTS TO TALK ABOUT THAT.

I TRIED TO GO IN THERE AND JUST BE HONEST, JUST BE HONEST.

THAT'S ALL YOU CAN DO.

I WAS HOPING THAT I WAS GOING TO BE ABLE TO GO HOME AND BE WITH MY SON AND MY MOM.

YOU'RE BEING ASKED TO RELIVE A MOMENT.

I WAS SCARED.

I FIGURED IT WOULD BE HOSTILE.

YOU SIT DOWN AND YOU THINK ABOUT WHAT COULD YOU SAY?

WHAT WOULD YOU SAY?

MY WORST PERIOD OF MY LIFE WILL NOT FOREVER DEFINE ME.

AND JOINING ME NOW TO DISCUSS THIS FILM AND THE NEW YORK STATE PAROLE SYSTEM IS THE DIRECTOR OF 'THE INTERVIEW' JONATHAN MILLER.

JONATHAN, WELCOME TO THE PROGRAM.

THANKS FOR HAVING ME.

WE'RE ALSO JOINED BY TWO PEOPLE THAT APPEAR IN THE FILM WHO READ THROUGH THE PAROLE INTERVIEW PROCESS THEMSELVES AND NOW WORK TO HELP OTHERS SECURE THEIR RELEASE FROM PRISON.

FIRST, WE HAVE MARK.

WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS.'

THANK YOU.

THANK YOU, JENNA.

AND WE'RE JOINED TONIGHT BY ANTHONY DIXON.

ANTHONY, WELCOME TO THE SHOW.

THE HONOR IS MINE.

THANK YOU.

ABSOLUTELY.

JONATHAN, FIRST I WANT TO START WITH YOU AND ASK AS THE DIRECTOR OF THE FILM, WHAT DREW YOU TO THIS TOPTOPIC?

SO OFTEN WHEN WE TALK ABOUT THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM, IT'S ABOUT CATCHING BAD GUYS AND SENDING THIS EMTO THE JAIL THAT'S AS FAR AS MOST OF THE PUBLIC THINKS ABOUT IT.

SO A NUMBER OF YEARS AGO I HAD SEEN A PRESENTATION BY SOME OF THE FOLKS RUNNING THE PAROLE PREPARATION PROJECT AT THE TIME.

IT'S AN INCREDIBLE ORGANIZATION.

THAT DO A LOT OF GREAT WORK TO GET PEOPLE OUT OF PRISON.

SO THEY WERE DOING THIS PRESENTATION ABOUT THIS ISSUE AND WHAT THEY WERE DOING, AND ONE OF THE THINGS THAT STRUCK ME INITIALLY WAS THIS IDEA THAT YOU CAN BE DENIED PAROLE JUST BASED ON THE NATURE OF YOUR CRIME, WHICH TO ME KIND OF FLIES IN THE FACE OF LIKE THE BASIC FAIRNESS OF THE SYSTEM.

LIKE HERE YOU HAVE THIS SYSTEM THAT'S SUPPOSED TO ON SOME LEVEL INVENT VDCHS -- INSENTIVIZE PEOPLE TO CHANGE.

BUT THE ONE THING YOU CAN NEVER CHANGE IS FOREVER STOPPING, YOU KNOW, THE SYSTEM FROM WORKING, THEN THAT -- IT SEEMED LIKE -- IT DIDN'T MAKE SENSE.

IT WASINHERENTLY UNFAIR.

SO I STARTED THINKING ABOUT HOW PAROLE WAS COVERED IN THE LOCAL MEDIA, AND WHEN THERE'S A DISCUSSION OF PAROLE, IT'S ALWAYS IN THE CONTEXT OF SOMEONE IS ELIGIBLE FOR PAROLE AND YOU HEAR FROM THE COMMUNITY, IT'S ALL ABOUT THE FEAR OF THIS PERSON COMING HOME.

BUT YOU NEVER HEAR THE PERSPECTIVE OF, YOU KNOW, THE PERSON UP FOR PAROLE, HIKE WHO ARE THEY TODAY, HOW HAVE THEY CHANGED, WHAT SIT LIKE TO GO THROUGH THIS, YOU KNOW, VERY BRIEF INTERVIEW EXPLAINING LIKE HAVING TO TALK ABOUT THE WORST THING YOU EVER DID, AND THAT BEING LIKE THE ONLY WAY FOR YOU TO GET OUT OF PRISON.

SO THAT WAS SORT OF THE SEED WHERE THE FILM CAME FROM, TRYING TO GET PEOPLE TO HEAR THESE STORIES AND WHAT THIS IS LIKE FOR THEM.

SPEAKING OF PEOPLE GIVING THOSE FIRST HAND ACCOUNTS, MARK, WHAT WAS YOUR EXPERIENCE OF GOING THROUGH THE PAROLE INTERVIEW?

WHEN DID YOU FIRST, I GUESS, APPLY FOR PAROLE.

WELL, FIRSTLY, WITH THE INDETERMINANT SENTENCING STRUCTURE IN THE STATE OF NEW YORK, AN INDIVIDUAL WHO WAS UP FOR PAROLE, DOESN'T REQUEST IT, IS AUTOMATICALLY SCHEDULED FROM THE MOMENT YOU ENTER THE SYSTEM.

SO IN 2000, ABOUT -- AFTER I SERVED THE MINIMUM TERM OF MY SENTENCE, WHICH WAS 15 YEARS, WHICH I INITIALLY BECAME ELIGIBLE FOR PAROLE AND SCHEDULED FOR AN INTERVIEW.

I WAS DENIED NINE TIMES FROM THAT POINT GOING FORWARD.

IN EACH OF THOSE INSTANCES, THE EXPERIENCE WAS ONE -- IT WAS MORE OF AN ADVERSARIAL TYPE OF SITUATION, WHERE I WAS BASICALLY -- IT WAS AS IF I WAS IN COURT WITHOUT A LAWYER.

INTERESTING.

ANTHONY, THE SAME QUESTION TO YOU.

WHAT WAS YOUR PAROLE EXPERIENCE LIKE?

THANK YOU.

MY PAROLE EXPERIENCE WAS LIKE A FOREGONE CONCLUSION.

WHEN I THINK ABOUT THE PAROLE BOARD AND MY EXPERIENCE GOING THROUGH THERE, I THOUGHT WHEN I FIRST STARTED MY SENTENCE, I WAS GIVEN 30 YEARS TO LIFE, THAT I WAS GOING TO EVENTUALLY APPEAR BEFORE THEM, IF I LIVED LONG ENOUGH, AND IF I WAS NOT ABLE TO SECURE A POST SENTENCE APPEAL SUCCESSFULLY, THAT THEY WOULD JUDGE ME ON WHAT I DID INSIDE, WHY I WAS THERE FOR 30 YEARS.

I WENT IN AT A VERY EARLY AGE, AND I CAME BEFORE THEM AT AN ELDERLY AGE.

AND I THOUGHT THAT THEY WERE GOING TO LOOK AT MY ACCOMPLISHMENTS, THEY WERE GOING TO LOOK AT WHAT THEY COULD TO SEE WHETHER I WOULD BREAK THE LAWS, IF I WAS GOING TO BE A LAW ABIDING CITIZEN, IF THEY WERE GOING TO LOOK AT MY EDUCATIONAL ACCOMPLISHMENTS, THE LIFE THAT I TURNED AROUND, THAT I DID LIKE A 180.

I HAD LETTERS FROM SENIOR STAFF, A PROGRAM THAT SAVED A LIFE.

I ALSO HAD LETTERS FROM OFFICERS WHO WERE AROUND ME FOR 10 OR MORE YEARS.

AND DESPITE ALL MY ACCOMPLISHMENT, AND EVERYTHING THAT WAS WRITTEN IN MY FAVOR, THEY DENIED ME MY FIRST AND SECOND TIME.

SO NOW JONATHAN, I WANT TO BRING US BACK TO THE FILM.

ONE OF THE THINGS THAT I THOUGHT WAS INTERESTING WAS THAT THIS IS VERY MUCH A NEW YORK THING, THAT NEW YORK STATE ACTUALLY START OF CREATED THIS SYSTEM OF, I GUESS, THE PAROLE INTERVIEW.

WELL, I THINK ANTHONY -- I LEARNED THIS FROM HIM, SO HE MIGHT BE ABLE TO SPEAK TO THAT.

OKAY.

IF THAT'S ALL RIGHT.

OH, ABSOLUTELY.

ANTHONY, PLEASE.

YEAH.

SO AS YOU DO A LITTLE BIT OF RESEARCH ON THE FIRST BEGINNINGS OF PAROLE, YOU'LL FIND OUT IT STARTED OUT AS A NEW YORK EXPERIENCE AND LEGENDARY CORRECTIONAL FACILITY.

IT WAS FIRST FOR JUVENILES AND IT WAS SHORT LIVED.

LATER ON, THAT MODEL WAS SPREAD THROUGHOUT THE NATION AND MADE ITS WAY BACK TO NEW YORK IN THE 1930s.

SO WHEN I REFERENCE IT, I'M SAYING THAT NEW YORK WAS, IN FACT, THE FIRST PLACE THAT CONCEPT OF PAROLE ACTUALLY STARTED.

AND IT WAS CREATED PREMISING THE IDEA OF ONE TO ADDRESS OVERCROWDING -- OVERCROWDED PRISON POPULATION.

AND TWO, TO LET PEOPLE OUT TWO HAD THE LESS LIKELIHOOD OF RETURNING TO PRISON.

MARK, I WANT TO BRING YOU BACK INTO THE CONVERSATION AND ASK, DO YOU HAVE -- DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU'VE BEEN ABLE TO GAIN ANY UNDERSTANDING AS TO WHY YOU WERE DENIED PAROLE NINE TIMES?

IS THERE ANY SORT OF UNDERSTANDING OF WHAT THE BOARD IS LOOKING FOR WHEN AN INDIVIDUAL, A PRISONER COMES BEFORE THEM FOR THIS INTERVIEW?

WELL, TAKING OVER WHERE ANTHONY LEFT OFF, THE PROCESS ITSELF IS WRITTEN AND EXPLAINED, DETAILED IN THE LAW.

I KNOW THAT AMONG OTHER THINGS, THE -- AN INDIVIDUAL'S CRIME IS ONE OF THE ELEMENTS THAT THE PAROLE BOARD MUST CONSIDER, NOT EXCLUSIVELY THAT.

THE WAY THE PROCESS IS DETAILED IN THE LAW, HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE WAY IT ACTUALLY WORKS IN REALITY.

THE BOARD -- THE PAROLE BOARD HAS PRETTY MUCH BECOME A LAW UNTO ITSELF, TO THE EXTENT THAT THEY HAVE ASSUMED PREROGATIVE OF INFLICTING PUNISHMENT FOR ITS OWN SAKE BEYOND WHAT THE COURTS MAY HAVE DEEMED APPROPRIATE.

IN MY CASE AND SO MANY OTHERS, INCLUDING ANTHONY'S, THERE WAS NO PUBLIC OUTCRY.

NO ONE WAS BEATING DOWN THE GATE OR PROTESTING AGAINST OUR RELEASE.

THE BOARD DECIDED THAT -- FOR OUR RESPECTIVE CRIMES, WE HAD NOT BEEN PUNISHED ENOUGH.

ALTHOUGH IN MY CASE, THE JUDGE SAID I COULD BE RELEASED AFTER 15 YEARS, WHICH IS HOW I WAS SCHEDULED TO BE CONSIDERED FOR PAROLE AT THAT POINT IN THE SENTENCE.

THE PAROLE BOARD, ACTING IN THIS QUAUSI JUDICIAL ROLE, DOUBLED WHAT THE COURT SAID.

SO I HAD SERVED APPROXIMATELY 30 YEARS WHEN I WAS RELEASED INSTEAD OF 15.

WHAT I THINK HAS HAPPENED IS THAT POLITICS HAS BECOME PRIORITIZED OVER THE ACTUAL LAW, AND THE PURPOSE OF PAROLE, WHICH IS IN TERMS OF THE BOARD ITSELF, THAT MAKES THE RELEASE DECISION, THEIR FUNCTION IS ONE OF EVALUATION.

PUNISHMENT IS EXCLUSIVELY THE JUDGE'S BUSINESS.

THE JUDGE DETERMINES THAT UP FRONT.

WHILE AN INDIVIDUAL IS INCARCERATED, THEY ARE SUPPOSED TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF ANY OPPORTUNITIES TO MAKE CONSTRUCTIVE CHANGE AND TURN THEIR LIVES AROUND.

I AND SO MANY OTHERS, INCLUDING ANTHONY ANTHONY, HAVE DONE SO AND YET STILL REPEATEDLY BEING PUNISHED FOR THE CRIME THAT SENT US TO PRISON.

AS IF COMMITTING A CRIME, WE WERE NO LONGER DEEMED HUMAN ANY MORE.

THIS I BELIEVE IS WHAT HAPPENED A @ PAROLE BOARD.

ANTHONY, FROM YOUR PERSPECTIVE, FIRST OF ALL, WHAT DO YOU AGREE WITH WHAT MARK WAS SAYING AND WHAT WAS YOUR PERSPECTIVE ON WHAT THE PAROLE BOARD WAS EVEN LOOKING FOR.

WAS THAT EVEN MADE CLEAR TO BEGIN WITH?

IT WAS CONTINUING LOCK STEP WITH THE CULTURE OF PUNISHMENT.

THAT WE ALL EXPERIENCED.

IT WAS SOMETHING THAT'S BEEN AROUND FOR LIKE 30 YEARS NOW.

AND IT HAS NOT ABATED IN A LOT OF ITS WAYS.

IT HAS MADE SOME INCREMENTAL MOVES AWAY FROM THAT, BUT IT'S STILL A SYSTEM OF PUNISHMENT.

WHEN I THINK OF THE PAROLE SYSTEM, I THINK IT'S A PLACE WHERE THE LEAST LIKELY ARE ABLE TO RETURN TO SOCIETY THAT ARE GOING TO EVER COMMIT A CRIME AGAIN.

I THINK ABOUT A SYSTEM THAT ALLOWS THE PAROLE BOARD TO RESENT TENSE, AS MARK MENTIONED, AND GIVE MORE TIME THAN WAS LEGALLY ALLOWED.

I THINK THE PAROLE SYSTEM THAT PRESUMES TO KNOW MORE INTIMATELY ABOUT THE FACTS OF OUR CASE THAN A PRESIDING JUDGE.

AND A SYSTEM THAT BREEDS HOPELESSNESS.

WE HAVE INSTANCE WHERE IS INDIVIDUALS COMMITTED SUICIDE BECAUSE THEY GAVE UP ON THE PAROLE BOARD.

WE HAD ONE INSTANCE RECENTLY OF AN INDIVIDUAL THAT WAS DENIED PAROLE SO OFTEN, THAT HE WENT BACK JUST TO GO THROUGH THE PROCESS.

WHEN THEY FINALLY INDICATED THAT THEY WOULD RELEASE HIM, HE ASKED TO GO TO THE RESTROOM TO CATCH HIS BREATH.

HE COULDN'T BELIEVE IT.

AND IT WAS IN THE RESTROOM THAT HE CAUGHT A STROKE AND LATER ON HE DIED.

BECAUSE HE COULDN'T BELIEVE THAT HE WAS GOING TO BE RELEASED.

HE HAD GIVEN UP AND WAS ONLY GOING FOR HIS GRAND DAUGHTER AND DAUGHTER BECAUSE THEY BEGGED HIM TO.

I KNOW A FRIEND OF MINE THAT COMMITTED SUICIDALITY THE SAME PAROLE BOARD THAT I WENT TO.

AND HE WAS MORE QUALIFIED TO MAKE THE BOARD THAN ALL OF US COMBINED.

HE WAS A MENTOR OF MINE.

HIS NAME WAS JOHN McKENZIE.

SO WE'RE NOT JUST TALKING ABOUT DEATH BY INCARCERATION, BUT DEATH BY HANDS OF THE PAROLE BOARD ITSELF.

AND THEY EVEN GO BEYOND WHAT THE SENTENCING JUDGE WAS ALLOWED TO DO.

AND I WANT TO UNDERSCORE THIS POINT.

RIGHT NOW, ONE OUT OF EVERY THREE INDIVIDUALS IN NEW YORK STATE HAVE A LIFE SENTENCE.

ONE OUT OF EVERY THREE.

WE ARE -- AND BY THAT RATIO, WE HAVE THE SECOND LARGEST POPULATION OF LIFERS IN THE COUNTRY.

YOU MEAN ONE OUT OF EVERY THREE PRISONERS.

YES.

OKAY.

I JUST WANTED TO BE CLEAR.

BUT THAT'S AN INCREDIBLY HIGH NUMBER.

SO JONATHAN, I WANT TO BRING YOU BACK IN, BECAUSE WE ALSO UNDERSTAND THAT THE RATE OF RELEASE HAS DROPPED SIGNIFICANTLY.

WE WERE -- THERE WAS ABOUT 60% RELEASE RATE IN 1987, AND THAT HAS DROPPED TO ABOUT 3% IN 2004.

WHY DID THAT HAPPEN?

I THINK A LOT OF THAT -- I'M SURE MARK AND ANTHONY CAN SPEAK A LOT TO THIS THAN I CAN.

BUT IT WAS THE RISE OF MASS INCARCERATION.

THIS IDEA OF PUNISHMENT AND APPOINTING XHCOMMISSIONERS WHO WERE 'TOUGH ON CRIME.'

I THINK A LOT OF THAT WAS RACISM, AND THE WAY POLITICIANS SORT OF RIDE ON THAT TO GRAB POWER.

AND THIS SYSTEM, YOU KNOW, WE ARE SLOWLY, SLOWLY CHANGING.

BUT CERTAINLY NOT ANYWHERE NEAR FAST ENOUGH.

OKAY.

WELL, THEN, TO MARK AND ANTHONY AND MARK, I'LL START WITH YOU.

HOW MUCH DO YOU THINK THE NATURE OF A CRIME FACTORS INTO THE WAY A PAROLE BOARD ADDRESSES SOMEONE WHO IS SEEKING OR HOPING FOR PAROLE?

BECAUSE I'M SURE THERE ARE PEOPLE AT HOME SAYING WELL, IF IT WAS A REALLY VIOLENT CRIME, THEN MAYBE THAT PERSON SHOULD.

BE RELEASED BACK INTO SOCIETY.

CAN YOU SPEAK TO THAT?

YES.

FIRSTLY, IT HAS BEEN KNOWN BY CORRECTIONAL PROFESSIONALS FOR DECADES THAT FOLKS INCARCERATED FOR VIOLENT CRIMES HAVE THE LOWEST RECIDIVISM RATE.

THEY'RE THE LEAST LIKELY TO COMMIT ANOTHER CRIME UPON RELEASE.

YET WE WERE AND STILL ARE THE LEAST LIKELY TO BE PAROLED.

SIMPLY BASED ON THAT FACT.

AS ANTHONY POINTED OUT, THE ONE THING THAT WILL NEVER CHANGE, THE CRIME THAT BROUGHT ME TO PRISON BEFORE THE PAROLE BOARD IN THE FIRST PLACE.

I BELIEVE THE DECISIONS ARE, IN LARGE PART, THE RELEASE DECISIONS ARE ARBITRARILY MADE.

'THE NEW YORK TIMES,' FOR EXAMPLE, HAS INVESTIGATED A FEW YEARS BACK, THIS WAS FOLLOWED UP BY THE ALBANY TIMES UNION, TO, YOU KNOW, SHOWING THAT BASICALLY ASIDE FROM THE POLITICS, YOU KNOW, OF CRIME, AS JONATHAN POINTED OUT, THERE'S ALSO A HEAVY DOSE OF RACISM.

AND I CAN SPEAK TO THAT.

I CAN ATTEST TO THAT.

AT THE NINTH PAROLE BOARD WHERE I WAS INTERVIEWED, ANOTHER GENTLEMAN WAS THERE ALSO, WE WERE BOTH INCARCERATED FOR MURDER.

THE DIFFERENCE WAS, HE WAS CAUCASIAN, I WAS NOT.

HE WAS INCARCERATED FOR A TRIPLE HOMICIDE.

THERE WAS A SINGLE VICTIM IN MY CASE.

HE WAS RELEASED BY THE SAME FOLKS WHO DENIED ME AT PAROLE BOARD NUMBER NINE.

I LATER ON LITIGATED THAT DECISION.

IT WAS OVERTURNED BY A COURT, AND THE JUDGE BASICALLY TOLD THEM THEY MUST BE OUT OF THEIR MINDS, GIVEN MY RECORD, WHICH WOULD PROBABLY BE COMPARABLE TO ANTHONY'S AND SO MANY OTHERS, INCLUDING MANY THAT I LEFT BEHIND, ORDERED TO GIVE ME A NEW HEARING.

THEY DID, AND AT THIS POINT I WAS RELEASED.

IT TOOK THAT FOR ME TO GET A FAIR HEARING.

AT THAT LAST PAROLE HEARING.

NUMBER TEN WAS THE ONLY TIME THAT I WAS NOT BERATED FOR THE FACT THAT I COMMITTED A CRIME, TO -- AND THOSE ARE THE THINGS THAT I BELIEVE THE PUBLIC MAY NOT BE AWARE OF IN TERMS OF THE RECIDIVISM RATES.

FOR MANY, I WOULD BELIEVE IT'S A CASE OF FEARMONGERING AMONG POLITICIANS.

THAT HAS TO STOP.

THE FACTS ARE THAT ANTHONY, MYSELF, AND SO MANY OTHERS, INCLUDING THE FOUNDERS OF THE AGENCY THAT I WORK FOR, NOW THE SIBLING ORGANIZATION TO THE PAROLE PREP PROJECT, WHICH IS THE RELEASE AGING PEOPLE IN PRISON CAMPAIGN.

WE ARE FIGHTING FOR FOLKS TO HAVE A FAIR OPPORTUNITY, NOT AUTOMATIC RELEASE, WE'RE NOT ASKING FOR THE GATES TO COME TUMBLING DOWN, BUT LOOK AT PEOPLE FAIRLY, AS THE JUDGE ORDERED THE PAROLE BOARD TO DO IN MY CASE.

ANTHONY, I WANT TO ASK YOU, BECAUSE THAT'S ALSO SOMETHING THAT THE FEW PIECES OF THE PRISON SYSTEM THAT THE PUBLIC DOES HEAR ABOUT, ONE IS ABOUT THE AGING POPULATION BEHIND BARS.

THAT THERE ARE -- BECAUSE OF ZERO TOLERANCE LAWS AND MANDATORY MINIMUMS, THERE IS A SIGNIFICANT AGING POPULATION.

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT WHY THAT IS AN ISSUE?

RIGHT.

SO JUST A FEW YEARS AGO, THE COMPTROLLER OF NEW YORK STATE ISSUED A REPORT UNDERLINING THE URGENCY OF NEW YORK STATE GOVERNMENT TO DEAL WITH THIS ISSUE OF AN AGING POPULATION OF PEOPLE INCARCERATED.

THAT REPORT WENT UNHEEDED, AND IT HAS SINCE THEN, WHEN THAT REPORT WAS ISSUED, I THINK IT WAS TWO OUT OF EVERY FIVE.

THAT POPULATION IS BASICALLY AN ELDERLY POPULATION.

WE CANNOT CONTINUE THIS SUSTAINABLE TRACK AND THIS PATHWAY ECONOMICALLY EVEN, BECAUSE OF HOW MUCH IT COST TO HOUSE A PERSON INSIDE A PRISON THAT'S ELDERLY.

IT'S UPWARD OF $120,000 TO KEEP PEOPLE IN PRISON, THAT'S 50 AND 55 YEARS AND OLDER, AND IF THEY HAVE A MEDICAL CONDITION, IT GOES INTO LIKE $240,000 PER PERSON.

WE CANNOT SUSTAIN STRUCT STRUCTURALLY -- PRISONS WERE NEVER BUILT TO BECOME HOSPICE UNIVERSITIES, TO HOUSE ELDERLY PEOPLE.

IT MAKES MORE SENSE TO RELEASE INDIVIDUALS AFTER 15 YEARS, IF THAT MUCH, BECAUSE IF YOU RELEASE THEM, THEY CAN GO HOME AND GET A JOB.

OVER 60ER 70 YEARS OLD, THOSE INDIVIDUALS THAT YOU EQUIPPED WITH COLLEGE, AND OTHER PROGRAMS, THOSE DON'T WORK.

IT'S HARD TO FIND A JOB AND HOUSING, BECAUSE THE FAMILY IS NO LONGER AROUND.

AND SO WE ARE ON AN UNSU UNSUSTAINABLE TRACK BY GOING THE OLD SCHOOL WAY.

WE HAVE A BILL OUT CALLED THE ELDERLY BILL THAT ADDRESSES THAT, THAT SAYS IF A PERSON HAS BEEN IN PRISON FOR 15 OR MORE YEARS, AND IS 55 OR OLDER, THAT THEY GO UP BEFORE PAROLE INTERVIEW.

IT DOESN'T MEAN THEY ARE RELEASED, IT GIVES THE BOARD AN OPPORTUNITY TO SEE WHETHER THAT PERSON CAN BE RELEASED.

YOU KNOW -- I'M SORRY, JONATHAN.

I JUST WANTED TO ADD TO THAT, I THINK THE PANDEMIC AND EVERYTHING WE SAW WITH THAT UNDERSCORED THE URGENCY OF THIS ISSUE.

IT WAS OBVIOUSLY, YOU KNOW, COVID AFFECTS PEOPLE ELDERLY VERY DISPROPORTIONATELY.

AND WHEN THE DECISIONS WERE BEING DISCUSSED ABOUT WHO TO RELEASE FROM PRISON AND, YOU KNOW, BECAUSE OF LIKE COVID PRECAUTIONS, I THINK -- CORRECT ME IF I'M WRONG, BUT I THINK THERE'S AN AUTOMATIC EXCLUSION OF PEOPLE CONVICTED OF VIOLENT CRIMES.

SO THATMENT MANY ELDERLY PEOPLE WERE NOT ELIGIBLE FOR COMPASSIONATE RELEASE, EVEN THOUGH THEY WERE NOT A THREAT TO THE COMMUNITY OR WHATEVER.

JUST GIVEN HOW WIDELY COVID CONTINUES TO SPREAD IN PRISON, IT BECOMES VERY CLEAR HOW URGENT THIS ISSUE IS.

OF COURSE.

WE'RE COMING UP ON THE END OF OUR TIME TOGETHER.

SO JONATHAN, I'LL ASK YOU, WHAT IS IT YOU WOULD WANT THE PUBLIC TO TAKE AWAY FROM SEEING THIS DOCUMENT.

I THINK TO JUST FOLLOW UP ONE THING MARK SAID, I THINK THERE'S LIKE A HUGE MISCONCEPTION ABOUT PEOPLE WHO HAVE COMMITTED VIOLENT CRIMES IN THEIR PAST, OR ARE ELDERLY.

I THINK THE PUBLIC ASSUMES THERE'S A VERY HIGH RECIDIVISM RATE FOR EVERYONE.

AND THESE JUST NOT TRUE.

WHEN YOU LOOK AT THE SENTENCING, GOING BACK TO PRISON FOR ANY CRIME AT ALL, IS LESS THAN 1%. YOU KNOW, IT'S INCREDIBLY LARGE.

IT BECOMES VERY, VERY CLEAR THAT THIS IS A TOOL OF PUNISHMENT, IT'S NOT JUST LIKE A SYSTEM OF MERCY THAT'S BEEN CORRUPTED.

IT'S VERY CLEAR THIS IS SORT OF LIKE, YOU KNOW, HOW THE SYSTEM IS FUNCTIONING, I THINK PEOPLE -- I THINK THAT'S SOMETHING PEOPLE MAY CARE ABOUT THIS ISSUE IN A BROADER SENSE MAY NOT UNDERSTAND LIKE THE EXTENT TO WHICH THIS IS -- THIS IS HAPPENING.

AND THE EX-TENT TO WHICH LIKE, YOU KNOW, I THINK ANTHONY FOR EXAMPLE, STARTED A PROGRAM IN PRISON THAT HELPS PEOPLE AND HAS HAD, I THINK, A ZERO PERCENT RECIDIVISM RATE.

SO IT'S NOT JUST ABOUT INDIVIDUALS OR THEIR FAMILIES.

THIS IS, YOU KNOW, A HUGE GROUP OF PEOPLE WHO HAVE INCREDIBLE THINGS TO OFFER AND COULD BE BENEFICIAL AROUND DO A LOT MORE WORK LIKE WITHIN THE COMMUNITY AND, YOU KNOW, AT HOME WITH THEIR FAMILIES, WITH YOUNG PEOPLE.

THE MORE YOU LOOK AT IT, THE MORE IT BECOMES SO CLEAR.

WE'RE GOING TO HAVE TO LEAVE IT THERE.

MY GUESTS TONIGHT HAVE BEEN JONATHAN MILLER, HE IS THE DIRECTOR OF 'THE INTERVIEW.'

CO-DIRECTOR.

EXCUSE ME.

THE DOCUMENTARY FROM 'THE NEW YORKER.'

AND I'VE BEEN JOINED TONIGHT BY MARK SHERVINGTON AND ANTHONY DIXON, BOTH INDIVIDUALS WHO WENT THROUGH THE PAROLE PROCESS AND WERE FEATURED IN THE FILM.

THANK YOU FOR JOINING ME TONIGHT ON 'METROFOCUS.'

THANK YOU.

THANK YOU FOR HAVING US.

'METROFOCUS' IS MADE POSSIBLE BY -- SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III, SYLVIA A. AND SIMON B. POYTA PROGRAMING ENDOWMENT TO FIGHT ANTI-SEMITISM, THE PETER G.

PETERSON AND JOAN GANZ COONEY FUND, BERNARD AND DENISE SCHWARTZ, BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG, THE AMBROSE MONELL FOUNDATION.

AND BY -- JANET PRINDLE SEIDLER, JODY AND JOHN ARNHOLD, CHERYL AND PHILIP MILSTEIN FAMILY, JUDY AND JOSH WESTON, DR. ROBERT C. AND TINA SOHN FOUNDATION.

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