To the editor,

I write in reference to Assemblymember Will Barclay’s recent column, “The Year of the Criminal.”

This year we passed much-needed, common sense reforms that begin to rectify the decades of harm and lost human potential caused by mass incarceration. These reforms reflect legislative changes taking place across the nation and are supported by most New Yorkers. New Yorkers who, in November, made clear that they were tired of the backwards policymaking of a Republican Senate and voted in a strong Democratic Senate Majority.

Assemblymember William Barclay’s obvious priority is keeping jails and prisons filled, and maintaining a woefully imbalanced and unjust legal system. Barclay’s piece is riddled with the dehumanizing language of perpetual punishment that drives mass incarceration and make our state less safe.

As a formerly incarcerated individual, I know about the root causes of harm and instability in communities. Poverty, lack of access to education, housing, services and jobs, and the denial of human dignity and civil rights are the true barriers to building strong, healthy communities across our state.

New York State’s elected leadership has shown that they understand the immeasurable damage caused by mass incarceration by passing historic pretrial reforms, expanding the civic rights of formerly incarcerated people, limiting arrests for low-level allegations, and taking steps to reduce the collateral harms of arrest and conviction. We applaud these actions, and strongly support the passage of additional legislation to expand parole release, end long-term solitary confinement, legalize and regulate marijuana, restore voting rights to people on parole, and more to ensure fairness and justice across the legal system.

Rosemary Rivera

Co-Executive Director

Citizen Action of New York

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