BUFFALO, NY (WBFO) – He had not yet read the proposed legislation as of Friday. But Erie County District Attorney John Flynn says, in his gut, he does not support bills now in Albany that would grant certain older inmates a chance for parole.
Under so-called “Elder Parole” bills now in the Assembly and the State Senate, inmates who have served at least 15 years upon turning age 55 would be eligible for a parole hearing. Prison release would not be guaranteed, as a panel would be required to determine whether the individual would pose a risk to society if set free.
Supporters of the legislation argue that older inmates have a lower chance of recidivism and early release would ease the prison crowds and financial strains to continue incarcerating them. Opponents bristle at the thought of releasing individuals who have committed crimes including murder, rape or other violent offenses.
Flynn, prefacing his remarks by noting he had yet to review the bills, expressed opposition to the idea of letting those who killed or committed violent crimes free after just a few short years.
“I’m not open to look at a 40-year-old man, a 40-year-old woman, an adult, who commits murder and 15 years later wants to get out because their 55,” he said. “That ain’t flying.”
But Flynn is willing to consider the idea for offenders who committed crimes at a young age and have proven their rehabilitation while behind bars.
“If it was a kid, and they’ve done 38 years in jail now, and now they’re 55 after doing 38 years in jail, and they’ve turned their life around in prison, got their GED, become a preacher in prison and are giving Bible study classes every week, and we look back and say this kid was a child – he was an abused child, came from a single mom, he had nothing, was in poverty and yes did something wrong – now I’m more open to look at that.”
The bill is sponsored in the Assembly by Queens Democrat David Weprin and in the Senate by Manhattan Democrat Brad Hoylman. The latter introduced a similar bill previously in 2018 but it died in committee.