The Fight for Justice for Communities of Color Continues, Advocates Tell Albany


June 11, 2021

Rachel Cohen,, 917-370-8464

The Fight for Justice for Communities of Color Continues, Advocates Tell Albany

Justice Roadmap Celebrates Key Wins, But More Is Needed to End Criminalization of Black, Brown and Immigrant Communities

ALBANY, NY — As the 2021 legislative session comes to a close, the Justice Roadmap — a coalition of immigration and criminal justice advocates fighting to reverse the long history of criminalization of Black and brown New Yorkers — released the following statement: 

“We celebrate the passage of legislation ending marijuana prohibition once and for all (Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act), restricting solitary confinement (HALT Solitary), codifying the right to vote for people on parole, protecting trans New Yorkers from police harassment for simply existing (Repeal Walking While Trans Ban), and making emergency funds available to people who were excluded from unemployment and federal benefits (Excluded Workers Fund).

“However, we are dismayed that the legislature has once again failed to act on several critical pieces of legislation that are central to protecting the freedom of people of color and people who are poor across the state. New Yorkers will continue to experience draconian sentences behind bars and perpetual punishment when they return home because of Albany’s failure to pass Elder Parole, Fair and Timely Parole, and Clean Slate despite the mobilization of thousands of people demanding parole justice and expungement legislation this year. Additionally, Legislators have allowed local and state officials to continue collaboration with ICE by failing to pass the New York for All Act. People behind bars still do not have the Right to In-person Visits with loved ones, and are still de facto excluded from education because the legislature did not Restore the Tuition Assistance Program.

“Directly impacted New Yorkers, advocates, and communities will continue to push for the Justice Roadmap and the transformative change needed to protect people targeted at the intersection of the criminal legal and immigration systems. We will continue to call on the state legislature to live up to its mandate to represent and protect all New Yorkers.”

Individual Organizations said the following:

Justine Olderman, Executive Director of The Bronx Defenders, said: 

“The 2021 legislative session is a window both into how far we’ve come, and how much more work there is left to do. Thanks to the leadership of directly impacted communities and individuals, New York passed the strongest marijuana legalization bill in the country, repealed the Walking While Trans Ban, and struck a crucial blow against the use of state-sanctioned torture in the form of solitary confinement.

However, we are disappointed that lawmakers were unable or unwilling to keep that momentum going until the end of session. By failing to pass the New York For All Act, lawmakers stood with ICE instead of protecting our immigrant communities. The failure to pass Clean Slate, Elder Parole, or Fair and Timely Parole means that New York’s draconian sentencing laws, broken parole system, and web of enmeshed penalties will continue the cycle of perpetual punishment for both currently incarcerated and formerly incarcerated New Yorkers. Justice Roadmap remains ready to bring the fight to Albany until lawmakers uphold their responsibility to protect the rights of all New Yorkers, especially the Black and brown communities like those in the South Bronx that are too often targeted by the criminal and immigration legal systems.”

Victor Pate, Statewide Organizer for the #The HALTsolitaryconfinement Campaign said: “While we commend our legislature for passing some bills that will have some effect on the criminal justice system they did not go far enough. The Fair and Timely and Elder Parole bills should have been passed. We are of course thrilled that the legislature passed the HALT Solitary Confinement Act earlier this session after an eight-year people-powered campaign. But we are disappointed that these urgent and life-saving parole bills and the full and complete Justice Roadmap slate of bills were not passed and this system of racist and disproportionate application of justice is allowed to continue to exist.”

TeAna Taylor of the People’s Campaign for Parole Justice and the daughter of an incarcerated New Yorker said:
The New York State Legislature failed us when they failed  to pass the widely-popular Elder Parole and Fair & Timely Parole bills. Our lawmakers cannot pretend they don’t know about the humanitarian crisis of aging, death and despair behind bars – a crisis that devastates generations of mostly Black and Latinx families across New York State, including my own. Lawmakers know that people who have totally transformed themselves after years and decades of incarceration – people who should be home with their families and providing mentorship to young people – have no hope of release because of an unfair and racist system. Lawmakers know that the Parole Board is far more likely to deny release to Black and Latinx people than their white counterparts. With their failure to pass the Elder Parole and Fair & Timely Parole bills, lawmakers are condemning many more to die in prison, sustaining systemic racism, and denying people the possibility of redemption. They are playing the role of spectators at a mass lynching. We demand they reconvene and pass these bills immediately to give our friends and loved ones hope. We will keep fighting until they do what is morally right.”

Mizue Aizeki, Interim Executive Director of the Immigrant Defense Project, said: “The legislature has responded to the people on transformative issues this year, including ending prohibition of marijuana, which will protect many of the noncitizens we serve from deportation. But lawmakers are still turning away from the humanity of people who have committed more serious harms to others in the past, and leaving them to suffer draconian punishments, like life without parole and permanent exile. Justice Roadmap will continue to push for policy changes that break up the punishment paradigm that renders certain lives disposable because of their race, economic status, or past mistakes.”