In addition to the elder parole legislation in HB 2399 and SB 2120 that has been introduced in Illinois, legislators in New York and Iowa are also sponsoring elder parole legislation.
The bills pending in New York and Iowa, like the elder parole legislation in Illinois, recognize that persons with life sentences should have the opportunity to show that they have become rehabilitated and are ready to be released.
In New York, Senate Bill S15 and Assembly Bill A3475 provide that if an incarcerated person is 55 years or older and has served at least 15 years, the parole board shall conduct a hearing and determine whether the person should be released to community supervision. The board is required to release the person if the board determines that the there is a reasonable probability that if the person is released, he or she will live and remain at liberty without violating the law and that the release is not incompatible with the welfare of society. If the board decides not to release the person, the board will inform the person of the reasons for denial of release and will set a date for reconsideration no more than 24 months later.
Sponsors from both parties have introduced House Bill 277 in the Iowa House of Representatives. This bill would give persons currently sentenced to life without possibility of parole, who are in a minimum custody status and have served at least 25 years, the opportunity to apply to have their sentences commuted. The legislation would establish a life imprisonment review committee that would make recommendations to the governor as to whether to commute an applicant’s sentence. The committee would send its recommendation to the governor and parole board, and the parole board would be permitted, but not required, to make its own recommendation to the governor. The governor would then have the right to grant or deny the application to commute the sentence to a term of years, or to send the matter to the sentencing court, to reconsider whether the person should be re-sentenced to life with the possibility of parole. If the governor failed to act on an application, the committee would be required to send the matter to the sentencing court to either reaffirm the previous sentence or to re-sentence the individual to life with the possibility of parole.
Both the New York and Iowa bills, like the Illinois bills, do not require that an elder person be released.
Rather the bills give each person who satisfies age and time served requirements the right to apply for release and to show the decision-makers that they should be released based on their own individual circumstances.
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