Aging & Criminal Justice

The Policy Working Group’s current work concerns long-term sentences and people aging in prison.  The Center, the Correctional Association of New York (CANY) and its Releasing Aging People in Prison Project (RAPP), and the Osborne Association have partnered to bring these issues to the attention of policy makers, other key stakeholders and the general public.   

The Center’s work in this partnership involved the coordination of a spring 2014 symposium.  Presenters and discussants included researchers, policy advocates, current and former policy makers and administrators, elected and appointed officials, and those who have directly experienced incarceration.  Proceedings of this meeting is published as a Center for Justice white paper. 

Reducing Incarceration: Endless Punishment, Long-Term Sentences, and Aging in Prison – Release and Reentry 

A symposium coordinated by Columbia University’s Center for Justice, with the co-sponsorship of our partners: the Release Aging People in Prison Campaign (RAPP;, the Correctional Association of New York (, the Osborne Association (, the Be the Evidence Project (, and the Florence V. Burden Foundation.

Presenters included:

  • Soffiyah Elijah, Executive Director of the Correctional Association of NY
  • Marc Mauer, Executive Director of The Sentencing Project
  • Phyllis Harrison-Ross, MD, member, New York State Commission on Correction
  • Lilliam Barrios-Paoli, Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services
  • Larry White, Advocate, rights of people in prison
  • Mujahid Farid, Lead Organizer of the Release Aging People in Prison Campaign
  • Brian Fischer, former Commissioner of Department of Correction & Community Supervision
  • Edward Hammock, former Chair of the New York State Parole Board
  • Will Bunting, American Civil Liberties Union
  • Danylle Rudin, Florence V. Burden Foundation
  • Liz Gaynes, Executive Director of the Osborne Association
  • Tina Maschi, PhD, LCSW, ACSW, Founder and Executive Director of the Be The Evidence Project
  • Karen Murtagh, Executive Director of Prisoners’ Legal Services of New York
  • Jamie Fellner, JD, Human Rights Watch
  • Rev. N.J. L’Heureux, Exec. Director Queens Federation of Churches

The growing population of elderly and aging people in prisons is one of the many effects of mass incarceration over the past 30 years. Mandatory minimum sentence laws instituted in the 1980s have placed many individuals in prison on long-term sentences that are not particularly commensurate with the crimes for which they were convicted. In addition to that problem, one of the issues we’re addressing is that of increasingly difficult parole criteria. In New York State, we have observed that parole boards quite often judge applicants on the seriousness of the original crime and take no account of their demonstrated rehabilitation.

About RAPP 

RAPP’s purpose “is to promote and witness a process and procedure established whereby elderly people incarcerated in New York State, who have already served considerable time behind walls and are no longer a threat to public safety, are given fair and inclusive release consideration.”[1] Pertinent aspects include reform of parole practices, risk assessment analysis, compassionate release, older adult and geriatric medicine, and the augmentation and expansion of re-entry services for older persons. Mujahid Farid, a 2013 Soros Justice Fellow, is the coordinator of RAPP.

Please find more information about the RAPP Campaign here.  Read and sign RAPP’s petition here.

To find out more about the Correctional Association of New York and the Osborne Association, visit our community partners page here.