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How old is ‘too old’ to be in jail? Advocates push for release of seniors in prison

A coalition of groups backing criminal justice law changes are urging state lawmakers to back a bill that would allow for the release of prison inmates who are age 55 or older and have served more than 15 years in prison.

The letter, signed by more than 100 groups and sent to Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, comes amid deaths of older inmates and highlights one woman who served decades in prison, earned college degrees and helped train service dogs for wounded veterans.

The woman, Valerie Gaiter, died in August at 61, 10 years before she would have been eligible for parole.

“Elder parole is a common sense, evidenced-based, and fiscally responsible way to save lives, reunite families and communities, and reinvest millions of taxpayer dollars into much needed public resources,” the letter states.

“The bill affords people in prison aged 55 and older who have served 15 or more years in prison an opportunity to go before the Parole Board.”

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