Hochul grants 10 clemency – Queens Daily Eagle
By Jacob Kaye
Governor Kathy Hochul granted clemency to 10 New Yorkers on Christmas Eve, marking the first time she has used the power bestowed only on the state’s top leader since taking office in August.
Pardons can take the form of pardons, granted to people who have already served their prison sentence, or commutations, granted to people who are currently serving a prison sentence. Of the 10 pardons granted, nine were granted to New York immigrants with criminal records that threatened their ability to stay in the United States
Ana Sanchez Ventura, Juan Vinas, Faustino Reyes, Sandra Williams, Francisco Vargas, Orlando Fernandez Taveras, Hanley Gomez, Juan Suazo and Edilberta Reyes Canales were all pardoned by Hochul on December 24.
In Reyes Canales’s case, pardon will likely go a long way in helping him avoid deportation, governor says – Reyes Canales faces an upcoming deportation hearing.
Hochul also commuted the sentence of Roger Cole, a 55-year-old man who was serving a sentence of 85 to 100 years. Cole, who earned his GED, an associate’s degree and several certifications, has been in prison for more than three decades.
“As governor, I have a unique and solemn responsibility to carefully use the power of pardon to address those in the criminal justice system who have made mistakes and taken extraordinary measures to rehabilitate themselves,” said Hochul said in a statement. “I grant mercy to those deserving people who have exemplified rehabilitation, and I pledge to increase transparency and accountability in this process going forward. No one should be defined by their worst mistake, and these people have worked tirelessly to atone for theirs. ”
Advocates for criminal justice reform have called on Hochul – as they did on former Governor Andrew Cuomo – to do more with regard to his pardon powers. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to ravage prisons and prisons statewide, advocates say the release of incarcerated people, especially those who are older, is a matter of life and death.
Beyond the current danger presented by the virus, Reformers have embarked on a multi-year campaign to commute the sentences of older prisoners and give them the opportunity to take their cases to a reformed parole board.
Jose Saldana, the director of the campaign for the release of the elderly in prison, said he was disappointed that Hochul had used his switching powers to end the sentence of a single New Yorker.
“Today Governor Hochul has radically let down the black and Latin communities by granting clemency only to an incarcerated New Yorker,” said Saldana. âAs we welcome this person into our home and celebrate for their loved ones, and as we also recognize the saving value of pardons given to those long released, we are heartbroken to know that so many of our mothers, fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers are suffering behind bars and facing a slow death sentence.
“Hochul has not granted any clemency to an incarcerated woman, and her minimal action means that thousands of elderly people continue to languish needlessly behind bars,” he added. âInstead of talking about what she will do, we call on her to take real action now and move forward in granting much more leniency to New Yorkers who are incarcerated frequently, in an inclusive and transparent manner.â
The struggle to get the governor to use more of his clemency powers predates Hochul. Cuomo did not grant leniency during his first four years in office. By the time he left office, he had granted clemency to 41 New Yorkers after receiving at least 16,000 clemency requests, according to the RAPP. Five of those graces came in his last days in office.
Steve Zeidman, a lawyer and professor at CUNY School of Law, told the Eagle in August that commutations and pardons are often granted during the holidays. Clemence’s association with the holiday season is something he sees as arbitrary and unnecessary.
“It’s supposed to be that act of clemency compatible with the holidays and the New Year, but it seems to me that someone who deserves clemency on December 24, he surely earned it on November 24, October 3, June 5, choose your date, âZeidman said.
Hochul’s clemency also comes after a week-long social media campaign in which social media users shared photos of themselves asking the governor to “bring them home.”
Hochul responded last week by promising to institute a series of reforms to make pardons more common.
The governor said she would devote additional human resources to reviewing applications, a process which she hopes will lead to the granting of pardons on an ongoing basis.
Additionally, Hochul said that in order to “improve transparency in the leniency application and review process,” his office will publish the number of leniency applications that have been filed over the past year, how many were granted and how many were refused, each time it grants a request.
She is also committed to communicating with applicants whose files are open and under review and providing them with updates and information on how to submit additional information for their application.
Finally, Hochul said his office would work with the Executive Leniency Office, an organ of the state’s Department of Prisons and Community Oversight, to “provide better guidance to leniency applicants on the information they should include in their requests and how they should apply to the governor’s office aware of changes in their circumstances that could affect their case.