Commutations Campaign

 

Survived & Punished NY demonstration, 2018

| What is a commutation?

A commutation of sentence, also known as Executive Clemency, is a reduction or elimination in sentence ordered by a Governor through executive power. In a commutation of sentence, a person is not absolved from a conviction completely, but their sentence is reduced or eliminated.

Commutations are sometimes the only way for many people to be released from prison, especially those with Life Without Parole (LWOP) sentences. Survivors of violence are particularly vulnerable to being punished with what many have called a living death sentence.

| Why are commutations particularly important now?

It’s a historic time for commutations in California: By the end of his term, 283 people were commuted by former Governor Jerry Brown. This is significant compared to 1-2 people commuted per term by past Governors since the 1960s.  With our allies, California Coalition for Women Prisoners (CCWP), the statewide California S&P team is building on this opportunity to release as many people as possible during Gov. Newsom’s administration. We want to see commutations in the thousands! Take action here.

S&P New York calls on Governor Cuomo to immediately use his clemency powers to free criminalized survivors of gender violence held in prisons in New York. Throughout his time in office, Governor Cuomo has granted pardons to just 163 people, and commuted the sentences of only a dozen people. These numbers are pitifully low compared to the more than 50,000 people held in prisons across New York State. The New York State Constitution grants the governor power to pardon or commute any sentence, at any time, for any reason. Our campaign calls on Governor Cuomo to use the powers of his office to immediately free criminalized survivors of gender violence! Join the S&P New York campaign here.

S&P New York and CCWP also released crucial Clemency & Parole Guides to help guide survivors and others through the process of seeking release from prisons. The video from the webinar, How to Apply for Commutations & AB2845, produced by S&P California and partners, is also available.

Want to learn more? Check out S&P blog posts about the commutations campaigns.

Valerie Seeley expresses her commitment to helping other women criminalized for survival and asking Gov. Cuomo to grant more clemencies. Valerie Seeley is a survivor of domestic violence and was granted clemency and released from Bedford Hills Correctional Facility in 2017 after serving 17 years in prison for defending her life from her abusive husband.

Anoop Prasad greets Ny Nourn upon her release from ICE detention.

| Why is this important for criminalized survivors of violence?

The vast majority of people in women’s prisons, and many in men’s prisons, are survivors of domestic and sexual violence. Survivors are criminalized while attempting to navigate dangerous conditions of abuse and coercion. Prisons and detention centers perpetuate cycles of violence through the “abuse to prison” pipeline and because they are themselves sites of systematic gendered violence. This must end. One crucial step for ending the criminalization of survival is fighting for the freedom of criminalized survivors, including survivors sentenced to die in prison.

| How can I support the campaigns?

Though there are grassroots campaigns underway in NY and CA, we need as much help as possible online from everyone! 

Action Steps:

THANK YOU!

  • Support the #FreeThemNY PostcardPalooza Campaign this June! We want New Yorkers to mail 10,000 postcards to Governor Andrew Cuomo in the month of June. Can you help us reach our goal? There are many ways to support the postcard campaign!
    1. If you are a New York resident, you can download the postcard templates here or here, and then print and mail it to Cuomo any time in June.
    2. Come to our upcoming events , where we will have postcards you can fill out in person. We will mail the postcards for you.
    3. If you want us to mail you a stack of postcards that you promise to have people in your community fill out and then mail directly to the Governor, email your mailing address to us at survivepunishnyc@gmail.com and we’ll mail you some cards.
    4. We’re a volunteer-led effort funded through grassroots donations so if you have the means to make your own postcards, we have a pair of templates, here and here, that you can print out and get people in your community to mail to Cuomo. You can then mail the cards yourself.
    5. If you want to donate to us to help us cover the postcard printing costs, you can do so here. (Select Survived and Punished NY so they allocate the funds properly.)
  • Join our mailing list
  • Endorse the campaign
    Please email us if you would like to initiate a conversation about your organization endorsing our campaign, or if you are interested in organizing with us directly.
  • Contact the governor
    Please call Governor Cuomo directly at 1-518-474-8390 if you can! You can also use the form linked above. Here is some suggested language you can use to begin the conversation or leave a message:

    I am disappointed in Governor Cuomo’s decision to exercise his clemency powers so rarely. New York should be a leader in addressing the crisis of incarceration. I stand with the #FreeThemNY campaign to demand Governor Cuomo immediately use his clemency powers to free criminalized survivors of gender violence held in prisons in New York.

More details at freethemny.org

Grassroots support helped secure commutations for the following incarcerated survivors in California: Tammy GarvinBarbara Chavez, Kelly Ann Savage, Christina Martinez, and Gabriela Solano! Also, Tammy, Barbara, Kelly, and Lynn Noyes have all been granted parole!  Keep the movement going by taking the following steps:

Art by Flynn Nichols