Letter to the New York State Board of Parole Regarding Judith Clark

Letter to the New York State Board of Parole Regarding Judith Clark

January 31, 2017

New York State Board of Parole
Supervising Offender Rehabilitation Coordinator
Bedford Hills Correctional Facility
247 Harris Road
Bedford Hills, New York 10507-2400

Re: Judith Clark, DIN 83G0313

Dear Commissioners of the Board of Parole:

The Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York (“WBASNY”) submits this letter in support of the parole release of Judith Clark, DIN 83G0313. Ms. Clark’s initial sentence of 75 years to life was recently commuted and reduced to 35 years to life by Governor Andrew Cuomo, making Ms. Clark eligible for parole immediately.

WBASNY is an organization of over 4,400 attorneys and judges, female and male, dedicated to the advancements of women in law and society. With over 19 chapters across the State of New York, WBASNY advocates for legislation that promotes equal access to justice and gender equality, advocating for women and girls around the country and the world.

WBASNY is fully familiar with the facts and circumstances of the crime for which Judith has now served over 35 years in prison. While the underlying crime is indeed serious, several factors support the granting of parole, as set forth below.

First, it is indisputable that Ms. Clark has served her time productively and has demonstrated rehabilitation. The prison system in general is designed to allow willing prisoners to take advantage of its programs and further their education. If there were ever an example of a prisoner making the most of opportunities offered in prison, it is Judith Clark. In addition to earning both a B.A. and M.A. in behavioral sciences and psychology, respectively, Ms. Clark then put that education to work in helping to develop several extremely successful prison programs: AIDS Counseling and Education Program (which was replicated in prisons throughout the country); the College Bound program (bestowing Bachelor’s Degrees on prisoners), and the Nursery Program (allowing prisoners’ babies to remain in prison with their mothers until they are a year old). She also participates in the Puppies Behind Bars program, raising and training puppies to become guide dogs for the blind, explosive detection dogs for law enforcement agencies and service dogs for disabled veterans. Her poetry has been published in numerous journals and The New Yorker, her scholarly essays have appeared in various journals and in 1995 she was awarded the PEN Prison Poetry Writing Award. And she has mentored countless numbers of female inmates and assisted them in their rehabilitation.

Second, Ms. Clark’s sentence must not be viewed in isolation, and instead must be compared to others involved in the same crime. Ms. Clark was sentenced far more harshly than the mastermind of the crime as well as others who were at least as culpable as, if not more so, than Ms. Clark. As the driver of one of the getaway cars, Ms. Clark did not participate directly in the robbery or any of the shootings. She was not present at the initial robbery or the shooting of the Brink’s guard at the mall. Instead she was in a getaway car down the road from where the police officers were shot. Her female co-defendants, some of whom were more directly involved with the shootings, have already been released from prison. We submit that these are relevant facts in assessing her culpability as it relates to parole and the amount of time she has already served.

Finally, in an era where this country is moving away from mass incarceration, it is notable that Ms. Clark is fourth on the list of 25 longest serving female inmates, and 25th on the list of 25 oldest female inmates in the New York State Department of Corrections. Only four other female inmates share this distinction of being on both lists.

As the Parole Board is likely well aware, the “vision” of the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision is to “[e]nhance public safety by having incarcerated persons return home under supportive supervision less likely to revert to criminal behavior.” Simply stated, the goal of the NYS prison system is not to punish. Ms. Clark is not a danger to the community, and it can be said with a high level of confidence that she is unlikely to ever revert to criminal behavior. Her long incarceration has already served its purpose. As such, we believe her continued imprisonment serves no legitimate purpose.

At 67 years old and having already served 35 years, Ms. Clark is one of the oldest women inmates, serving one of the longest prison sentences in New York State. There is simply no purpose served, other than retribution, by continuing to imprison her. Ms. Clark has taken responsibility for her actions and has publicly disavowed the political violence she had engaged in. She has also expressed remorse and contrition for the consequences of her actions, and her defiant attitude and behavior at the trial. And she has demonstrated extraordinary rehabilitation.

Accordingly, WBASNY urges the Parole Board to release Ms. Clark. It is the right and humane thing to do.

Respectfully submitted,

Jacqueline P. Flug
President, WBASNY