Rally held to push for bill giving elderly inmates a chance for parole

NEW YORK (WABC) -- Advocates of parole reform held a rally Wednesday night following the death of a woman who had served decades in the New York state prison system.

About 100 people, many of them former inmates themselves, gathered in Lower Manhattan.

They rallied for the passage of a bill named for Valerie Gaiter, who died of cancer in state prison after serving 40 years of a 50 year sentence. Many of those who attended had done time with her.

Gaiter murdered an elderly couple in Brooklyn during a robbery in 1979, but those at the rally said that she hadn't posed a threat to society for many years.

"She was 61, she had committed her crime. She did what she did, she repent her sins," said one woman who served with Gaiter at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility.

And there are hundreds of elderly, declining people in prison.

"They pose no threat, they fully expressed remorse," said attorney Ron Kuby. "They've been punished enough and it's time to consider sentence review, parole review for the elderly."

Supporters say the proposal isn't a 'get out of jail free' card, but it does guarantee inmates who are over 55 years old who have been in prison more than 15 years an appearance before the Parole Board so that they can decide if the inmate is still a threat to society.

The people they are trying to help committed serious, sometimes heinous crimes. But they stressed that inmates like Gaiter deserve a chance at parole.

"When Valerie Gaiter left prison for the last time, going to the hospital, she weighed 84 pounds," said Kuby. "People do age out of crime."

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