A Letter from Assemblyman Weprin

Dear Editor:

New York State, alongside the Federal Government, has embarked on a historic period of criminal justice reform in the last few years. On the federal level, legislation such as the recently implemented First Step Act, passed by Congress and signed by the President earlier this year, allows inmates in federal custody the opportunity for earlier release if an inmate has maintained a clean record while in prison and invested in improving themselves while incarcerated. Since 2017, New York has raised the age of criminal responsibility for juveniles to 18 for all but the most heinous of crimes, eliminated cash bail to make it so that people are held based on the seriousness of the crime they are accused of committing rather than the size of their bank account, and made significant changes to our court system to speed up our trials.

Jewish organizations like the Aleph Institute, founded in 1981 at the express direction of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, and L’Asurim, a Jewish not-for-profit organization dedicated to serving the Jewish community in preventing and reducing crime, have been instrumental and can be credited for the bipartisan change we are seeing on the State and Federal level. As Chair of the New York State Assembly Committee on Correction since 2017, I have had the opportunity to work with many of these organizations, be a part of this change, and engage in this difficult work. I have been able to introduce and pass several pieces of legislation to improve our state’s jails, prisons, and courts, while maintaining public safety and protection. Among the bills passed and signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo that I have prime-sponsored include legislation to bring body scanners to Rikers Island, so our city’s Correction Officers aren’t subject to slashing attacks from hidden blades and knives held as contraband, legislation criminalizing fraudulent staged auto accidents, and a bill that allows local governments to assign community service as a penalty, something that until last year wasn’t possible in New York State. I’m also proud of my “liberal” legislation that provides more transparency in cases of prisoner death, requires more educational programming for inmates in prisons, and preserves in-person visiting at our state’s correctional facilities, which has the support from most of my Republican colleagues.

Yet, a recent letter in the Queens Jewish Link appears to call into question this work by focusing on one bill affecting the state’s parole process. A bill I recently introduced would allow certain inmates eligibility for a parole hearing only if they have been incarcerated for at least 15 years and are of 55 years of age. The intent of this bill is to allow a parole hearing, and not a guaranteed release, for aging prisoners who have grown old and spent decades in our state’s prisons. Many of these individuals are far different people today than the day they entered a prison, they have matured during their time incarcerated, and are waiting for a chance to redeem themselves of their criminal past. Older inmates often also necessitate additional care, as older inmates are wards of the state by law and require specialized medical care. My bill would responsibly allow the parole board to look at these cases individually and would only allow for a release in cases where the person would pose little risk to public safety.

Additionally, upon hearing from crime victim families, including Devorah Halberstam, mom to Ari Halberstam, who died in a terror attack on the Brooklyn Bridge, I made several amendments to this bill, to exclude those who have committed the most heinous of crimes, like those who have murdered law enforcement officers, terrorists, the perpetrators of hate crimes, and inmates who have been sentenced to life without parole, or when the intent of a long sentence was to effectively be a sentence of life without parole.

Reforming our criminal justice system is no easy task, but by working together, we can help both Jewish families and inmates – and non-Jewish families and inmates – get on a path towards redemption and success.

Assemblyman David Weprin


Jogging and Walking…
and Falling

Dear Editor:

More attention must be given to the hazards of falling – a health advisory.

According to the National Council on Aging, one in four Americans over the age of 65, falls each year. In 2014, older Americans experienced 29 million falls, resulting in seven million injuries.

Among older adults, the CDC reports that falls are the leading cause of death. The agency reports that, in 2012, there were 2½ million falls that required a trip to the ER, and 700,000 of these injured victims required hospitalization.

Most falls occur in homes, hospitals, and places of work. To avoid these types of falls at home or indoors, caution must be taken to avoid floors that are wet or greasy, cords that cross a walk path, loose rugs or curled up carpets, broken floorboards, door saddles that are not graded or slanted, and of course furniture that is awkwardly placed that obstructs a pathway. Proper footwear, not too loose or too tight, is important also to have a secure step. If one is under the influence of medication, care should be taken to walk with a walker or a home aide.

About ten percent of all falls are occur on sidewalks due to ice conditions or broken/uneven concrete blocks. With reference to that, I’d like to say the following:

I’ve been running/jogging on city sidewalks for decades – even as a kid to school – and I can count on one hand the number of times that I took a splat but it was always a clean fall on the palms of my hands with maybe a sore shoulder along with that. But last year, when jogging and not paying close attention, scanning ahead, I thought the sidewalk was even when I took a nasty fall. My hands took some of it but I ended up also with my face hitting the concrete. The side of my face was scraped and I had a gauche by my cheekbone and the inside of my upper lip was bleeding. I thank G-d that I didn’t hit my forehead, teeth, nose or eye. I went to the emergency room and they gave me a tetanus shot, stitched me, and cleaned me up. When I went back to that spot after a day or so, I saw that the sidewalk was even only on one side but was raised on the other. Upon reading up on joggers falling, I see that it is quite common for joggers to talk about how they avoid falls or how they deal with the consequences of falls. On an anecdotal level, I’ve spoken to neighbors and people that I know from the community who told me about their experiences dealing with a fall on a sidewalk.

What prompted me to revisit this subject now is that just this past Shabbos I spoke to two people in shul who each told me of his or his wife’s fall that resulted in one case of a broken wrist and in another with the person’s two front teeth broken and an injured knee.

As stated before, if you’re not looking at the whole sidewalk, you can be fooled by seeing one side of it being level while the other side is uneven. Whenever I fell in the past, it was because of raised concrete levels on the sidewalk. Now I do mostly fast walking which is almost as good, cardio-wise. The trip hazards are everywhere, and you practically have to watch your every stride to see that you’re not going to get snagged on one of them if you are going to run. If you’re going to run fast for a short distance, you have to be aware that the momentum of your body going forward in an uncontrolled fall is quite dangerous, and you have to be very aware of what you’re stepping on! When I see someone running on a sidewalk with his hands in his pockets (even when it’s not on a cold day), I try to get his attention to let him know that it’s not safe for him to do so because, in the event of a fall, you need your hands to be very ready to brace yourself, and if your hands are in your pockets, you’re eliminating that precious fraction of a second to react.

So, to sum up: Walking, especially for the elderly, wherever it may be, is serious business and should not be engaged in while distracted. If jogging or walking fast, monitor the sidewalk continually; but if jogging, make it a rather slow stride. Of course, you also have to monitor the distant view – that you don’t bump into someone, and to see that some yuckel isn’t rolling up on you with a bicycle illegally on the sidewalk, while not even honoring to ride on the right side.

Abe Fuchs


Social Security and Socialism

 To The Editor:

According to President Trump and the national conservative news media, someone who simply supports a federal government social program that helps people, like Social Security and Medicare, is a “crazy socialist.” If we go by that definition, then that would make Presidents Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon “crazy socialists,” because they both signed into law new federal government social programs that help people, and they both supported Social Security.

In fact, Ike wrote a letter to his brother in which he said that any Republican who wants to abolish Social Security is “stupid.” It appears that conservative Republicans have become more aligned with “the Radical-Right” and more “stupid” since around 1980, because we sure do have a lot of them nowadays who want to abolish Social Security and move our country toward “Survival-of-the-Fittest” Social Darwinism.

For example, I just saw President Trump’s “Acting Chief of Staff” and “Budget Director” Mick Mulvaney on television.

When he was a Congressman, he was a favorite of “the Tea Party” and was well-known for stating that Social Security is a “Ponzi scheme,” that it is “unconstitutional,” and that it should be abolished. More and more, today’s national Republican Party stealthily advocates for a creeping “Survival-of-the-Fittest” Social Darwinism.


Stewart B. Epstein