I’m a crime survivor who supports Elder Parole

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I’m a crime survivor working to pass Elder Parole and I’d like to tell you why.

Thirty-six years ago, the father of my unborn daughter was murdered right before my eyes. I loved him so much and suddenly he was gone. 

The pain was unbearable. I tried to take my own life. I used drugs. If I had not found a path to healing, I wouldn’t be here today. 

It wasn’t my first major trauma. At an early age, I was violated by two different family members. 

So I had already been through a lot when I was later arrested and sent to prison for selling heroin. That’s when my healing journey began. Let’s be clear, it wasn’t the police or the guards that helped me. Other incarcerated women showed me what humans often endure and how we can heal. 

Most of the women I met were survivors, too. Many were victimized while incarcerated. In fact, under the Adult Survivors Act, passed by state lawmakers in 2022, thousands of New Yorkers who suffered sexual violence and harassment have been able to seek justice in civil courts, and prisons and jails have been the most-sued parties. 

So we should pause and ask questions anytime prosecutors, sheriffs, and lawmakers claim to speak for all victims and survivors when they argue for harsher prison terms. 

By the time the man who murdered my daughter’s father was released from prison, he was a changed person, helping support his family, and I was in a better place. I had begun my new career as a harm reduction specialist promoting sexual health and working to end the AIDS epidemic, the overdose crisis, homelessness, and mass incarceration. I also had a loving relationship with my family, including my beautiful daughter, who never got to meet her father. For each other, we are the gifts he left behind. 

I can’t live in anger. It eats at your heart. 

Since this individual’s release from prison, my heart has only grown. The heart is a muscle. Like any muscle, if you use it right, it gets stronger. I take from mine and give it to others, and it grows back twofold. 

So, what does justice mean to me? It means taking accountability—and taking action to repair harm. 

Elder Parole offers older adults who have served long sentences a chance to be considered, on a case-by-case basis, for release, so they, too, have a chance to repair harm. It would reunite Black and brown and working-class families and help survivors like me heal.

Tracie Adams
VOCAL-NY leader and a Rochester community leader with the Release Aging People in Prison Campaign (RAPP)

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