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Organization Aims to Get Elderly Prisoners Who Have Served Sentences Released

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Some formerly incarcerated senior citizens have launched an organization to get elderly prisoners who have served their sentences released, but they say the parole boards routinely deny them, even though the seniors are considered low-risk. NY1's Cheryl Wills filed the following report.

Mohaman Koti is believed to be 87 years old. He was sentenced to 25 years to life in 1978 for opening fire on a police officer, who survived. He needs a wheelchair to get around, he's hard of hearing, and he suffers from a long list of ailments. He's been turned down for parole more than six times.

Koti's incarceration, and that of other seniors like him, has sparked a movement to get elderly prisoners out of jail after they have served their time.

"It's my personal mission because of exactly what happened to me," said 64-year-old Mujahid Farid, the founder of a grassroots coalition called "Release Aging People in Prison," or RAPP.

As a young man, Farid got into trouble with the law and was sentenced in 1978 to 15 years to life. He served 33 years. He was denied parole eight times and was released at the age of 62.

"When you talk about seniors, the recidivism rate is in the single digits," Farid said.

Statistics show that the recidivism rate for the general population is about 40 percent, but for senior citizens, it's about 3 percent.

Farid argues that keeping the elderly behind bars is counterproductive.

"It would save the public money," he said. "It would save the useless confinement of people."

Larry White is 79 years old and was incarcerated for 32 years. He was denied parole four times.

"They're of no harm when they go in the street," White said. "Their capacity to commit a crime is practically nil."

"We see some change, and I'm hopeful that there will be more," said Soffiyah Elijah of the Correctional Association of New York. "I definitely think that the public is more aware of these issues."

State prison records show that as of January 2013, there are more than 9,000 prisoners older than 50, representing about 15 percent of the prison population.

The RAPP campaign holds workshops with the hopes that prisoners are given fair and inclusive release consideration when appearing before parole boards.

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