TRENTON, NEW JERSEY – The New Jersey Supreme Court correctly upheld the law today, granting the release of 85-year-old Sundiata Acoli after serving more than 49 years in prison. The Supreme Court ruled that the parole board unlawfully denied Mr. Acoli’s petition for release by claiming that he was a risk to public safety and noted that he has shown no substantial risk of recidivism or a risk to public safety.
Read the full decision here.
“The Parole Board’s decision to deny Acoli parole is not supported by substantial evidence in the record or by a reasonable weighing of the relevant factors in N.J.A.C. 10A:71-3.11(b) that govern parole.
“Even under the most deferential standard of review, the Board has failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that there is a substantial likelihood that, if released on parole, Acoli will commit a crime. Acoli must be released because the statutory standards for granting parole have been met, without regard to extraneous factors like sympathy or passion or public opinion. (pp. 53-55) REVERSED.”
“We applaud the New Jersey Supreme Court in granting Mr. Acoli’s freedom and correcting the parole board’s improper application of the law by denying his petition for release after serving more than 49 years in prison,” said Soffiyah Elijah, Civil Rights attorney and one of the primary advocates for Acoli. “It’s time now for Mr. Acoli to live the rest of his life in the loving care of his family and community,” Elijah added.
“We appreciate and thank his thousands of supporters from the attorneys, individuals, and community organizations to those who submitted amicus briefs on his behalf to champion his freedom; freedom that is rightfully his. We strongly hope that Mr. Acoli’s freedom will bring attention to the thousands of elders like him trapped in the New Jersey prison system,” Elijah concluded.