December 24, 2007

Senate hearing is to be held to examine the increase in parole release rates for violent felons in the NY correctional system

Senator Michael F. Nozzolio is to hold a Senate hearing to examine the increase in parole release rates for violent felons.

"It has been widely reported that the Board of Parole is releasing a substantially higher number of violent felons from custody this year. As Chairman of the Senate Crime Victims, Crime and Corrections Committee, I will be conducting a legislative oversight hearing in January to review the matter and to take testimony from the Director of the Division of Criminal Justice Services, the Chairman of the New York State Parole Board, and the Commissioner of the Department of Correctional Services," said Senator Nozzolio.

The hearing will take place at 1.00 p.m. on Tuesday January 15th 2008, in Hearing Room A in the Legislative Office Building in Albany, NY.

December 12, 2007

Graziano v. Pataki update: December 12th 2007

Latest news from the Prison Action Network: Judge Brieant has arranged for the next meeting in the Graziano et al v. Pataki et al case to take place in court on December 20th 2007. The meeting will probably involve scheduling the case for trial.

December 09, 2007

Testimony of Professor Philip M. Genty, given at the public hearing before the New York State Commission on Sentencing Reform, November 13, 2007

The testimony of Professor Philip M. Genty, Clinical Professor of Law at Columbia Law School, given at the public hearing before the New York State Commission on Sentencing Reform, New York City, November 13, 2007.

Professor Philip M. Genty explains the anomalies in the current Parole Board guidelines in New York State and goes on to suggest ways of restoring hope and rationality to the parole system.

Extract from his testimony:

"The Parole Board guidelines currently in use date back to the late 1970's and have been essentially obsolete for more than 20 years. These guidelines were created for a purpose that no longer exists – guiding the Parole Board in the setting of sentences, specifically the minimum terms of indeterminate sentences. The guidelines measure two factors only – seriousness of the crime and prior criminal history. These are factors that should be used at the time of sentencing. The problem is that the responsibility for setting sentences was removed from the Parole Board and restored to the courts in 1980. This was done to eliminate unnecessary duplication of function between the Parole Board and the sentencing courts. Since 1980, the Parole Board’s main responsibility has been to evaluate individuals for parole release after they have served their minimum sentences. However, the Parole Board guidelines were never changed to reflect this shift in mission. To this day, the guidelines continue to measure only two factors – seriousness of the crime and criminal history – rather than the array of factors that would be relevant to a meaningful assessment of who the individual is today, and whether that individual has been rehabilitated and can be safely released from prison.

This, then, is an important example of what the Commission has described as "disorder and confusion" caused by an "ad hoc and piecemeal approach to sentencing." Our current Parole Board guidelines were designed for a purpose that ceased to exist 27 years ago, and they are ill-suited to the purpose for which they are now being used. A consequence of this is that the Parole Board often acts as if it were still responsible for sentencing decisions – it simply re-examines the underlying crime and criminal history. In doing so it fails to consider any changes that have occurred in the individual in the many years that have passed since the crime was committed. ...This is especially true for individuals convicted of felonies classified as violent."

(The full text of Professor Philip M. Genty's testimony may be found here.)

December 08, 2007

Landmark decision in the Graziano v. Pataki case

A landmark decision has been reached in the long-running Graziano et al v. Pataki et al civil rights case, which aims to restore fairness to the parole hearings of inmates convicted of violent felonies.

There have been many setbacks and disappointments in this case including a recent tentative settlement which was subsequently retracted by the defendants.

However, in a ten-page ruling on December 6th Judge Charles L. Brieant denied the defendants' motion to dismiss the case on the grounds of mootness and ruled that the suit can proceed as a class action, representing the interests of hundreds of state prison inmates who contend that they were wrongly denied parole.

Trials and tribulations: local lawyers win two major rulings

Background information

Articles discussing the need for parole reform in New York State:

Restoring Fairness to Parole: a transcript of a panel discussion by the New York City Bar Association, February 17th 2007.

Policy Report: an analysis of current NYS Parole Policy, by Cheryl L. Kates Esq., February 16th 2007.

Recommendations for Parole Reform in New York State: from a roundtable on parole reform issues in New York State, held by the Prison Reenty Institute in November 2006.

Allege Governor Unfairly Acting To Deny Parole; Judge Permits Suit, Says Pataki Can't Defy State Law, by Reuven Blau, in The Chief Leader, August 4th 2006.

December 07, 2007

Parole News

Parole News aims to present useful information and resources relevant to parole reform in New York State.

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