March 16, 2011

Building Bridges conducts research into 180 parole hearings in the state of New York

"Building Bridges submitted a FOIL Request to Parole and received 9 months worth of commissioners' names who were present for hearing from 1/1/10-9/15/10 (approximately 180 hearings). We wanted to learn if there was any substance to readers' protests that some commissioners never release people with A1 violent felony convictions at the completion of their minimum sentence, and that commissioners were not assigned randomly, as the Parole Board has claimed. We also were trying to see if there was any evidence to support claims that hearings are predetermined, as is the almost universal opinion of men and women who appear before the parole board. Bear in mind that parole boards are made up of either two or three commissioners, and the decisions are made in the name of the lead questioner at the hearing, so there is no way to know how specific individuals voted.

That said, here is what we saw as we looked at the record: Some commissioners were paired with each other more often than would be expected to randomly occur, specifically Ferguson and Elovich, Gallivan and Greenan, Hagler and Smith, Grant and Loomis. Some, particularly in Western NY, tend to be on boards in their home area more often than not, with Gallivan appearing on 5 out of the 7 hearings held at Gowanda during the Foil period, Greenan on 4 out of 7 at Wende/Collins and Crangle on 4 out of 7 at Albion.

Crangle, Hernandez, Lemons, Ludlow and Thompson were each twice on boards that released a person with an A1VO on his/her initial appearance, while Ferguson and Gallivan each were only once on a board that released an A1VO on his or her first board. We could find no initial releases of A1VOs under boards with Smith, Greenan, Hagler or Elovich during the Foil period (9 months).

All A1VO initial releases came out of mediums except for 3 which came from max’s. All three of those at max's were released by Grant, Loomis and Ross. We do not understand this. Surely the Board understands that being in a maximum facility does not mean that the person is any less deserving of release than someone in a medium. There are many reasons a person could be in a max; not all are punitive by any means. For example, a person can request to be transferred to one. Max's have cells as opposed to dormitories and some people prefer the privacy. They also have family reunification programs, and weekday visiting hours, which makes prisoners with families nearby prefer them.

No A1VO was released on an initial board from any of the facilities in the Elmira hub, not just in the 9 months of data Foiled but in the four years that Building Bridges has published these statistics. The Elmira hub consists of Elmira, Auburn, Five Points, Cayuga (med) and Southport. The second hub least likely to be released from on a first hearing is the Watertown hub - Gouverneur, Watertown, Cape Vincent, Ogdensburg and Riverview (all mediums) - which has seen the release of only two A1VOs on initial boards in the last four years, while Elmira has seen zero, according to our research.

That was perhaps the most disturbing fact of all - that some facilities have no/virtually no initial board releases of A1's. It gives support to the theory that decisions are predetermined and not based on individual merit. We will continue to search for the reasons. If readers can add anything to our research, please do so."