March 11, 2011

Parole Boards Would Lose Authority Under Cuomo Plan

Joel Stashenko discusses Governor Andrew M. Cuomo's proposals for parole reform in New York, raising concerns about the control of the parole board and the proposed reduction in the number of authorized parole commissioners from 19 to 13.

Parole Boards Would Lose Authority Under Cuomo Plan (New York Law Journal, March 11 2011)

Traditionally, three commissioners have heard applications for parole.

“... Right now, we don’t anticipate a reduction,” Ms. Glazer said. “I don’t think this will happen. I think the way in which we have been operating so far, with the 13 [commissioners] has permitted us to operate with the three-man boards and I anticipate that will continue.”

If two-member boards were used, a second panel would have to hear any cases in which there is a tie.

Parole commissioners make $101,600 each. The chair of the board makes $120,800.

Middletown attorney Robert N. Isseks, who represents inmates before the parole board, contended that the current commissioners are overworked as it is.

“We feel the more on the panel the better,” Mr. Isseks said in an interview. “The caseload for commissioners now could be up to 100 hearings a day, where the commissioners get the paperwork that day and the hearings are perfunctory and last maybe five to seven minutes, more or less, and the commissioners are only half listening at best because they are looking at the paperwork for the next case.”

Albert O’Connor of the Defenders Association said that smaller parole panels would make release harder for some inmates.

“When you have three members, you have a more diverse panel,” Mr. O’Connor said. “You have an opportunity for a commissioner to persuade a colleague. When you cut that down to two, obviously, it’s unlikelier that you’ll connect with a board member. The chances of gaining release are diminished for the harder cases, for ones where there might be some historical reluctance to release.”

See CURE-NY's blog for the full text of the article.