February 28, 2012

NY DOCCS Moves Toward Supervising Parolees by Risk Level

Extract from report by the Upper Manhattan Reentry Task Force (UMRTF):

... Historically, NY DOCCS (Division of Corrections and Community Supervision) has employed a static risk assessment ("DCJS Risk") to assign individuals being released to the community a risk level. The assessment looked at age, gender, and history of criminality to determine the risk of a parolee's recidivism. The assessment did not take into account the attitudes and beliefs of individuals leaving prison, one of the prime predictors of recidivism. Therefore, unless the individual had "aged out" of criminal activity, he/she was considered to be the same risk that he/she was prior to his/her prison term. Once released to the community, Field Parole Officers supervised all parolees similarly, independent of risk, until he/she got to know the client personally and made adjustments to the client's supervision mandates.

Now, DOCCS is in the midst of implementing some massive changes. As I learned at a County Reentry Task Force Meeting this past Friday, February 28, 2012, as of March 1, 2012, every individual being paroled from all NY DOCCS facilities will receive an actuarial risk assessment called "COMPAS Reentry." The COMPAS tool, created by Northepointe, Inc., "a research and consulting firm, offering software products, training, and implementation services to local, state, and federal criminal justice systems and policy makers," measures standard risk factors in combination with reentry domains such as early onset of delinquency, history of non-compliance, occurrences of prison misconduct, substance abuse, the risk of housing problems, criminal thinking, etc. The COMPAS then calculates a client's risk of recidivism and risk of absconding, and offers a personalized client needs scale to parole officers and case managers that can be used to prioritize case planning and supervision.

NY DOCCS will be using the risk numbers produced the COMPAS tool to determine how intensively parolees will be supervised. DOCCS has created four risk level designations (Levels 1-4) that will be assigned to a parolee based on his/her COMPAS score. Each Bureau Chief across the state will determine how to divide up parolees on a PO's caseload using the risk levels. For instance, a Bureau Chief can determine that a PO will supervise only cases that are assigned one risk level. A high risk caseload may consist of 25 parolees, while the lowest risk caseload may consist of as many as 120 parolees. DOCCS did not give us an estimate regarding how long this transition to the level system will occur.

We also learned, that by statute, the Parole Board must now receive a risk assessment of every inmate that goes before them. This risk assessment will be the COMPAS. ...

For complete report, see:
NY DOCCS Moves Toward Supervising Parolees by Risk Level (Re-thinking Reentry, 28 February 2012)

February 25, 2012

Summary and comparisons of parole board appearances for A1 violent offenders in 2011

CURE-NY give the following unofficial summary and comparisons of parole board appearances and releases in 2011 for A1 violent offenders.


218 interviews, 26 releases; for a release rate of 12%. Two of those 26 were rescinded. In 2007 there were 41 initial releases, 25 in 2008 after the hearing held by Senator Nozzolio, in 2009 there were 38 initial releases, and 39 in 2010, making 2011 the second lowest number of release decisions, as well as the second lowest rate of releases, in the last five years. Three of those initial release decisions were for deportation only, making the % of those released to their home communities 10.5%

979 interviews, 209 releases; for a release rate of 21%. That is the second highest in the past five years. 31 of the 209 were released for deportation making the rate released to the U.S. 18%. Four of the 209 were released to another state and another 4 were released on special consideration hearings.

This year saw what is believed to be the first A1VFs released on medical parole. A man was released on a medical parole board, although he had been parole eligible since 2002. A woman was released on a "true" medical parole board several years before reaching her parole eligibility date.

Of the 218 initial interviews, 212 were males (97%), 6 were females (3%). Of the 26 initial releasees, 25 were males (96%), 1 was female (4%).

Of the 979 reappearance interviews, 957 were males (98%), 22 were women (2%). Of the 209 releasees, 201 were male (96%) and 8 were female (4%).

Of the 218 INITIAL interviews, 123 (56%) were Black, 58 (27%) were Hispanic, and 32 (15%) were White. Of the 26 initial releasees, 16 were black (62%), 8 were Hispanic (31%) and 2 were White (8%). (Remaining numbers are other and unknown ethnicities.)

Of the 979 REAPPEARANCE interviews, 522 (53%) were Black, 239 (24%) were Hispanic, and 208 (21%) were White. Of the 209 releasees, 116 were Black (55%), 61 (29%) were Hispanic [or 51 and 24% excluding deportations], and 28 (13%) White. Remaining numbers are other and unknown ethnicities.

MEDIUMS: 728 (61%) of all interviews with 178 released (75% of releasees).
MAXIMUMS: 451 (38%) of all interviews with 57 released (24% of releasees).
The remaining interviews were in other facilities such as Walsh Medical Center or CNYPC.

First —26–11%
Second —41–17%
Third —43–18%
Fourth —28–12%
Fifth —30–13%
Sixth —24–10%
Seventh —12*–5% *includes 1 medical release
Eighth —14–6%
Ninth —5–2%
Tenth —7–3%
Eleventh —4–1.6%
Twelfth —2–0.8%

9 of those released were between the ages of 73 and 83, all on reappearances.
26 of those released were in prison since the 1970s, one since the 1960s, 111 since the 1980s and 97 since the 1990s.
[2 of the initial releasees were born after 27 of the other releasees had gone to prison.]

**None of the previous numbers are official or scientific; nor account for any de novo boards. The results are based upon unofficial, best efforts research. Please FOIL the Board of Parole for exact and official data.

February 23, 2012

DNA and Reform

Governor Andrew Cuomo's proposal to expand New York State's DNA database by requiring all convicts to submit a sample should be accompanied by other reforms to reduce wrongful convictions.

An Incomplete DNA Deal (New York Times Editorial, 26 March 2012)
DNA and Reform (New York Times Editorial, 24 February 2012)
NYSACDL Opposes DNA plan (New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, February 23rd, 2012)

February 15, 2012

Building Bridges - February 2012 edition

The February edition of Building Bridges has been issued by the Prison Action Network.

Items in this issue include the following:

1. Pepsi Beverages Company has agreed to a $3.1 million settlement following federal charges that Pepsi committed racial discrimination in its hiring practices, specifically by eliminating approximately 300 African American applicants based on arrest records (but not necessarily convictions).

2. Threat to close Auburn Prison's Hospitality Center alarms families who depend on this service to provide shelter while they wait from the time the bus drops them off until the beginning of visiting hours.

3. Today's "Incarcerated Man" is vastly different from the representative specimen of yesteryear. For the first time in "incarcerated man's" history there are more notable success stories than failures, as evidenced by a dwindling prison population and the success of the many women and men in leadership positions in re-entry programs throughout the state.

4. Two Job Opportunities: 1) Full time Development Associate at the Correctional Association. 2) Combine your desire to sharpen your skills and your commitment to fair criminal justice policies by training to become a media volunteer with the NYS Parole Reform Campaign. Free training.

5. Standardize Marijuana Offenses: We need a permanent, statewide solution like the bipartisan version proposed by Assemblyman Jeffries and Senator Grisanti. Please support A.7620 (Jeffries)/S.5187 (Grisanti): legislation that would end the racially biased, costly, and unconstitutional marijuana arrests throughout New York State.

6. How is the merger of DOCCS going to be implemented, and when? Who is overseeing the process? In this vast system with all its tensions and conflicts - between agencies, between management and unions - who is monitoring this monolithic entity? Building Bridges attempted to find out by attending, and reading testimony from, the Public Hearing on the Merger of DOCS and the Division of Parole into the new Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, Thursday, November 10, 2011 and a hearing on the Public Protection portion of the 2012-13 Executive Budget, held by the State Legislature's fiscal committees on January 30, 2012. Please scroll down to section 6 of the Building Bridges newsletter for their report on this highly complex situation, including information on TAP and COMPAS.

7. The Merit Time Bill S338/A154, sponsored by Senator Velmanette Montgomery and co-sponsored by Senator Dilan is sitting in the Senate Crime Victims, Crime and Corrections Committee and in the Assembly’s Correction Committee, as is the SAFE Parole Act. Brianne Russo has posted a petition in support of Senator Montgomery’s Merit Time Bill, S338. If you want to make your voice heard, please sign the petition.

8. Last chance to decide to attend the Caucus weekend workshops. The NYS Parole Reform Campaign of the Coalition for Fair Criminal Justice Policies has a room that holds 500. Think of the impression it would make if it was filled! But if you can’t get there, you can help to get your legislators to support the SAFE Parole Act. People are suffering in prison waiting for us to win this struggle. It won’t be easy, but it can be done if we ALL get involved!

9. Mass Incarceration and the NYS Prisoner Justice Movement: "Dear Prisoner Justice Network, I have been in prison for 27 years. My last parole hearing lasted 4 minutes." Mass incarceration is a false solution that gets in the way of real solutions. It does not interrupt violence - it feeds the cycle of violence.

10. Parole News: Updates on Thwaites decision, and Graziano's:

Douglas Thwaites reports that the Assistant Attorney General is appealing Judge Lawrence H. Ecker's ruling in which the Judge ordered the Parole Board to hold a new hearing for Mr. Thwaites with a different panel within 30 days of the decision dated 12/21/11. Thwaites is challenging the appeal. He thanks all who have written in support and asks us to keep faith alive. His next parole hearing is scheduled for March 2012.

In a new decision on January 26 2012, Judge Lawrence H. Ecker handed down an almost identical ruling in the case of Newlly Velazquez as he did for Douglas Thwaites, one month previously. He again quotes Professor Phillip Genty's interpretation of the governor's revisions to the Parole Statute, including: "[T]he most important change is the replacement of static, past focused "guidelines" with more dynamic present and future-focused risk assessment "procedures" to guide the Parole Board."

Graziano does not give up!
 It is not the end of the road yet.  Lawyers are waiting for a date to argue their federal case to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.  They also plan to request leave to appeal the state case to the New York Court of Appeals. 

11. Stop and Frisk policies are the scourge of a Black person's life, particularly for males, and particularly for young males. But as this story reveals, even grey haired 70 year old Black men are not immune to being stopped and frisked.

12. Veterans in Prison, a report by Karima Amin in Buffalo, where the first Veteran's Treatment Court in the nation was created by Judge Robert T. Russell, Jr.

13. Over 37,000 New Yorkers are denied their constitutional right to vote because they are on parole, even though they are living and working in their communities. Join the effort to change this!

February 14, 2012

New York Parole Violation Sentencing Procedure Found Unconstitutional for Serious Crimes

Under state law, individuals who are arrested on a parole violation have a constitutional right to a hearing to determine whether the violation has occurred.

For most cases, this means that a judge determines 1) if a violation has occurs and 2) the parolees sentence.

However, in some cases, where the individual is in parole for a more serious crime such as a homicide, sex crime, or kidnapping, New York State parole division rules makes the hearing officer's decision a "recommendation that can be overriden by a single member of the state parole board."

Pursuant to a recent decision made by the Appellate Division of the New York State Court, that practice is unlawful.

The court held on Tuesday that the "parole rule amounts to a 'usurpation of the legislative perogative'" which intended that hearing officers have the final authority on a parolee's sentence.

The unilateral decision of the single member of the parole board not only contravenes the intent of the legislature, but violates due process.

If the ruling stands, all sentencing determinations for parole violations will be made by a hearing officer.

NY parole procedure invalid, unconstitutional: state appeals court (Thomson Reuters News and Insight, 14 February 2012)
NY Parole Violation Sentencing Procedure Found Unconstitutional for Serious Crimes (Re-thinking Reentry, 16 February 2012)

February 01, 2012

Governor praises Senate passage of DNA databank expansion

The state Senate has emphatically passed legislation that would expand New York's criminal DNA database.

Senators voted 50-10 on Tuesday to pass the DNA Databank Expansion Bill, which would, if signed into law, require people convicted of all crimes - including misdemeanors - to submit DNA samples to the state's DNA databank. Currently, only someone convicted of a felony, or one of 36 specific misdemeanor charges, is required to submit a DNA sample.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo urged the Assembly to act quickly to pass the bill, which he called "an important step in protecting New Yorkers and modernizing the state's criminal justice system."

Cuomo's 2012-13 executive budget included a proposal similar to the Senate bill.

Full article:
Gov. praises Senate passage of DNA databank expansion (Adirondack Daily Enterprise, February 1 2012)

Governor Andrew Cuomo made the following statement, released after the vote: "Today the New York State Senate passed the DNA Databank Expansion Bill, an important step in protecting New Yorkers and modernizing the state’s criminal justice system. This critical crime fighting resource embraces technology to help protect the innocent and convict the guilty. I want to thank Senators Golden and Saland for sponsoring this legislation. I call on the Assembly to do the same so I can sign this bill into law immediately."

Related articles:
New York State Set to Add All Convict DNA to Its Database, by John Eligon and Thomas Kaplan (New York Times, March 13, 2012)
Cuomo blesses Senate DNA bill (Capitol Confidential, January 31 2012)
Albany Bill to Expand DNA Database Fuels a Political Fight (New York Times, January 31 2012)
State Senate passes bill to greatly expand New York's DNA database; spotlight shifts to the Assembly (New York Daily News, January 31 2012)
Building a New NY... with you: 2012 State of the State Address, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo (January 4 2012)