Blacks, Latinos Bear Brunt Of Parole-Based Jail Time In NY

By Kevin Penton | March 22, 2020, 8:02 PM EDT

Blacks and Latinos in New York state are supervised under parole, jailed before parole violation hearings and incarcerated for parole violations at disproportionate rates compared with whites, according to a recent report by Columbia University's Justice Lab.

The March 12 report found that blacks in 2018 were supervised under New York's parole system at 6.8 times the rate of whites, while Latinos were supervised at 2.5 times the rate of whites.

By comparison, blacks in 2016 were supervised nationwide at 4.2 times the rate of whites, while Latinos were supervised at 1.2 times the rate of whites, according to the report.

While New York has a lower rate of individuals in its parole system compared to the overall nation, it trails only Illinois as the state that sends the most people back to prison for so-called technical violations, such as breaking an associated curfew, testing positive for alcohol or missing an appointment, according to the report.

For technical parole violations, blacks in 2018 in New York were incarcerated at the rate of 5 times that of whites, while Latinos were incarcerated at the rate of 1.3 times that of whites, Justice Lab found.

"The risk of incarceration for a violation threatens not only the person under parole supervision, but also their family," said Kendra Bradner, the report's co-author, in a statement.

Individuals may be restricted from accepting a nighttime job because of a parole-related curfew while parents may face housing restrictions because their parole terms bar them from living with those with criminal records, said Bradner, who serves as director of the Justice Lab's Probation and Parole Reform Project. Even a nighttime visit to the hospital may be conflicted because of a curfew, she added.

Reviewing the study, Henry Greenberg of the New York State Bar Association noted in a March 12 statement that New York state and its municipalities spent approximately $600 million in 2019 incarcerating individuals for technical parole violations.

"Given the Columbia University report, the New York State Bar Association renews its call to drastically reduce the use of reincarceration for such minor transgressions," said Greenberg, the association's president.

New York lawmakers should endeavor to reform the system by restricting the possibility of people ending up in prison for technical violations, by shortening the amount of time that individuals may be on parole and by not detaining people while they await a hearing on an alleged parole violations, said Vincent Schiraldi, co-director of the Columbia Justice Lab and is a former commissioner of the New York City Department of Probation.

"Technical parole violations fall most heavily on people of color, their families and communities," Schiraldi, who co-authored the report, said in a statement. "The alarming racial disparities in our report should serve as a clarion call for state policymakers to act this year to redress this unacceptable situation."

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--Editing by Katherine Rautenberg.

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