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Politics & Government

Call to Reform NY's Parole System to State Lawmakers Labeling it Racist, Unjust

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New Yorkers United for Justice and the President of the NAACP in Syracuse say the state’s parole system is unfairly locking up Black and brown residents and costing local taxpayers $7 million annually.  NYUJ Executive Director Alexander Horwitz says a 76%  recidivism rate in local prisons is due largely to ‘technical parole violations’ -not new crimes. 

These are things such as rules about where someone can live or who they can associate with.  A Black person compared to a white person out on parole, Horwitz adds, is 12 times more likely to be sent back to jail.

“The racial disparities are absolutely obvious. You take all of this together and what it means is it is time for New York to act. It is time for wholesale and complete parole reform that will root out the racism in this system.”

Horwitz says people are being sent to jail needlessly for minor things like missing an appointment with a parole officer, consuming alcohol, or being in the company of anyone with a criminal history -including family members.  They detail the costs of keeping people incarcerated for these violations of parole.

"The cost of incarceration, especially for technical violations, is significant in Onondaga County. NYUJ’s recent analysis showed that Onondaga County Jail spent an estimated $1,359,420, while Onondaga County Correctional Facility spent an estimated $5,618,936, to incarcerate individuals for technical parole violations in 2019. In Onondaga County, it costs an average of $248 per day to incarcerate an individual, and a full 8% of Onondaga County’s taxpayer dollars are spent to incarcerate individuals in jails," NYUJ says in a release. 

The parole violation process requires 180 days of waiting in jail before a case is even considered. Bishop Colette Matthews-Carter is the President of the NAACP of Syracuse. She knows of many Black and brown people on parole who live in constant fear.

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NAACP of Syracuse President Bishop Colette Matthews-Carter speaks of the fears faced by black and brown persons on parole.

  “Regarding young men that are on parole, I’ve heard conversations -I’ll call them kitchen conversations. You make sure you keep your phone on. You make sure that you don’t miss any phone calls because if you miss a phone call they’re coming to your house. Make sure you’re not out after your curfew. Make sure that you don’t miss your parole officer’s meeting.”

Matthews-Carter and NYUJ’s Horwitz are calling on state lawmakers to make progress on a series of bills being considered in Albany to reform the state’s parole system.  

Horwitz says reforms to the criminal justice system will result in the state becoming safer, fairer, and more just for everyone, but especially for Black and Brown New Yorkers.