President Greenberg’s Letter on Parole Reform to the Legislature and Governor
Re: Reform of the Parole System and save hundreds of millions of dollars
I am writing to call to your attention the recent op-ed by District Attorneys Darcel Clark, Eric Gonzalez, and Cyrus Vance Jr. in the New York Daily News. The piece cites the report of the New York State Bar Association (NYSBA) on the topic of Technical Violations of Parole.
A person released from a New York State prison to parole supervision is required to comply with a number of conditions during the period of that supervision. The conditions typically include attending all required office reports, paying all required fees and surcharges, refraining from using or possessing illegal drugs, complying with the instructions of the parole officer, and refraining from any new criminal conduct.
The failure to comply with any condition of parole can lead to the issuance of a warrant for the alleged violator’s arrest and, upon execution of the warrant, the immediate re-incarceration pending a parole violation hearing.
The NYSBA report shows that there is little or no evidence that the current revocation process for technical parole violators enhances public safety or reduces recidivism. The practice of arresting and holding large numbers of alleged “technical violators” negatively impacts county jails. It is estimated that in 2018, an average of 1,740 people were incarcerated each day in local jails in New York State on technical parole violations. The financial cost to the State of incarcerating all these technical parole violators has been estimated to be approximately $359 million annually. Further, localities spend nearly $300 million incarcerating these individuals awaiting disposition of charges.
The human cost is also enormous. In 2015 the average length of time from the lodging of a parole violation to a final violation hearing was 61 days but can be up to 105 days. This is true even where a parolee is freed after a favorable finding. Even a brief period of incarceration on a technical violation can result in a person losing his or her job or housing and can interrupt ongoing community-based treatment services and educational opportunities. Finally, it is also important to note that parolees are often times a reliable source of childcare or caretaker for infirm family members who will be severely impacted by a parolee’s detention in anticipation of a final violation hearing.
NYSBA recommends that the 2020-21 budget include recommendations of our report, in order to reduce unnecessary costs for New York State and local governments, and to enhance parolees’ reintegration into society.
Henry M. Greenberg