State Bar Association Task Force on the Parole System Recommends Reforms for Successful Community Integration

By Christian Nolan

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A comprehensive new report from the New York State Bar Association’s (NYSBA) Task Force on the Parole System lays out reforms to improve outcomes for individuals on parole transitioning back into society, in part by relaxing and modifying certain conditions to provide broader rights, better access to housing and employment opportunities.

NYSBA’s governing body – the House of Delegates – overwhelmingly adopted the report at its virtual meeting on June 27.

“NYSBA’s esteemed Task Force on the Parole System continues to make critically important recommendations that we strongly urge state lawmakers to consider,” said NYSBA President Scott M. Karson. “Modifying standard parole conditions to provide individuals with better employment and housing opportunities and implementing systemic training for public defenders and assigned counsel are changes necessary to achieving true reform of New York’s parole system.”

The task force’s new report recommends:

  • Certain standard conditions of parole be reconsidered and modified to provide broader rights – including the ability to travel for work and obtain safer and improved living conditions.
  • Ensure the availability of adequate supportive housing to enable individuals on parole to successfully reintegrate into society. Congress should amend the definition of chronic homelessness to make it easier for parolees to qualify for supportive housing.
  • Establish statewide standards for public defenders and assigned counsel specific to parole proceedings and require that adequate systematic training be provided. Create and staff regional parole resource and training centers.
  • Remove the requirement of exhausting administrative appeals and permit individuals denied parole to appeal directly to the New York State Supreme Court through an Article 78 proceeding without any further consideration by the Parole Board.

The task force is co-chaired by Seymour W. James, Jr. (Barket Epstein Kearon Aldea & LoTurco, and a past NYSBA president) and William T. Russell, Jr. (Simpson Thacher & Bartlett). Members of the task force represent the broad range of stakeholders in the criminal justice system, including judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, parole reform advocates and victim’s rights advocates.

This newest report builds on and supplements the findings and recommendations contained in the Task Force’s initial November 2019 report. The initial report recommended: eliminating mandatory pre-adjudication detention of parolees for non-criminal alleged technical parole violations, such as missing a meeting. It also recommended a system of “earned good time credits” to incentivize good behavior while on parole which would reduce a parolee’s time under supervision, and increasing the number of parole commissioners from 19 to 30 to alleviate the current case-to-commissioner ratio of 526 to 1.

About the New York State Bar Association
The New York State Bar Association is the largest voluntary state bar association in the nation. Since 1876, NYSBA has helped shape the development of law, educated and informed the legal profession and the public, and championed the rights of New Yorkers through advocacy and guidance in our communities.

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Contact: Christian Nolan
[email protected]
518/487-5536

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