A white New York prison inmate is significantly more likely on average to be released on parole than a Black or Hispanic person, and that gap has widened in 2020, finds an Albany Times Union analysis of the nearly 19,000 parole board decisions over the last two years. The disparities continue despite steps by the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision to make the parole board more diverse. That initiative began four years ago, after Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered an investigation by the inspector general’s office into revelations in a New York Times series on racial imbalances in parole and prison disciplinary proceedings. The investigation has languished and no public report has been released.
The inspector general’s office asserted without providing data that racial disparities have gone down. It offered a list of policy changes that have been made, including changes to sentencing guidelines, appeals processes and implicit bias training. The corrections agency that oversees New York’s 53 state prisons said the Times Union’s analysis was too limited because detailed factors like disciplinary and program records, positions of the district attorney, sentencing courts and victim impact statements were not considered. Yet officials did not provide evidence countering the Times Union’s core findings. The analysis showed that 41 percent of white people were granted parole, compared to 34 percent of Blacks and 33 percent of Hispanics. In interviews with people who have cumulatively served decades in prison and faced a number of parole boards, those interviewed said the structural racism in prison that causes the disparities is obvious.