Proposed Regulations Deliver on Governor Cuomo's State of the State Call for Greater Transparency in Parole Process
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the proposal of new regulations that would require New York State Board of Parole commissioners to consider both an inmate's current risk to public safety and that individual's own needs, as well as offer explanations of those findings, before making any release decision. The proposed regulations, which are currently available in the State Register for public comment, build upon Governor Cuomo's call during his State of the State for increasing transparency in the Board of Parole's decision-making process.
"Confidence in the criminal justice system is paramount and these new regulations will help increase transparency, fairness and accountability in the parole process," Governor Cuomo said. "Opening up the Parole Board's decision making and instituting these new commonsense guidelines will help ensure the work of those trying to rehabilitate their lives does not go unrecognized, and that those who still present a public threat remain behind bars."
If adopted, the proposed regulations would require the Board's release determination to incorporate an inmate's current score on a risk and needs assessment called the Correctional Offender Management Profiling for Alternative Sanctions. If the Board departs from the scores, it must specify the reason for doing so, after discussing each applicable factor, including the applicant's behavior in prison and the seriousness of the offense on the record. If release is denied, the Board must articulate reasons in factually individualized, non-conclusory terms.
Additionally, the regulations would direct the Board to consider the diminished culpability due to age at the time of the crime and to weigh any demonstrated growth and maturity since the time of the offense when considering individuals serving a maximum of a life sentence for crimes committed when they were under the age of 18. These considerations are required by recent United States Supreme Court jurisprudence regarding people facing life in prison for crimes committed as juveniles.
Board of Parole Chair Tina Stanford said, "The Board of Parole is committed to following through on Governor Cuomo’s vision to enhance transparency when it comes to making decisions that are in the best interest of public safety and the individual seeking release. The Board is required to develop written procedures that incorporate risk and needs principles, and these new regulations demonstrate our continued commitment to follow these principles in our release decisions."
Glenn E. Martin, President, JustLeadershipUSA, said, "The new rules adopted by the Board of Parole respond to a longstanding demand for greater accountability and responsibility in decision-making. These common-sense regulations are an important first step towards a more fair and just criminal justice system in New York State, for both victims and incarcerated New Yorkers."
Anthony Thompson, Professor at New York University School of Law, said, "The decision to utilize scientific tools and to increase transparency represents sound criminal justice policy. These changes to the parole hearing process distinguishes the state nationally."
Joanne Page, CEO of the Fortune Society, said, "I applaud the proposed change in Parole Board regulations. For too long, individuals who pose no current risk to society have been incarcerated for years past their minimum sentences, at huge and unnecessary human and financial cost to them, their loved ones, and taxpayers. The proposed changes will provide a consistent, fairer, evidence-based and transparent foundation for parole decisions, and are a sorely needed and much appreciated move toward a more just criminal justice system."
Elizabeth Gaynes, Executive Director of the Osborne Association, said, "In a great step forward, these new guidelines call for the parole board to provide special consideration to those who committed crimes as teenagers, respecting the science that proves what every parent knows: that the “hallmark features of youth include immaturity, impetuosity, a failure to appreciate risks and consequences,” and recognizing that the hallmark features of adults ought to include fairness and forgiveness for those who demonstrate high marks for institutional achievements, and low risk of future crime."
Seymour James, Executive Director of the Legal Aid Society, said, "The Legal Aid Society welcomes these changes to the regulations governing release decisions by the New York State Board of Parole. The new regulations will incorporate a fundamental and cherished element of good government: transparency. The regulations also promote more balanced release decisions by requiring Board members to utilize a risk and needs assessment tool rather than merely rely on more subjective factors concerning the nature of the offense. Finally, the new regulations codify recent federal and state case law requiring the Board to consider the mitigating characteristics of youth in determining the parole release of juveniles serving life sentences. These changes are a terrific first step in creating a fairer and more transparent process for our incarcerated clients to achieve a return to their communities."