Justice and Open Files

New York Times–Editorial 

published Feb 26, 2012

Excerpt: Prosecutors have a constitutional duty to disclose significant evidence favorable to a criminal defendant. But too often that duty, as laid out by the 1963 Supreme Court decision Brady v. Maryland, is violated. To help ensure compliance, some prosecutors, criminal defense lawyers and legal scholars have sensibly concluded that prosecutors’ files, as a general rule, should be made open to defendants. In cases where turning over evidence might endanger a witness, for example, a judge could allow an exception.

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Parole Officers to Surrender Guns

State tells Parole Officers to Surrender Guns

Author: Brendan Lyons

Source: Times Union

Published: February 24,2012

Excerpt: More than 130 parole officers who work in state prisons are being stripped of their police powers under a reorganization the officers said may be pushing high-risk inmates back on the streets with less supervision. Correctional officials said the program is working, and the reorganization is intended to make the system run “smarter and more efficiently” and is part of their effort to streamline the newly merged prison and parole agencies.

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Work For Success

Governor Cuomo Announces “Work for Success” Initiative for the formerly Incarcerated 

  • Evaluate the employment programs that currently exist for the formerly incarcerated and carry out evidence-based, action-oriented research to identify which strategies work best
  • Promote building relevant job readiness skills throughout correctional programming
  • Align vocational skills programs with specific credentialing pathways and employment opportunities in the New York labor market
  • Help to effectively connect New Yorkers returning from prison with appropriate employment services
  • Build the capacity of local community organizations to address the unique needs of people with criminal convictions
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The Disproportionate Impact of the Criminal Justice System on People of Color in the Capital Region (full report)

Executive Summary:

This report, the first in a series of three by the Center for Law and Justice examining the impact of federal, state and local criminal justice system practices on minorities in the Capital Region, details the overrepresentation of minorities among Capital Region arrests, convictions, and sentences to state prison. It further chronicles the devastating impact the criminal justice system has on minority individuals and communities, and makes recommendations for change.

Section I of the report presents statistical data culled from state and local criminal justice agencies and the United States Census Bureau to demonstrate the disproportionate representation of minorities among arrests, convictions, and sentences to state prison in Albany, Rensselaer, and Schenectady counties.  The percentage of Capital Region arrests and convictions that are minorities is twice their representation in the general population, and the percentage of minorities among prison sentences is as high as almost four times greater than their representation in the general population.  Contrary to the sometimes asserted contention that this is due to a higher rate of commission of crimes by minorities, the literature indicates that this disproportionality is more likely due to facially neutral policies that have racially disparate effects.

Section II explains the concept of the “collateral consequences” of a criminal conviction:  conditions that, beyond the actual incarcerative sentence, often attach automatically upon conviction.  Conviction and/or incarceration can impose highly restrictive educational, employment, housing, and civic conditions on an individual, including losing the right to vote.  In addition to the destructive consequences of a criminal conviction to individuals, mass incarceration of people of color wreaks havoc in the neighborhoods in which they reside, resulting in severely impoverished communities.

Section III describes the historic impact of the federal “War on Drugs” and New York’s Rockefeller Drug Laws on the mass incarceration of Capital Region people of color.  In 2002, Albany County had one of the highest drug crime prison admission rates in the entire country, and one of the most racially disproportionate rates.  More recent data from 2011 indicate that Albany County maintains its dubious distinction of having comparatively higher (and more racially disparate) prison admission rates than other jurisdictions in the state.

Section IV examines the relationships between the police department and the community in the cities of Albany, Troy and Schenectady.  All three departments have expressed a commitment to “community policing,” and the extent to which each department has operationalized this commitment is assessed.

Section V considers the Capital Region statistics in the context of “The New Jim Crow” movement, which asserts that mass incarceration serves to maintain a racial caste system that denies education, employment, housing, and voting rights to those who carry the label “felon,” in much the same way that the post-Civil War Jim Crow laws denied rights to blacks.  Lastly, Section VI provides recommendations for change.

Read Robert Gavin of the Times Union article on Dr. Green’s report here: Report Shows Disparity in arrests of minorities

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Elderly Population on the rise in Prisons

Number of Older Inmates Grows, Stressing Prisons

This New York Times article summarizes the Human Rights Watch Report, which examines the inability for the prison healthcare system to sustain the needs of the growing elderly population. The report questions the philosophy behind the state paying to keep people in prison that are physically unable to commit crimes.

To read the full report made by the Human Rights Watch Click Here

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