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December 31, 2007

NY litigation over the state of parole

Yesterday's New York Times had this interesting piece about disputes and litigation over the rights of state felons to be granted parole.  Here is how it starts:

Last year, a group of violent felons sued the administration of Gov. George E. Pataki, charging that the state was ignoring the law by categorically denying them parole.  They figured their chances would improve under his successor, Eliot Spitzer, even though Mr. Spitzer was a tough former prosecutor who supported the death penalty.

In the spring, they were heartened when Mr. Spitzer’s new chairman of the State Parole Board, George B. Alexander, reminded his fellow commissioners that they were obligated to consider the potential for rehabilitation, remorse and recidivism as well as the severity of the original crime.

By fall, lawyers for the plaintiffs and Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo were on the verge of a legal settlement that would have granted 1,000 or so inmates new parole hearings.  At the last minute, word of the settlement was leaked to the press, around the same time that the board approved parole for a man who had taken part in a holdup that led to a police officer’s death.  Among the critics was Patrick J. Lynch, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association in New York City, who said, “Violent felons should not be eligible for parole, and cop killers should stay incarcerated for life.”

With Mr. Spitzer’s political capital depleted and the governor hardly eager to embark on another unpopular crusade, the Division of Parole, which reports to the governor, rejected the settlement in November.

December 31, 2007 at 08:10 AM | Permalink


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More political gutlessness.

Posted by: Anon | Dec 31, 2007 9:11:21 AM

Victims rights driven public policy and law is not compatible with justice.

Posted by: beth curtis | Dec 31, 2007 10:25:42 AM

If your policy is that you do not parole persons who are a threat to public safety that means when they are released upon expiration of sentence they are unsupervised. I don't think it is sensible to have the potentially most dangerous people unsupervised after they leave prison.

OTOH the degree of risk to public safety is age dependent so I don't think it is sound policy to deny parole review for a large class of prisoners. My recollection is the Canadian policy for classification of dangerous offenders is that there is a periodic review with the possibility of reclassification. The tendency is to make errors of the first kind (keeping people who are not a threat in prison too long) to avoid making an error of the second kind (releasing a dangerous offender too early).

Posted by: John Neff | Jan 1, 2008 8:36:53 AM

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