State Bar Association creates task force to study parole reform
DA Eric Gonzalez and retired Administrative Judge Barry Kamins on task force
When the New York State legislature passed criminal justice reforms earlier this year, Kings County Criminal Bar Association President Christopher Wright remarked that he never thought he would see the day when such sweeping reforms were enacted.
However, one major reform that advocates were seeking that got left out was parole reform. Now, the New York State Bar Association announced on Tuesday that it will establish a task force to study the state’s current system of parole.
“The state legislature has undertaken wide-ranging criminal procedure reform in areas of bail, speedy trial guarantees and the discovery process,” said New York State Bar Association President Hank Greenberg.
“However, these reforms have focused on issues that arise prior to the trial, conviction and sentencing. The task force will do a deep dive into the state’s parole system and propose reforms to ensure due process and fairness for the thousands of parolees statewide.”
The task force will be led by past NYSBA President Seymour James Jr., a criminal defense attorney and partner at Barket Epstein Kearon Aldea & LoTurco, and William Russell Jr., a State Bar Association executive committee member and partner at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, as the co-chairs.
There are 23 members of the Task Force on the Parole System including District Attorney Eric Gonzalez; Hon. Barry Kamins, the former administrative judge of the Kings County Supreme Court, Criminal Term; David Condliffe, executive director for the Center for Community Alternatives; and Kwesi Ako Dash, from the Alliance of Families for Justice.
The mission of the task force will be to study the current parole system including its release practices, revocation and reincarceration. The idea is to find problems in the system and propose alternative solutions. It will also make recommendations for changes in the law.
In its announcement, the state bar association cited U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice statistics that indicate that New York has the second-most defendants in the country who are in jail for technical parole violations. According to the stats, as of 2016, 29 percent of the state’s prison population, approximately 7,000 people, are in jail for things like missing a parole meeting, staying out past curfew or drinking alcohol, according to the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.