NYS Capital from tower
December 1, 2022
|
Albany, NY

New York State Inspector General Report Finds Persistent Racial Disparities in Discipline within New York State Prisons

New York State Inspector General Report Finds Persistent Racial Disparities in Discipline within New York State Prisons

NEW YORK, NY – New York State Inspector General Lucy Lang today published the results of a long-term analysis of the administration of discipline in the State’s Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) – a system which currently incarcerates approximately 30,000 people across the State. Noting the persistence of disparate treatment of Black and Brown New Yorkers at every stage of the criminal justice system, the Report concludes that despite policy changes within DOCCS intended to address the known problem of disparities in the administration of Misbehavior Reports for offenses committed while in custody, Black and Hispanic incarcerated people remain more likely than their White counterparts to face additional punishment behind bars.

“There is no doubt that the criminal justice system is just one of many systems that have a devastatingly disproportionate impact on New Yorkers of color,” said Inspector General Lang. “Sadly, as reflected by the six years of data in our Report, although racial disparities may not start at the prison gates, unfortunately they also do not end there. We are hopeful that shining a light on this continuing inequality will contribute to changes in policy and practice that prioritize equal justice and dignity to incarcerated New Yorkers.”

The disparities in the administration of disciplinary action to White, Black and Hispanic incarcerated individuals during the period examined were significant.  More specifically:

A Black incarcerated individual was more than 22 percent more likely to be issued Misbehavior Report than a White incarcerated individual;

An Hispanic incarcerated individual was more than 12 percent more likely to be issued Misbehavior Report than a White incarcerated individual; and

Non-White incarcerated individuals were issued more Misbehavior Reports, per person, than White incarcerated individuals.

Ultimately, while the overall or specific cause for the disparities could not be identified by data alone, the Inspector General’s analysis determined that they persisted regardless of the severity of crimes leading to incarceration, how long an individual has been incarcerated, or the demographics of DOCCS’s workforce. Notably, it was also determined that despite multiple corrective efforts undertaken by DOCCS to address this issue, the disparities increased slightly between 2017 and 2019, before increasing significantly in 2020, when Black and Hispanic incarcerated individuals were nearly 38 percent and 29 percent more likely than White incarcerated individuals to be issued a Misbehavior Report, respectively.

As part of her Report, the Inspector General also issued multiple recommendations to DOCCS, including requiring annual anti-bias training for all staff, capturing and analyzing additional data about disciplinary processes, publication of data that can be cross-referenced with demographic data, expanding the use of centralized hearing officers, and the continuing execution of an ongoing capital project to expand the use of fixed camera systems within all correctional facilities across the State.

The full report, including a response from DOCCS, can be found on the Offices of the Inspector General’s website at ig.ny.gov.