The New York inspector general recently released a report on worsening racial disparities in the state's prisons.

According to the group Release Aging People in Prison (RAPP), one way the governor can address the issue is by granting more clemencies on a rolling basis.  

Jose DiLenola, RAPP’s clemency campaign director, spoke with Capital Tonight about the issue.

“The IG's report shows what we formally incarcerated and family have known for decades, that the prison system in New York state is plagued with significant amounts of racism,” DiLenola said. “Specifically, within the disciplinary system, I believe that Black and brown-skinned people are 22% more likely to get a disciplinary report than their white counterparts.”

The review also found that during the six-year period examined:

  • A Hispanic incarcerated individual was 12% more likely to be issued a misbehavior report than a white incarcerated individual
  • An incarcerated individual categorized as "other" was 9% more likely to be issued a misbehavior report than a white incarcerated individual
  • Of DOCCS employees who issued 50 or more misbehavior reports during the period reviewed, 226 employees issued them to only non-white incarcerated individuals, including 114 employees who issued them to only Black or Hispanic incarcerated individuals

Just over a year ago, Gov. Kathy Hochul committed to granting more clemencies on a rolling basis, as opposed to the sort of once-yearly holiday gift of clemency that former Gov. Andrew Cuomo did.

Now that she’s been elected to a full term, RAPP believes this is her moment to finally act. 

“She has the authority to determine who gets clemency at any time through the year,” DiLenola said. 

An individual who wants to file for clemency will generally receive either a commutation, a deduction in the length of his or her sentence, or a pardon, which provides relief from some or all consequences of a criminal conviction.

According to the state’s website, to be considered for clemency, an individual would need to submit an application to the Executive Clemency Bureau. Additionally, he or she would need to fill out an application.

Except for extraordinary circumstances, a commutation of sentence will typically be considered only if an applicant meets the following eligibility criteria:

  • The incarcerated person's minimum term of imprisonment is more than one year
  • The incarcerated person has served at least one-half of their minimum prison term
  • The incarcerated person is not eligible for release or parole within one year of the date of their application for clemency.

A new advisory committee has convened to propose ways of streamlining the clemency process and make it more transparent.