Report: Wide racial disparity in New York prison discipline

ALBANY — Black and Hispanic people incarcerated in New York state prisons are more likely than white people to face further punishment once they wind up behind bars, according to a state inspector general report released Thursday.

A Black person behind bars in New York from 2015 to 2020 was more than 22% more likely to get cited for misbehavior than a white person, according to the report, which looked at misbehavior reports that were ultimately dismissed.

Meanwhile, a Hispanic person behind bars was over 12% more likely.

Inspector General Lucy Lang said the state’s corrections department has failed to come up with strategies to eliminate the racial disparities for years. Her report was sparked by a 2016 investigation by The New York Times that found rampant racial epithets and disparate disciplinary treatment against the largely Black and Hispanic prisoner population.

Factors fueling the disparities likely range from explicit and implicit racial bias among corrections staffers. The report also pointed to shifts in state prison population demographics at a time when the number of people behind bars in New York has declined 41% since 2015.

Lang called for annual anti-bias training for all state corrections employees, more analysis of disciplinary data, wider use of centralized hearing officers and the expanded use of fixed camera systems in all state corrections facilities.

“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,” Lang said in a statement. “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.”

The state corrections department plans to issue a new manual to hearing and review officers to help ensure incarcerated people get fair hearings.

New York’s corrections department also will consider adding staff training for implicit bias, and said it’s hoping to hiring more hearing officers statewide.


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