Back in September City Limits reported on the increasing difficulty even model prison inmates were having in winning release on parole in New York State. At the time, we only had statistics going back to 2005 or so, meaning they only captured the end of the “tough on crime” era of Gov. George Pataki, the short stints of Eliot Spitzer and David Paterson and the start of the Andrew Cuomo era. We were curious about the deeper history, so we FOILed for numbers going back to the early 1990s.
Received today, the statistics point at two significant trends: A considerable fall in the number of people applying for parole and a stunning collapse in the rate of their getting in.
Both trends likely reflect the overall fall in the state’s prison population, which peaked in 2000. Fewer people in prison means fewer people looking to get out, for one thing. And it’s possible that the people left in prison after reforms like changes to the Rockefeller Drug Laws are more serious criminals who are less likely to receive parole.
But neither explanation really accounts for the change from parole being something inmates had a 60-40 chance of getting to what today is like a one-in-six gamble.
Number of inmates applying for and receiving parole