Black and Hispanic incarcerated people are more likely to be reported for misbehavior in New York state prisons than white people, according to a report issued Thursday by the state inspector general.
“Although racial disparities may not start at the prison gates, unfortunately they also do not end there,” said Inspector General Lucy Lang in a statement. “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.”
Offenses classified as misbehavior range from being outside an assigned area to assault, according to the report.
Investigators found that a Black incarcerated person is nearly 22% more likely to be reported for misbehavior than an imprisoned person who is white, and Hispanic people are 12% more likely to face such citations. Black people were charged with 56% of all rule violations during the period studied by the inspectors, despite making up 47% of the prison population. Also of note: There were 226 correction employees who issued at least 50 misbehavior reports, but who never issued one to a white person.
What’s more, the racial disparities actually increased between 2017 and 2020. Investigators found the disparities were not correlated to the seriousness of the crimes that people were incarcerated for, the length of time imprisoned, nor officer demographics.
Disciplinary measures resulting from misbehavior reports can include counseling, loss of recreation time, prohibition on radio and TV use, mandated work assignments, confinement in segregated housing, and fines.
The inspector general recommended that the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision analyze whether certain employees disproportionately applied disciplinary measures against non-white people, require annual implicit bias training for all staff, and expand the use of cameras in prisons.
In a response filed to the inspector general, the department acknowledged racial disparities in the criminal justice system and vowed to work to improve its operations and “continue to emphasize our vision of a fair and just criminal justice system during the period of incarceration and when an individual is released to the community under supervision.”
Two advocacy groups, the HALT Solitary Campaign and Releasing Aging People in Prison Campaign, released a statement saying the report reveals that the New York prison system is “racist and rotten to its core.” It called for enforcement of a new law that was supposed to ban solitary confinement; but as Gothamist reported in September, use of that punishment continues.