Discipline in New York’s prison system has only gotten more unequal. New York’s Inspector General Lucy Lang confirmed a significant racial disparity exists between the discipline of white incarcerated people and Black and Hispanic incarcerated people in New York’s prison system within the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) in a report released last month.
Following the publication of a 2016 New York Times article that described serious racial bias in a review of nearly 600,000 disciplinary records, then-governor Andrew Cuomo mandated the New York State Inspector General “investigate the allegations of racial disparities in discipline in State prisons.”
According to the report, over six years, a Black incarcerated person was almost 22 percent more likely to be administered a misbehavior report than a white incarcerated individual.
Additionally, a Hispanic incarcerated person was 12 percent more likely to be given a misbehavior report than a white incarcerated individual.
Investigators found that regardless of disparities, over half of incarcerated individuals — 56 percent — were issued a misbehavior report between 2015 and 2020.
And disparities have not improved during the six year span data was analyzed. By 2020, on average, white incarcerated individuals recieved more than 57 percent fewer reports than people of other races, a 27 percent increase in the racial disparity of reports issued compared to 2017.
The Inspector General’s office issued seven key recommendations to the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision:
Ultimately, despite efforts to track the issue and take action to improve disparities, Lang wrote, the report’s analysis revealed that “since 2018, racial disparities have increased, with particularly significant increases occurring in 2020.”
Racial disparity trend analysis in this kind of data can be difficult, a reality the Inspector General acknowledges in her report, along with the disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“But these factors do not absolve DOCCS of its duty to uncover and address any racial bias in its incarcerated individual disciplinary system,” Lang wrote.
“In order to meet the Department’s mission to improve public safety we strive to ensure that we operate a fair system in all aspects, from program and work assignments to the disciplinary process,” the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision wrote in part of its response to the Inspector General’s investigation and recommendations.
The full IG report titled Racial Disparities in the Administration of Discipline in New York State Prisons was published in November 2022 and can be read here.