Law School Prof. Genty Testifies on Sentencing Reform

Press Contact: Sonia von Gutfeld, 212-854-1463, [email protected]

November 15, 2007 (NEW YORK) -- New York State should update its parole practices and increase resources for prison rehabilitative programs so it can promote public safety and ensure successful re-entry of prisoners into society, Professor Philip Genty said in testimony before the New York State Commission on Sentencing Reform.

Genty urged modifying the guidelines the Parole Board uses to evaluate prisoners for parole release after they have served minimum sentences. Instead of considering only the seriousness of the crime and prior criminal history, guidelines should examine an individual’s record of rehabilitation and accomplishments while in prison and lack of risk to public safety, he said. This would bring the guidelines up to date with the board’s current mission, and it would “restore hope and rationality” to the parole system, said Genty. The guidelines have not changed since the 1980s.

Genty also recommended increasing resources for rehabilitative programs in prisons, such as higher education, vocational training and therapeutic counseling, which the New York State Commission on Sentencing Reform notes have been shown to reduce recidivism. Programs aimed at strengthening family ties also promote successful re-entry, said Genty.

Genty, Clinical Professor of Law at Columbia Law School, has worked with the New York State prison system and incarcerated individuals for more than 25 years. He directs the Law School’s Prisoners and Families Clinic, whose primary focus is preserving ties between incarcerated people and their families to ensure successful reunification.

The public hearing addressed the preliminary report of the New York State Commission on Sentencing Reform, established by Governor Eliot Spitzer in March 2007. The report, issued in October, called for a streamlined system focused on public safety, consistency and fairness. The hearing, held November 13, 2007, at the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, is the first of a series of public hearings on the future of sentencing in the State.

To read Genty’s complete testimony, click here.

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