From the Morning Memo:

Senate Democrats held a forum on state Parole Board reforms in Manhattan, addressing a system that they argue, promulgates a culture of bias.

State Sen. Luis Sepulveda and Sen. Gustavo Rivera were joined by advocates for the incarcerated and formerly incarcerated persons, calling for the passage of ‘critical reform bills’ and ‘internal changes’ to the current board. They argue too much emphasis is placed on punishment rather than rehabilitation efforts.

“We now need to pass measures that include dramatic reforms to the state parole board, solitary confinement, bail, speedy trial, and other criminal justice initiatives,” said Senator Sepulveda. “Too many lives, including family members of those incarcerated, have been harmed unnecessarily, and too much money has been wasted that could otherwise go to beneficial programs needed by our communities.”

Earlier this fall Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed Sen. Sepulveda’s legislation requiring the state Parole Board to record and publish specific information about inmates including race and ethnicity, in decisions involving release or denial.

What’s more, Democrats argue understaffing is afoot, as the current board is made up of 12 Commissioners, but has the capacity for 19 members.

“We at the Release Aging People in Prison (RAPP) Campaign are pleased that the new incoming Senate Majority is prioritizing the critical issues associated with parole in New York State. While the Parole Board has recently taken steps in the right direction, more changes are urgently needed,” said David George, spokesman for RAPP, in an email. “The legislature and Governor must ensure that parole release is based on who a person is today, they must pass elder parole, and they must fully staff the Parole Board with Commissioners who believe in rehabilitation.”

Senate Republicans held two hearings over the summer on parole reforms, but also took aim at the restoration of parolees’ voting rights by Governor Cuomo last April.