As the New York State Legislature considers a bill that would authorize the state to re-incarcerate individuals who have already served sentences for sex offenses, the New York Civil Liberties Union today released a report that finds stark racial disparities between the general population and the population of persons designated as Level 3 sex offenders.
The report also charges that New York uses flawed procedures for assessing an offender's risk of re-offending.
The law designates Level 3 offenders as those who pose the greatest risk of harm to their communities. They are therefore most likely to face "civil commitment," or re-incarceration, after serving their original court-ordered sentences.
The NYCLU presented its data analysis in a letter to Governor George Pataki, Majority Leader Joseph Bruno and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. The data shows that:
- Blacks make up 15.9 percent of the New York State population but represent 37.2 percent of Level 3 offenders. Blacks are overrepresented by 134 percent.
- In the three upstate counties of Albany, Onondaga and Monroe, blacks are nearly three times more prevalent in the Level 3 population than in the general population.
- Blacks represent 11.1 percent of the Albany County population, but 33.3 percent of the county's Level 3 offenders. In Onondaga County, blacks represent 9.4 percent of the population, but 28 percent of Level 3 offenders. Monroe County's black population is 13.7, but 39.1 percent of the county's Level 3 offenders are black.
- On Long Island blacks are overrepresented among Level 3 offenders by 485 percent relative to their numbers in the general population.
- In Suffolk county blacks represent just under 7 percent of the general population but 42 percent of persons designated Level 3 offenders.
- In Nassau County blacks represent approximately 10 percent of the general population but nearly 56 percent of those designated as Level 3 offenders.
"These disparities indicate that racial bias affects the investigation and prosecution of sex crimes; the adequacy of legal representation provided the accused; and the procedures used to classify sex offenders regarding the risk they pose to public safety," said Donna Lieberman, NYCLU Executive Director. "The proposed civil commitment bill endorses misguided public policy. Now it appears the bill would promote racial bias. The legislature must say no."