Despite years of promises from Governor Cuomo’s office to appoint new NYS Board of Parole commissioners in timely fashion, the list of appointees arrived once again as the state legislature was about to close up shop for the year. This made serious vetting of the six proposed appointees difficult. But advocates and elected officials did our best and uncovered serious flaws that reveal that one appointees, a longtime DOCCS employee, is unfit for the job. RAPP and our sister organization Parole Preparation Project issued this statement on Tuesday, June 18 2019:
Statement from Release Aging People in Prison Campaign and Parole Preparation Project Opposing the Confirmation of Richard Kratzenberg to the NYS Parole Board
Today, June 18 2019, the Senate Crime Victims, Crime and Correction Committee confirmed six new appointments put forward by Governor Cuomo for the New York State Parole Board.
Most concerning of the appointments is Richard Kratzenberg, a former corrections officer and long- time, in-prison parole officer. His entire 32-year career has been almost exclusively within the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, and there is no evidence he has community ties or personal or professional references outside of that setting. According to public records, Kratzenberg was also formerly a registered Republican (now party unaffiliated) and has predominantly lived in conservative, rural and suburban towns in upstate New York.
During this morning’s confirmation hearing, Kratzenberg cited both the nature of a person’s crime and their criminal record as two of the most important factors in parole release determinations. He spent little time discussing the role rehabilitation or personal transformation play in his assessments, and expressed strong support for current DOCCS programming, which many New Yorkers know is deeply inadequate. Further, Kratzenberg showed no nuanced understanding of the underlying causes of violence and crime, or the conditions and circumstances that often lead people to prison.
Undoubtedly, making determinations about a candidate’s suitability for this role on the Parole Board solely on the basis of their credentials and a short interview, is a dangerous thing to do. However, the timeline of events and the total lack of transparency in this nomination process leaves us no choice but to oppose the confirmation of Mr. Kratzenberg. Without any time to vet these candidates, we cannot in good conscience support the nomination of a person who has spent his entire career surveilling and supervising incarcerated people.
Mr. Kratzenberg is emblematic of parole in the Pataki-era, when commissioners came from primarily law enforcement and prosecutorial backgrounds, and the parole release process served as another mechanism to indefinitely punish people in prison. However, in the last eight years, parole has undergone dramatic reforms, resulting in fairer parole decisions, longer parole interviews and more hope. Kratzenbrg’s nomination jeopardizes that progress. If confirmed to the Parole Board, Mr. Kratzenberg would be appointed for a six-year term, longer than any other candidate appointed this year.
At the Senate Crime Committee meeting, Senators Myrie and Rivera voted against Mr. Kratzenberg’s appointment, and Senators Bailey and Gallivan voted without record. Mr. Kratzenberg’s nomination was narrowly voted out of the Crime Committee and referred to the Finance Committee for a second confirmation hearing.
If confirmed, Mr. Kratzenberg will have the power to deprive thousands of people of their freedom and to extend New York’s ugly, racist legacy of “tough-on-crime” policies and mass incarceration.
We urge members of the Finance Committee and the larger New York State Senate to vote no on his appointment.