Whether it’s the experience of visiting with a loved one in prison or performing menial tasks for pennies per hour, incarceration undermines human dignity in many ways



The experience of incarceration should not be one that denies people their humanity. And yet, prison routinely undermines the basic dignity of those most affected by it.

Our concerns are wide-ranging and include the troubled parole system, language access and translation services, support for people with disabilities, family connections, vocational and educational opportunities, and even access to basic hygiene supplies.

Threats to dignity are particularly important given that incarcerated people in New York are spending, on average, much longer periods in prison than they were a decade ago.

  • The overall number of people incarcerated in New York’s prisons has fallen in the last ten years, but those inside are serving longer and longer sentences.

  • The consequence is that thousands of people are spending decades of their lives incarcerated, and a growing percentage of the prison population is aging and elderly. The percentage of incarcerated people age 50 or older nearly doubled — from 11% of the population in 2007 to 20% in 2018.


Current focus: The parole system in New York is deeply flawed, resulting in the extended incarceration of thousands of individuals every year.

  • According to our surveys and interviews with parole-eligible individuals, a significant portion of those eligible for parole are being denied – some multiple times. Each denial results in up to two additional years in prison beyond the individual’s minimum original sentence.

  • The result in New York’s parole system is that thousands of people who are eligible for release remain in prison – with devastating personal consequences and at great public expense – for arbitrary reasons not linked to public safety or original sentence length.

In the coming year, we will be featuring in-depth interviews with individuals eligible for parole and their families as well as an array of solutions to improve the system. Check back regularly for updates.