THE FIRST STEP FOR MASS. COMMISSION ON PAROLE AND RACISM? FIGURING OUT THE RIGHT QUESTIONS TO ASK
July 15, 2021
By Craig LeMoult
A commission tasked with examining structural racism in Massachusetts’ parole system has a lot of questions it needs answered.
In its second virtual meeting, the commission Thursday heard from a Columbia University expert on parole reform, who raised a number of specific questions about the state’s record on race and parole that could define much of the new panel’s work going forward.
“We live in a world that has been constructed to perpetuate racialized outcomes — or in a way that does perpetuate racialized outcomes, intended or not,” said Kendra Bradner, director of the Probation and Parole Reform Project at Columbia’s Justice Lab. The parole system, she said, is no exception.
Kristyn Henry, an attorney with Prisoners’ Legal Services of Massachusetts and commission member, asked Peck if the effort would be targeted at opioid abuse, an issue she pointed out that disproportionately impacts white people.
“As we go forward with this, how is this going to … affect parolees of color, who may be dealing with substance-use disorder and not able to get the same accommodations or the same beds or the same treatment because they’re not dealing with the opioid issue?” she asked. “I think that’s something definitely to be looked at.”