Mar 26, 2009

New Parole Lookup Feature

We just discovered that the NYS Division of Parole has a new internet feature that allows anybody with internet access to lookup an individual on parole. The database tells you what the individual's parole status is, who his parole officer is, how to contact that parole officer, and what the crime of committment was.

For a while now, the NYS Department of Correctional Services has had an inmate lookup that allows the public to track the whereabouts of individuals who are or ever have been incarcerated in DOCS facilities.

These kinds of tools seem to have a balance of pro's and con's:

On the one hand, those who have been the victims of crimes can know what the incarceration or parole status of their offenders are. For family members of parolees who have lost control of their actions, the phone number of a son's parole officer is an important piece of information. The Division takes allegations of domestic violence, for example, very seriously -- and this kind of publicly available information can empower those who feel the need for protection.
On the other hand, as a parole officer pointed out to us, anybody with a grudge against a parolee can now find that parole officer's phone number and report any variety of violations (substantiated or not). As workforce development experts have said for some time now, employers who know about the inmate lookup feature have used it in evaluating job applications, often disqualifying candidates based on information online. Sometimes, a simple name search is not sufficient -- there are many people with similar or identical names and, absent a NYSID number, no way to be sure that the individual who has come up in the database is the same person applying for a job.
We'd be curious to hear your thoughts about these tools -- please comment!