Daniel Martuscello III (right) stands with his old boss, Anthony Annucci (left), at a 2018 memorial ceremony for parole and corrections officers in Albany. NYS DOCCS
The Senate will consider Daniel Martuscello III’s bid to run New York’s prison and parole agency. His supporters point to his decades of experience. His opponents say that’s the problem.
By Chris Gelardi

Update: May 23, 2024 — On Wednesday, the Senate corrections and finance committees voted to move forward with Martuscello’s nomination. On Thursday, the Senate confirmed him, along with a member of the State Commission of Correction, by a vote of 37 to 19.

It's been 11 years since New York’s prison system had a proper leader. State legislators are being given roughly 48 hours to consider whether to appoint one.

Daniel Martuscello III has been leading New York’s prison and parole agency in an acting capacity — that is, without confirmation from the state Senate — for a year, having taken over for his boss, who ran the agency from a similar legal purgatory for a decade. Without the usual public announcement, Governor Kathy Hochul nominated Martuscello for the permanent job on Monday, legislators told New York Focus. Senate staff scheduled his initial confirmation hearing for Wednesday morning.

Our managing editor, Maia Hibbett, will move into a new role as politics editor for WNYC and Gothamist. We congratulate her and thank her for her time with New York Focus!

We are seeking an experienced editor to manage our growing newsroom and bring our accountability coverage of New York state politics to new heights.

DOCCS banned entire issues of publications from New York magazine to Prison Legal News. Maia Hibbett
New York prisons have banned articles from The New York Times, New York magazine, and local newspapers, often citing their potential to incite disobedience.
By Rebecca McCray

In 2016, D’uone Morrison wanted to read about racial bias in New York’s prison system. Former Governor Andrew Cuomo had ordered an investigation into the topic, and Morrison, a Black man incarcerated in New York, asked a friend to mail him a news article about it. But the prison’s media review committee blocked the article, Morrison told New York Focus, citing its potential to disrupt order and threaten security. His family and friends tried again, but it kept getting blocked.

It wasn’t Morrison’s first experience with this kind of censorship, and it wouldn’t be his last. Copies of the Bayview National Black Newspaper, which has subscribers in prisons nationwide, were also blocked, as were books related to Black history and activists. Black people account for half of New York’s incarcerated population, but less than a fifth of the state population overall.

Our friends at Documented — a news site devoted solely to covering New York City’s immigrants and the policies that affect their lives — have a newsletter that commands the attention of thousands of immigration professionals, lawyers, advocates, and New Yorkers. We highly recommend it. 

Senator Joe Biden talks with reporters about the crime bill, July 19, 1994. Kathleen Beall, Library of Congress
After New York’s top court overturned Harvey Weinstein’s conviction, state lawmakers want to let prosecutors bring evidence from past uncharged sexual assaults.
By Julia Rock

“I am not ‘Mr. Soft on Crime,’” protested Joe Biden on the floor of the US Senate. “But this is crazy.”

It was 1994. Republicans had proposed an amendment to then-Senator Biden’s landmark crime bill to allow prosecutors to present evidence from prior uncharged sex offenses in sexual assault cases. To Biden, it was patently unjust.

“It is absolutely, positively the wrong thing to do,” he said. “It would stand on its head, as they say, 800 years of English jurisprudential thinking on admissible evidence. … It absolutely violates every basic tenet of our system.”

Now, in response to New York’s highest court overturning the conviction of Harvey Weinstein, state lawmakers are trying to bring that amendment, which was included in the crime bill over Biden’s objections and applies to federal courts, into state law.

Proponents of the New York bill, sponsored by Assemblymember Amy Paulin and Senate Deputy Majority Leader Michael Gianaris, say Weinstein’s case shows why it’s needed: The state Court of Appeals overturned his conviction in part because survivors of uncharged alleged assaults had improperly been allowed to testify against Weinstein.

“It’s important for survivors of sexual offenses to have the opportunity to be heard, and the types of cases that we are talking about, more often than for other charges, involve one person’s word against another,” Gianaris told New York Focus. “Therefore, I believe the context of previous allegations is particularly relevant to help a jury determine who they believe in that situation.”

Criminal defense attorneys are strongly opposed, warning, as Biden did in 1994, that the proposal would upend fundamental due process protections.

“Our system of justice is innocent before proven guilty,” Amanda Jack, policy director and defense attorney with the Legal Aid Society, told New York Focus. “So, to guard that, you can’t let in evidence that would essentially say, ‘This person did it in the past, so they’ve done it again.’”

A quarter of lawmakers in Albany are landlords. Almost none of them are covered by the most significant tenant protection law in years. Reporters Sam Mellins and Peter Tomao shared the story with Radio Catskill. 


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Staying Focused is compiled and written by Alex Arriaga
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