The Parole Hearing Data Project

An educational tool for criminal justice research built on examining parole hearing data

The Parole Hearing Data Project gathers New York State parole hearing data from the New York State Parole Board’s website and puts them in a consolidated spreadsheet, enabling research that would otherwise be much more laborious to perform. So far, it has enabled criminal justice research by graduate students at NYU's Engineering School as well as Columbia University's Journalism + Social Work Schools.  

A little bit of history

 In  New York over 10,000 parole eligible prisoners are denied release every year, and while the consequences of these decisions are costly (at $60,000 annually to incarcerate one individual, and more to incarcerate older individuals with illnesses), the process of how these determinations are made is unclear.  Advocates for parole reform argue that parole commissioners too often base their decisions on "the nature of the crime" for which the individual was convicted, rather than on that individual's accomplishments and growth while serving  a sentence in prison.

The Parole Hearing Data Project was conceived by Nikki Zeichner, a former New York City-based criminal defense attorney who currently works on civic tech projects in San Francisco.  Nikki became interested in examining the NYS parole board's release practices while representing an incarcerated man in front of the NYS parole board for his tenth hearing. Despite having an excellent institutional record and sincere recommendations for release by prison staff, he had been denied parole release nine times and had served 18 years past his parole eligibility date. Nikki decided to prepare him for his next hearing on a pro bono basis and this time he was finally released. After serving 33 years in prison, he now lives with his family in Brooklyn, NY.  

The Parole Hearing Data Project is part of a broader body of work that can be found on the Museum of the American Prison's website.  


Nikki Zeichner, Code for America

Rebecca Ackerman, Case Commons

John Krauss, CartoDB

And a special thanks to R. Luke DuBois of NYU and Annie Waldman of ProPublica for initial iterations of code.


ABA Journal //  09.15.15

The Marshall Project (Letter to the Editor) // 06.22.2015 // 05.12.2015

BLS Advocate // 04.14.2014

GovLab Academy Blog // 04.08.2014

Transgressing Media: Critical Themes in Media Studies, New School (panel presentation) // 04.06.2014

From Bleak House to Geek House, Brooklyn Law School (video of panel presentation) // 04.04.2014

Open Law Lab // 03.07.14


To the Voqal Fund for supporting this project with a Media Ideation Fellowship

And to the following Individuals and organizations that have made real contributions to this project:

Rebecca Ackerman, Case Commons
Jamel Bellamy, Civic Duty Initiative, Sullivan Correctional Facility
Enrico Bertini, NYU Engineering, Computer Science Dept.
Judith Brink, Prison Action Network
Eddie Chen, NYU Engineering, Integrated Digital Media Dept.
R. Luke Dubois, Brooklyn Experimental Media Center
Derek Eder, DataMade
Mujahid Farid, Release Aging People from Prison (RAPP) Campaign, Correctional Association
Tom Grant, Former Commissioner, New York State Parole Board
Jim Murphy, Cure New York
Jay Koven, NYU Engineering, Computer Science Dept.
Beth Noveck, the Governance Lab at NYU
Joe Robinson, Second Look Policy Think Tank, Fishkill Correctional Facility
Thornwell Richburg
Sheila Rule, Think Outside the Cell Foundation
Laura Whitehorn, Release Aging People from Prison (RAPP) Campaign, Correctional Association







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