Release: Less Is More Coalition Applauds the New York City Council for Passing Resolution 829

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 29, 2019

Contact:

Yan Snead, ysnead@katalcenter.org | 609.680.8185

 

Less Is More Coalition Applauds the New York City Council for Passing Resolution 829

Resolution Pressures Albany to Pass the Less is More Act and Reform New York’s Outdated Parole System

Meaningful Parole Reform is Critical to Closing Rikers Island – Albany Must Act Immediately

                                                                                                          

New York, NY – Today, New York City Council passed Resolution 829, which calls on Albany to pass the Less is More: Community Supervision Revocation Reform Act (S.1343B – Benjamin / A.5493A – Mosley). The resolution, sponsored by Council Member Keith Powers, would reduce jail and prison populations; support people who are subject to community supervision in the reentry process; promote safety and justice for families and communities; and save taxpayers money.

As New York City moves forward with the process to closing Rikers Island, the question of people on parole detained at Rikers looms large. The increasing number of people detained for state parole violations in New York City’s jails not only overuses incarceration for technical violations, but is also slowing the closure of the City’s jails on Rikers Island and increasing the estimated size of the Mayor’s proposed borough-based facilities.

Passage of the Less Is More Act is essential to reducing the population on Rikers and making closure real, as outlined in an op-ed by Council Member Keith Powers released this week. Through the passage of this bill, the state can ensure that the detention population shrinks in New York City and the future detention footprint in the City is much smaller. It can also address the scandal in the parole system: as recently reported by Gothamist, administrative law judges are being instructed by superiors to incarcerate people on technical violations of parole even when doing so does not serve public safety.  

The City is taking action on parole reform through the “Fix the System” initiatives proposed by New York City Speaker Corey Johnson, and now even further, through the passage of Resolution 829, but there is only so much that the City is capable of doing in the effort to decarcerate people detained on parole violations. It is now time for Albany to pass the Less is More Act.

 

Statements from Elected Officials, Former Judges, Former Correctional Officials, Advocates, and Community Groups:

 

Less is More Bill Sponsor New York Senator Brian A. Benjamin, said: "I welcome the support of my New York City Council colleagues for the Less Is More parole reform bill. On any given day, the number of New Yorkers in state jails because of technical violations of their parole is over 6,000, more than 12% of the total prison population. On Rikers Island, the only group that is increasing are people jailed for a technical violation of their parole, and there are more than 700 people jailed there today. The Less Is More Act would make common sense fixes to parole practices, which would advance the cause of justice while improving public safety. That's why support for this bill includes community groups, district attorneys, sheriffs, and now the NYC council. I applaud the New York City Council for passing Resolution 829 in support of Less Is More, and now Albany must follow in their footsteps and pass this bill.” 

Less Is More Bill Sponsor New York Assemblyman Walter T. Mosley, said: "Our state currently has one of the highest rates of parole failure and it's time to repair this and move forward with something that is fair, more effective, and provides people on a parole with an opportunity to rebuild their lives. Albany must pass the Less Is More Act to expedite the closure of Rikers Island. By incentivizing good behavior, preventing re-incarceration for technical violations, and creating a higher threshold for less serious offenses, our state can save money, reform our criminal justice system, and keep people out of a revolving door of reincarceration. I want to thank my New York City Council colleagues for their support of the Less Is More parole reform legislation and for passing Resolution 829. The time for Albany to give New Yorkers the just parole system that they all deserve, is now. "

Donna Hylton, Director of the Women and Girls Project at the Katal Center for Health, Equity, and Justice, said: “I applaud Council Member Powers and the entire NYC Council for passing Resolution 829. As someone who spent years on parole, I can say from experience how urgently our state needs to fix the parole system. And as someone who was once detained on Rikers Island, I know how absolutely critical it is that we close this facility once and for all. This bill, the Less is More Act, will bring us one step closer to achieving these goals. Right now, there are over 700 people detained in NYC jails not because of a criminal charge, but because they were hit with a technical violation of parole, like missing a meeting with a parole officer. Now, the Legislature and the Governor must immediately pass this bill and make it law.”

Former Chief Judge of New York State and Chair of the Independent Commission on NYC Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform Jonathan Lippman, said: “The fact that there are 1,500 people incarcerated at Rikers due to alleged parole violations -- 20 percent of the total population -- is deplorable. The common sense reforms in the Less Is More Act would create a more just criminal justice system by stopping the counter-productive jailing of people accused of parole violations, reducing parole officer caseloads to allow them to focus on people with the greatest needs, increasing public safety, and saving hundreds of millions of dollars each year.  New York State just passed historic criminal justice reforms and this legislation is the next step in bringing us closer to shutting the Rikers jails once and for all.  We applaud the City Council for passing its resolution and look forward to the State enacting these critical parole reforms.”

Vincent Schiraldi, former New York City Probation Commissioner, Co-Director of the Columbia University Justice Lab, and Author of the Less Is More report, said: “The only population increasing in New York City’s jails are people incarcerated for non-criminal, technical violations of parole, jeopardizing the closure of Rikers Island or forcing the city to build larger borough-based jails. The City Council should be applauded for passing a resolution in support of the Less is More Act to do something about that ridiculous situation. Now it’s Albany’s turn to act.”

Soffiyah Elijah, Executive Director of the Alliance of Families for Justice, said: "It is time for New York State to rid itself of draconian criminal justice policies that serve to harm rather than help people. The Less is More Act is a significant step in the right direction."

Wesley Caines, Reentry and Community Outreach Coordinator of the Bronx Defenders, said: “The Bronx Defenders applauds the New York City Council for passing Resolution 829 in support of the Less Is More Act.  New York's broken parole system deeply impacts the very clients we serve, members of our community, and some of our own family members. We call on the Governor and State Legislature to demonstrate continued support for a fair system of justice. It is imperative that the Governor and State Legislature cease this moment in history when New Yorkers are calling for a justice system reflective of our values and core beliefs, by urgently passing Less Is More.”

DeAnna Hoskins, President and CEO of JustLeadershipUSA, said: “JustLeadershipUSA applauds the New York City Council for passing Resolution 829 in support of the #LessIsMoreNY bill, calling on Albany legislators to act immediately to pass it. This legislation would limit the length of parole, cut down on the way that parole fuels incarceration, and help ensure that people receive the services they need after returning home to their communities. The city and state must now continue working toward decarcerating and closing the Rikers Island jails complex. We must utilize all avenues toward decarceration, and recognize that New York State's parole system is fueling the only growing population on Rikers. This is why passing the Less Is More Act, sponsored by Senator Brian Benjamin and Assemblyman Walter T. Mosley, is critical in shrinking the system, reducing the harm that the system is causing, ending the way that supervision creates a revolving door back into incarceration, and generating cost savings that can be used to support people and #buildCOMMUNITIES. As directly impacted people working to cut the U.S. correctional population in half by 2030, JLUSA is committed to ultimately eliminating the need for parole and probation, and we know that #LessIsMoreNY is a critical piece of that work."

Julio Medina, Executive Director of Exodus Transitional Community, said: “We strongly support Resolution 829 and the Less is More bill. Our communities are currently suffering from incarceration due to technical parole violations, which is unacceptable both morally and fiscally. We are deeply grateful to Council Member Keith Powers and the City Council, as today’s vote in support of Resolution 829 is a testament to the commitment of City government to decarcerate NYC, and close Rikers Island once and for all. We look forward to continuing to work alongside so many others to transform our justice system into one that is equitable, fair and safe for all human beings. We implore Albany to pass the Less Is More Act, and stand in solidarity with New York City’s Resolution 829.”

Rita Zimmerman, President of the Women’s Community Justice Association, said: “New York City has an opportunity to put an end to the new Jim Crow era by overhauling our parole system into a restorative model that heals people, families, and communities to thrive.”

 

 

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