Nearly 200 People To Be Released From Rikers Friday After Gov. Hochul Signs ‘Less Is More Act,’ Calls N.Y.’s Incarceration Rate ‘A Point Of Shame’
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Gov. Kathy Hochul signed the Less is More Act into law Friday, giving more leniency to parolees.
“New York State incarcerates more people for parole violations than anywhere in the country. That is a point of shame for us, and it needs to be fixed. It’s going to be fixed today,” Hochul said.
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Under the new law, people on parole will no longer be locked up for technical violations, like missing curfew or failing a drug test.
WATCH: Gov. Hochul Signs ‘Less Is More Act’ Into Law
Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin and state Assembly member Phara Souffrant Forrest, who co-sponsored the bill, celebrated its signing, along with other elected officials and criminal justice reform advocates.
“When women rule, how things can change, how we can find compassion and understanding and we can recognize what we’ve done wrong,” said Donna Hilton, executive director of A Little Piece of Light.
“It’s a new day in New York,” added Emily NaPier Singletary, co-executive director of Unchained.
“With the stroke of a pen, New York now finally turns the page on a draconian parole revocation system that helped perpetuate mass incarceration for decades,” the Legal Aid Society said in a statement.
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Hochul’s announcement came amid worsening violence, inmate deaths and inhumane conditions at Rikers Island.
While the Less is More Act won’t take effect next March, she said nearly 200 people will be released from the city jail Friday.
“I believe that we also have to take some very swift action and take it right now. So the Board of Parole, under my direction, will have 191 people released today,” she said. “They have served their sentences under the dictates of the new Less is More, but they shouldn’t have to wait until the enactment date.”
The governor said another 200 people still serving sentences will be transferred from Rikers to other state facilities over the next five days.
“We know larger, systemic problems still exist, we know that,” she added. “I believe that while we take these first steps, we encourage the city of New York to do what they need to do to alleviate the staffing situation and the other crisis situations.”
Earlier this week, Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled an emergency plan for Rikers, which includes:
- Reopening once-shuttered areas on Rikers to ease overcrowding and better process detainees
- Deploying the NYPD to staff the courts, shifting correction officers to the jail
- Expediting the fixing of broken cell doors and cleaning
- Addressing widespread sick-outs of correction officers by requiring a doctors note, and punishing those who don’t show up without warning
Critics had argued the city’s plan didn’t go far enough to lower the jail population.
In a statement, New York City Department of Correction Commissioner Vincent Schiraldi thanked Hochul for “prioritizing the signing of this critical legislation, which marks a huge step forward in ending the era of mass incarceration, and its cousin, ‘mass supervision.’”
“Eliminating non-criminal, technical parole violations is the decent, humane thing to do and it will only increase public safety by disrupting the incarceration cycle at a critical point, when people are reintegrating into the community,” his statement continued. “I also wholeheartedly thank the governor for using her discretionary power to implement facets of the bill that we can benefit from immediately without waiting until March.”