FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, March 27th, 2020
Yan Snead, [email protected] | (518) 360-1534
Emily NaPier Singletary, [email protected] | (315) 243-5135
Follow on Twitter #LessIsMoreNY
Release: Governor Cuomo Announces the Release of 1,100 Individuals Incarcerated for Technical Parole Violations in Jails Across the State
Governor Cuomo Responds to Demands of Directly Impacted People, Constituents, and Community Groups by Planning to Release 1,100 Individuals Currently Incarcerated for Technical Parole Violations
Statement by groups leading the #LessIsMoreNY Campaign
New York, NY: Today, Governor Cuomo announced plans to release 1,100 individuals currently incarcerated in city and county jails across the state for technical parole violations as the COVID-19 crisis grows in New York. New York State leads the country, second only to Illinois, in re-incarcerating people for technical violations of parole, like missing a curfew or failing a drug test. There are over 700 people jailed on Rikers today for technical violations of parole; in jails outside of New York City, there are over 1000 people incarcerated for technical parole violations. And there are over 4,500 people held in state prisons for technical parole violations. The Governor’s order does not appear to address people in state prisons.
For weeks, in the face of the COVID-19 crisis rapidly spreading throughout NY jails and prisons, community groups in the #LessIsMoreNY campaign and other groups across the state have demanded the immediate release of thousands of people to help slow the spread of the virus (examples here and here).
Statements by groups leading the #LessIsMoreNY Campaign:
Donna Hylton, Founder and Executive Director, A Little Piece of Light, said: "In the face of the terrible COVID19 pandemic, it's incredibly important we address the needs of people in jail and prisons, especially women, and releasing people is the best way to keep them safe in this crisis. I thank Governor Cuomo for heeding our call to action and releasing 1,100 people who are detained in local jails -- like Rikers -- on technical parole violations. This will save lives. And that's why I urge the Governor to expand the release order to include people in prisons as well, and to use his broad clemency powers to release even more vulnerable people. And I call on the State Legislature to build on the Governor's actions here by immediately passing the Less is More NY Act, which would make sure people are not subject to immediate incarceration for technical violations of parole. I've been incarcerated in these facilities and know how dangerous they are, especially for women, and immediate action is so important."
Emily NaPier Singletary, Co-Founder and Co-Executive Director of Unchained, said: “Releasing more than 1,000 people held in local jails on petty parole rule violations is an important step toward decarceration, especially during the COVID-19 crisis, and we thank Governor Cuomo for taking this action today. But far more must be done. Today's announcement leaves behind more than 4,500 people in state prisons, most of whom are Black and Latinx, who also have committed no new crime but simply violated one of the myriad rules of parole. The Governor continues to insist that the virus has not spread throughout the state prisons, but only 16 tests have been conducted on incarcerated people, prison infirmaries are full of people exhibiting symptoms, and people were still being transferred between facilities this week. Releasing people locked up on technical parole violations would remove almost one in nine people from the state prison system. Further delaying action on this when lives are at stake is reprehensible. Had New York passed the Less is More: Community Supervision Revocation Reform Act these people would already be home with their families where they belong. Release them now and pass the bill to make this long overdue change permanent."
Marketa Edwards, community leader with the Katal Center for Health, Equity, and Justice, said: "I can't begin to describe the happiness I feel knowing Gov. Cuomo has decided to finally release 1,100 people on parole from jails. Thank you Governor for listening to our voices and releasing our loved ones! This gives me the faith and strength I need to continue this fight to get #LessIsMoreNY passed this year. The legislature should take action now!"
Vincent Schiraldi, Co-Director of the Columbia University Justice Lab, Author of the Less Is More report, and former New York City Probation Commissioner, said: “Governor Cuomo is to be congratulated for releasing a record number of people incarcerated for non-criminal, technical violations today so they don't spread the coronavirus in and out of our prisons and jails. That was good policy even before the virus, doubly important since the pandemic” states Vincent Schiraldi. “Now he and the legislature should incorporate the Less is More Act into the budget next week to ensconce this sound policy into law.”
Tyler Nims, Executive Director of the Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform, said: “Governor Cuomo’s decision to stop jailing people for accusations of non-criminal parole violations is a much needed step forward in the battle against COVID-19. It is also a welcome recognition that incarcerating people for parole violations does not improve public safety or public health. While the full details of the Governor’s announcement remain to be seen, it will almost certainly save lives and improve public health, particularly in New York City’s notorious and dysfunctional Rikers Island jail complex, where COVID infections are skyrocketing among staff and incarcerated people. The next step is passing the Less Is More Act as soon as possible to permanently reframe parole supervision to help people return home with success rather than sending them back to jail and prison.”
Lorenzo Jones, Co-Executive Director of the Katal Center for Health, Equity, and Justice, said: “This action by Governor Cuomo, to release 1,100 people from local jails around the state, will save lives. That's the right decision Governor Cuomo, thank you -- Governor Lamont in Connecticut and other governor's around the country should follow suit. And Governor Cuomo should do more, expanding the order to free people not just from jails but from prisons as well. And the legislature should immediately pass the #LessIsMoreNY bill. We wouldn't have this many people in jail and prisons if they had already passed this bill, which has broad support across the state. We need bold, immediate action in this crisis. This should be the first step of many critical decisions to save lives not only of people incarcerated in jails and prisons, but of their families and communities as well.”
With the announcement that Governor Cuomo will release 1,100 individuals across the state who are jailed for technical parole violations, the pressure is now on Albany to immediately pass the Less Is More: Community Supervision Revocation Reform Act (S.1343B - Benjamin / A.5493A - Mosley).
The Less is More Act–developed by directly impacted people, public safety officials, Katal Center for Health, Equity, and Justice, Unchained, and A Little Piece of Light, and Columbia Justice Lab–is comprehensive legislation that addresses the shockingly high number of people who are sent to jail and prison for technical violations in New York State. The reforms in the bill include: incentivizing good behavior and allowing New Yorkers to earn accelerated release from parole; requiring fair hearings; creating maximum terms of re-incarceration for violations and eliminating incarceration as a sanction for certain technical violations; and saving taxpayers money. Details at www.lessismoreny.org.
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