FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 11, 2021
Contact: Sumeet Sharma - 646-591-9483 - [email protected]
Follow online: #LessIsMoreNY | www.lessismoreny.org
New Report: Passing #LessIsMoreNY Will Save New York $680 Million Annually, $6.8 Billion in Next Decade
Columbia Justice Lab & Lippman Commission Report Details Extraorbitant Costs of State Parole System and Incarceration for Minor Technical Violations of Parole
New York, NY - A new report from the Columbia Justice Lab and Lippman Commission details astronomical costs within New York’s parole system with a focus on specific expenditures made by the State of New York, the City of New York and County Governments. New York reincarcerates more people on parole for minor technical violations than any other state in the nation, in a practice marked by rampant racial disparities. In 2019 alone, State, City, and County governments in New York spent over $680 million to incarcerate people on technical parole violations with New York State spending $319 million, New York City expending $274 million, and a $91 million cost for NY county governments. These are funds that could be better spent on reentry, housing, education, healthcare, and more.
Today’s report confirms data released previously by the #LessIsMoreNY Coalition showing that the enactment of Less Is More, will save governments in New York at least $600 million; and builds on analysis by the NYU Brennan Center for Justice proving that New York’s parole system is integral in and significantly responsible for the extraction of $2 billion in wealth from communities of color each year - as 40% of new admissions to state prison in New York are on-criminal technical parole violations.
The smart parole reforms in the Less is More bill, S.1144 (Benjamin) / A.5576 (Forrest), are supported by over 235 community advocacy groups, 7 District Attorneys from the counties of Albany, Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Tompkins, Ulster, & Westchester, law enforcement leaders from across New York including the Albany and Erie County Sheriffs, as well as the New York State Association of Counties, whom have recognized the substantial cost borne by county governments to incarcerate people on minor technical violations. A full list of supporters and comprehensive information on the Less Is More Act can be found at www.lessismoreny.org.
QUOTES FROM BILL SPONSORS AND SUPPORTERS OF LESS IS MORE:
Senator Brian A. Benjamin, Prime Bill Sponsor, said: “We can't forget that when COVID-19 came to New York, the first two deaths from the illness at Rikers Island, were people who had been sent back to the jail for technical parole violations. Now we learn, that in addition to the invaluable human cost paid to incarcerate people on technical parole violations, that New Yorkers are also paying over $600 million per year to keep people in jail for minor violations. We need to pass the Less Is More bill now and save New Yorkers from the mounting costs that come from holding people in jails and prisons for insignificant technical parole violations."
Assemblymember Phara Souffrant Forrest, Prime Bill Sponsor, said: "The findings of this report demonstrate the urgent need for a significant shift in criminal legal policy. More than half a billion dollars each year is being spent unnecessarily taking people out of their communities, which is money that could be spent investing in poor and working people and using our society’s wealth to strengthen, rather than disrupt these communities. The report makes crystal clear the need to end incarceration for technical parole violations by passing the Less is More Act right away."
Emily NaPier Singletary, Co-Founder and Co-Executive Director of Unchained, said: "We've known about the enormous human costs of reincarcerating people for non-criminal technical violations for far too long. Now we have new insight into the financial costs of this disturbing policy thanks to the robust report from the Columbia University Justice Lab and the Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform. New York State and its counties have been financially devastated by the coronavirus pandemic and, as with mass incarceration and mass criminalization, it is Black and Brown communities who have felt the brunt of the harm. Spending $6.8 billion over the next 10 years to lock people up who pose no threat to public safety would be ludicrous, especially in the face of the grave human and fiscal crisis we find ourselves in currently. New York must pass the Less is More Act immediately to save lives and save money and reinvest the savings in infrastructure and opportunities that will benefit our state's most marginalized residents."
Donna Hylton, President and Founder of A Little Piece of Light, said: "The monetary cost of incarcerating people for minor parole violations is clear. Often less visible is the human cost. I’m thinking of the women who need our help. The women who are doing everything they can to get their lives back on track. Let’s not punish them for small infractions like being late to a parole meeting as they learn to navigate the metro system or manage child care demands. Let’s recognize the time they have served and their efforts. Failing to do so costs them a chance at a fair shot and further harms their families and the communities in which they live. The monetary and human need is clear: pass #LessIsMoreNY now."
Robin Lawrence, Member of the Katal Center, said: “The need to reform the parole system in New York is long overdue. It is time to change the outdated policies that have created this ongoing revolving door of incarceration. I have family members who are currently incarcerated for a technical violation of parole. People on parole have this dark cloud looming over them because they are constantly worrying about their every action. You worry about missing your bus or train which can result in missing an appointment with your parole officer. You worry about jobs and making sure they are within your vicinity. I share the same grief because I was subjected to the unfairness of parole. The passage of the Less Is More Act will support formerly incarcerated individuals and strip the punitive side of parole of putting people behind bars for these minor infractions. The money that the City and the State is expected to save can be reallocated to provide essential services and initiative that will help formerly incarcerated people reintegrate back into society. I urge the legislature to pass the Less Is More Act now!"
Lee Winkelman, Lead Organizer for the New York Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC-NY), said: "Judaism believes that everyone is capable of "t'shuva"-- turning their life around. This bill gives people out of prison incentives to turn their life around while saving New York State over $600 million per year. Less Is More increases racial justice, strengthens public safety, and saves the State money at the same time. It is rare that you get a bill that does all three things."
Serena Liguori, Executive Director of New Hour for Women and Children Long Island, said: “New Hour works with women across Long Island who suffer the collateral consequences of wrong minded, punitive responses to technical parole violations. As our deficit grows, #LessIsMoreNY as outlined in the newly released Columbia Justice Lab and A More Just NYC report, would provide needed tax relief and a thoughtful approach to support justice-impacted women and families."
Marcellus Morris, CEO of Reign 4 Life, said: "The Less Is More NY bill is important because of how it will impact our communities, particularly here on Long Island, where Reign 4 Life works. Looking at this report, the cost of keeping someone incarcerated is yet another reason why we need to pass Less Is More. The state could use that money to help people on parole, and instead, they're using it to lock them up. There are underlying issues that need to be addressed, and they aren't getting addressed if we keep people in a cage. Albany needs to pass the Less Is More NY act and stop wasting both money and time."
Alison Wilkey, Director of Public Policy at the John Jay College Institute for Justice and Opportunity, said: "The Less Is More Act is a critical component to reforming New York's criminal justice system and decarcerating our jails and prisons. Nearly one-third of the new admissions to New York State prisons are people reincarcerated for technical violations of parole – not because they were convicted of a new crime. This draconian and arbitrary practice comes at an immense fiscal cost as New York spends over $600 million a year to incarcerate people for non-criminal technical violations of parole. The New York Legislature must pass Less is More: the Community Supervision Revocation Reform Act this session."
Imani Webb-Smith, Policy Analyst for the Center for Employment Opportunities, said: "Today the Justice Lab and a More Just NYC released a report revealing the massive cost savings that New York State stands to gain through the passage of #LessIsMoreNY: $680 million annually and almost $7 billion over the next ten years. In light of this news and the state legislature’s ongoing budget negotiations, the Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO), the nation’s largest reentry employment provider reemphasizes our staunch and unwavering support for the quick passage of #LessIsMoreNY. Inequality across New York is pervasive, profound, and not random: it is the result of deliberate, highly organized systems and policies designed to engineer outcomes based on race. Parole reform and increased investment for reentry services and other supports are critical to our ongoing pursuit of justice and opportunity for all New Yorkers, regardless of criminal legal involvement. This past year, the legislature has stood with impacted individuals to reform our legal system, but our work is far from over. It is time to pass #LessIsMoreNY and advance holistic reforms that address the structural and social barriers that continue to ensnare Black and brown New Yorkers in the criminal legal system, denying true opportunity for economic mobility and opportunity."
Emelissa Curo, Member of the Katal Center, said: ““Pushing for parole reform is something that I am incredibly passionate about because I know how many people it will help. Right now, there are about 5,000 people being held in NYS prisons and jails for a technical parole violation. These are people who were once a member of our communities and that have families that depended on them. Even more, many of us have loved ones that are incarcerated for other reasons but will face these harsh regulations set by parole that can easily send them back behind bars. This is why the Less Is More Act is important to me because it will protect the members in our community. As this new report from the Justice Lab and the Lippman Commission shows, the money saved from the passage of this Bill could be reinvested in communities that have been the most impacted by incarceration. New York can save lives, cut costs, and decarcerate right now by passing the #LessIsMoreNY Act.”
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