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Governor Hochul Announces Major Actions To Improve Justice and Safety in City Jails

Governor Kathy Hochul today announced actions to improve justice and safety in city jails. The Governor signed the Less is More Act (S.1144A/A.5576A) which modifies the standard of evidence and certain other procedures when determining whether to revoke the community supervision of a person on parole. Governor Hochul also announced an agreement with the Department of Corrections and city to allow for incarcerated individuals who have been sentenced to at least ninety days to be transferred from Rikers Island to New York State facilities.

“Our fellow New Yorkers on parole deserve to reenter society with our support and respect – reincarcerating parolees for technical violations traps them and doesn’t help our communities,” Governor Hochul said. “New Yorkers currently serving sentences in jails and prisons also deserve our support – there is no justice in mistreating incarcerated New Yorkers. While this is just one step and more work needs to be done collaboratively with all levels of government, I am proud to take these steps to increase the safety in city jails, not only for those incarcerated, but for the staff who work tirelessly to keep operations running.”

Lieutenant Governor Benjamin said, “I am thrilled that Governor Hochul is signing this historic parole reform bill today. When I was the state senator from Harlem, I introduced the Less Is More Act because the problem of mass incarceration had harmed our communities, and I knew we could have a safer, fairer, more just and equitable parole system in New York. I fought for years alongside the Less Is More coalition to get this bill through the legislature, and this year we finally did it. Today, as Lt. Governor, I am proud to stand with our Governor as she signs this bill into law. Through the Less is More Act, we can strengthen public safety — that’s why it’s supported by District Attorneys and Sheriffs from around the state. And we can focus on racial justice and more effective reentry for people coming home from prison on parole — that’s why it’s supported by more than 300 groups from every corner and region of our state. Over time, this bill will save the state hundreds of millions of dollars each year, and those funds can be more effectively focused on creating a stronger, safer New York for all, in every region of our state. I would like to thank our partners in the legislature for their work, and I would also like to thank all the community organizations that worked so hard to get this bill passed, in particular the Katal Center for Equity, Health, and Justice; Unchained; and A Little Piece of Light.”

Signs and Implements Less is More Legislation

The Less is More Act aims to ensure the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision focuses its resources on helping people successfully complete community supervision and avoiding future return to DOCCS custody or supervision.

Preventing these reincarcerations allows New York State to focus its limited resources on substantive parole violations. This promotes greater community safety and justice for families.

In addition, with the Governor signing the “Less is More” bill, in the spirit of this new legislation, DOCCS is currently reviewing the current parole violators and will work with City officials to immediately release up to 191 individuals, who will no longer qualify for incarceration.

Agreement with City of New York

The Department of Corrections and Community Supervision has worked with the City of New York to leverage an existing statute that will allow for hundreds of definite sentenced incarcerated individuals, which are those sentenced to at least one day but less than one year, to be transferred from Rikers Island to State custody, where they will serve out their sentences in DOCCS facilities.

Governor Hochul is also directing that forty individuals sentenced to at least ninety days be sent off of Rikers Island each day to New York State facilities for the next five days. This will continue on a rolling basis for those eligible.

…reincarcerating parolees for technical violations traps them and doesn’t help our communities.

Governor Kathy Hochul

Senator Julia Salazar said, “New York imprisons more people for non-criminal ‘technical’ violations of parole than any state in the country. Governor Hochul signing the Less is More bill today means that thousands of New Yorkers will be able to live their lives without continuously falling into the cycle of injustice that is our parole system. Mass incarceration not only harms individuals and their families, but leaves a longterm, negative impact on entire communities. The enactment of Less is More is a very positive step, which we celebrate. Given the unprecedented human rights crisis at the jails on Rikers Island and at correctional facilities in New York, we still have more work to do. We must also take legislative action to further transform the parole system and to reverse the devastating toll of mass incarceration on communities across our state.”

Assemblymember David Weprin said, “For far too long, people who are on parole have lived in fear that a technical violation, like being late for curfew, would send them back to prison. We all know that life happens. Anyone who lives in New York is aware that subways and buses can run late and cause a missed deadline. A non-criminal technical parole violation should not be a reason for families to be separated from their loved ones. The Less Is More Act will help end the punitive practice of re-incarcerating individuals and allow them the chance to reintegrate into their communities. As Chair of the Assembly Committee on Correction, I worked on this bill for many years. I am proud to witness this much needed signing today. I thank the sponsors of the bill, legislative leadership, the Governor, and the advocates for all of their tireless work on this bill.”

Donna Lieberman, Executive Director of the New York Civil Liberties Union said, “It is past time that New York’s regressive parole regime gets the overhaul it has desperately needed to end the vindictive, discriminatory, and inhumane practice of incarcerating people on parole for non-criminal technicalities. New York must stop incarcerating people for most technical violations, limit sanctions for others, end the practice of automatic incarceration before parole violation hearings, and afford people accused of violating parole their right to a speedy hearing before a judge without delay. We are heartened to see Governor Hochul listening to people on parole, their families, and those experiencing a humanitarian crisis on Rikers this very moment, and hope New York City and state will now take immediate action to reduce inequity within our broken criminal legal system.”

Tina Luongo, Attorney-In-Charge of the Criminal Defense Practice at The Legal Aid Society said, “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 legislation – if implemented by the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision immediately – will provide essential relief to the ongoing humanitarian crisis at Rikers Island by securing the release of over two hundred people currently held on non-criminal, technical parole violations. The Legal Aid Society lauds Governor Kathy Hochul and the Legislature for enacting this critical bill into law which will literally save lives.”

Sharon White-Harrigan, Executive Director of Women’s Community Justice Association said, “This is a momentous occasion in the signing of the Less is More Bill. We thank the new Governor Kathy Hochul for recognizing the importance of this bill and how many lives it will impact and improve in and out of this dehumanizing system. This is the start of changing the landscape and the trajectory of people’s lives. So much more work to be done, however we start with acknowledging that LESS is MORE!!!!!!!”

Lee Winkelman, Field Team Organizer, New York Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism said, “RAC-NY celebrates Governor Hochul for signing the Less Is More Act, a new law that transform’s New York’s parole system that had been the worst in the country. Reform Jews throughout the state worked hard to win the support for Less Is More because it embodies the Jewish principle of T’shuva, that everyone can turn their life around. The Less Is More Act will increase racial justice in New York’s criminal justice system, strengthen public safety, and save the State money.”

The Reverend Peter Cook, Executive Director,  New York State Council of Churches, said, “The New York State Council of Churches thanks Governor Kathy Hochul for signing the Less is More bill into law. For far too long, so many previously incarcerated New Yorkers have needlessly been threatened with reincarceration if they miss a curfew or appointment while on parole. Parole is not a bureaucratic game of “gotcha” where we make it as hard as possible for people to renew. Parole is intended to help people improve their lives by giving them a path to reunite with their families, get a job, secure housing and give back to their communities. Less is More will ensure that parole will be based on the ideal of restoration instead of the principle of revenge. We are so grateful for the leadership of former State Senator and now Lieutenant Governor Brian Benjamin, Assemblywoman Phara Souffrant Forrest and so many other legislators to secure passage of Less is More in the Senate and Assembly and to Governor Hochul for having the courage and compassion to sign it.”

JoAnne Page, President & CEO of the Fortune Society said, “We are enormously grateful that Governor Hochul is signing the Less is More bill into law.  We at the Fortune Society have watched as conditions at Rikers Island have gotten more and more dangerous.  The people confined there are suffering grievously to the extent that some have taken their own lives.  The conditions at Rikers Island need to be drastically improved until Rikers is closed down.  Less is More will, as soon as it goes into effect, prevent people accused of breaking parole’s technical rules from being locked up under conditions that are cruel, dangerous, and totally unjustified by the charges against them.  We applaud Governor Hochul for signing this bill in to law.  It will, literally, save lives.”

Derek Singletary, Co-Founder and Co-Executive Director of Unchained, said: “It’s a new day in New York! The Less is More: Community Supervision Revocation Reform Act is the most transformative parole reform legislation ever passed in the nation. No longer will New York have the distinction of reincarcerating more people for non-criminal technical violations than any other state. Instead, our parole system will reward successes rather than punishing struggles. This is a victory for racial justice and a victory for economic justice. More than 300 groups across the state and dozens of public officials across the political spectrum sent a resounding message that, when it comes to parole, less is more. We are grateful to Governor Hochul for signing the legislation and to Lt. Governor Benjamin for carrying the bill in the Senate prior to accepting his new position, as well as to Assemblymember Souffrant-Forrest. Unchained looks forward to its swift implementation.”

Kenyatta Muzzanni, Director of Organizing at the Katal Center for Equity, Health, and Justice, said: “The signing of #LessIsMoreNY into law is a huge step forward, for not only New York, but for the entire country, because this bill is a model for smart parole reform. Tens of thousands of New Yorkers and their families  who have been harmed by broken parole practices will instead be given the chance and support they need to succeed. And once implemented, this bill will get us one step closer to closing Rikers Island for good. This fight has been led by the people on the ground impacted by systemic racism, parole, and mass incarceration, and could not have been won without them. We thank Governor Hochul for her leadership in signing this bill into law. And we thank the primary bill sponsors, former state senator and now Lt. Governor Brian Benjamin, and Assemblymember Phara Souffrant Forrest, for their leadership to get us here today. With Less is More now signed, we are ready to work with Gov. Hochul  and her team for its swift and effective implementation.”

Donna Hylton, Founder of A Little Piece of Light, said: “I applaud Governor Hochul’s leadership in criminal justice reform, and her swift action that recognizes the basic rights and human dignity of people. I am thrilled today has arrived, as – I’m sure – are the thousands of New Yorkers who will reenter society because LessIsMoreNY is now law. It is a victory for the women who have suffered behind bars for small parole missteps, especially women of color who have been disproportionately impacted. It is a victory for their families, for their communities, for society. And a victory for me personally. As a woman who was imprisoned for 27 years at Bedford Hills, and who spent time at Rikers Island, I know what a troubling place it is. With ten deaths in the last nine months, it became a public safety and health crisis. Today acknowledges those who died, although tragic, did not die in vain. LessIsMoreNY sets a precedent. But there is more to be done. We must now help these women find housing, rejoin the workforce, reintegrate with their families and communities, and most of all, recognize their full potential.”

Kendra Bradner, Director of Columbia Justice Lab’s Probation and Parole Projects: “We applaud Governor Hochul for signing this bill, and thank the bill sponsors, Lt. Governor Brian Benjamin and Assembly Member Phara Souffrant Forrest, for introducing and carrying the bill. We are proud to have stood alongside directly impacted leaders and advocates for the two-plus years it took to secure this win. Less is More is arguably the boldest, most comprehensive supervision reform effort in the nation. This can help create a pathway to real justice for many thousands of people, families, and communities across the state. By making parole supervision more fair, less harmful, and anchored by real due process, Less is More will help end New York State’s mass supervision and mass incarceration crises and move us one step closer toward racial justice and equity in the criminal legal system.”

Former NYS Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman said, “Governor Hochul is taking a critical first step towards meaningful and safe decarceration by signing the Less Is More Act. The bill has the potential to significantly reduce the Riker’s population. We hope to see its immediate implementation to help address the dire situation at Rikers. We also must continue to act swiftly and safely to close Rikers, which continues to be a shameful stain on our City.”

Read more at NYC.gov Back

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