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NYC probation overtime increases 600% in six years

2019-09-19

Transforming the city’s criminal justice system has a price.

Overtime at the Department of Probation grew nearly 600% in just six years as the city moves to reduce its jail population and implement criminal justice reforms.

The city shelled out $3.2 million in OT for probation employees last fiscal year, six times what the agency spent in 2014, when overtime cost just under $462,911, according to a Daily News analysis of payroll records.

Officials attributed the dramatic increase to Mayor de Blasio’s efforts to decrease the inmate population at city jails and eventually close Rikers Island. Recent state legislation raising the age of criminal responsibility to 18 years old is also to blame.

Dalvanie Powell, president of the United Probation Officers Association, was shocked to to hear overtime had increased so much, though she said the city is relying more on her members.

“They’re trying to keep people in the community more and reduce mass incarceration, so they lean on us much more,” Powell said.

Legislation passed by the state this year eliminating cash bail is the majority of criminal cases could also boost overtime pay.

“When you talk about criminal justice reform, everything my members do is that," Powell said. "Instead of getting sentenced to a criminal justice facility, people get sentenced to probation.”

The probation department supervises convict people whom a judge believes can avoid prison or jail, cutting down the number of inmates significantly adds to the agency’s workload.

The city’s average inmate population plummeted from 10,240 in 2015 to 7,938 last fiscal year, records show.

De Blasio has moved to close Rikers Island by 2026, replacing the troubled complex with four smaller borough-based jails that will cost about $8.7 billion.

Closing Rikers is possible in part because the NYPD is arresting fewer people – which caused an 18% decrease in adult and juvenile pre-sentence investigations conducted by probation workers.

The department’s caseload also dropped from 55,000 in 2014 to 50,000 last fiscal year, when the number of probation officers grew from 518 to 631.

But overtime still increased.

The city said this was partially because the department’s intel unit’s enforcement grew 17%. Overtime costs also include collective bargaining increase that wasn’t reflected in past years.

A larger percentage of people on probation were also assessed with a higher risk level and charge severity.

“The Department’s use of overtime, all of which is within our allocated budget, is a necessary tool in achieving groundbreaking criminal justice reforms like Raise the Age, and maintaining New York City’s status as the least incarcerated and safest big city in the country,” probation spokeswoman Candace Sandy said.

The “Raise the Age” legislation amended laws that automatically processed 16- and 17-year-olds as adults, diverting most juvenile cases to Family Court and judges with

“It has a significant impact on my members’ work schedules,” probation union leader Powell said.

The law went into effect for 16-year-olds in October 2018, adding more youth to the Department of Probation’s intake, investigations and supervision caseloads. Next month, 17-year-olds will also be covered by the changes, too.

The Department of Probation processed 4,406 juvenile intakes last fiscal year, a 19% increase since 2018, according to city records. The number of initial youth assessments increased 39% during that time, to 1,905 last fiscal year.

Councilman Keith Powers, who chairs the Criminal Justice Committee, said he’ll be working with the department to understand and address the massive overtime increase.

“Even as the city pursues important changes to the criminal justice system, it is important that we control costs, including overtime,” Powers (D-Manhattan) said.

The city pointed out the successful probation completion rate increased to 78% last year, from 59% in 2014.