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While overall NYC jail population drops, technical parole violators are on the rise

2019-08-27

The number of people detained in New York city jails due to technical parole violations is on the rise, a new study reports. (James Keivom/New York Daily News)

As the overall New York City jail population continues to decline, the number of people detained due to technical parole violations is on the rise, a new city study reports.

The average daily inmate population for those accused of violating the conditions of their state parole grew from 550 in 2014 to 650 in 2018 – an increase of about 18%, according to data released on Tuesday by the city’s Independent Budget Office.

Housing these individuals — who are sent to city jails for violations like failing to make curfew, testing positive for drugs or missing meetings with their parole officer — costs the city a $190 million a year, the report says.

“This study shows that the city is spending a ton of money on [violations] that aren’t criminal, and it’s something that would need state legislation to change,” said Tyler Nims, executive director of the Lippman Commission, an independent group assembled to advise the city on the closing of Rikers.

He noted that the state does not pitch in to cover the expense of locking up parolees while the parole board decides whether to send them back to state prison.

The report comes just ahead of the City Council’s Land Use Committee meeting next month regarding the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) in place to shut down Rikers Island. The City Council is expected to consider the ULURP in October.

Mayor de Blasio’s roadmap for shuttering the notorious jail complex and building four new borough-based facilities in its place also aims to reduce the average daily population of technical parole violators to about 400 by 2022.

“This is a piece of the overall puzzle of how we’re going to get the overall jail population down so that we can close Rikers,” said senior budget analyst, Bernard O’Brien, who co-authored the study.

According to the mayoral plan, the state must rewrite its laws to expand funding for programming that offers jail alternatives.

“If New York is serious about fast-tracking the closure of Rikers Island and reducing our local jail population, Albany must do more to minimize the number of New Yorkers ensnared by technical parole violations," said Lorraine McEvilley, Director of the Parole Revocation Defense Unit at The Legal Aid Society.

The current practice — which re-incarcerates people for noncriminal reasons including passing a curfew or testing positive on a drug test — is punitive, counterproductive, and a waste of precious tax dollars that could be spent on much needed rehabilitation and reintegration programming,” she added.

Technical parole violators make up about 6% of the overall jail population of about 8,400, which has dropped 23% from 10,900 in 2014.

The Independent Budget Office data does not account for about 900 parole violators held in city jails for allegedly committing criminal offenses while on parole.