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Mayor de Blasio Announces City Jail Admissions Cut in Half Since Taking Office

July 16, 2019

The average daily population in City jails is at its lowest rate since the late 1970s

NEW YORK—Mayor de Blasio and the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice Director Elizabeth Glazer announced today that for the first time in decades, the number of city jail admissions fell below 40,000—a roughly 50 percent drop since the beginning of the Administration.

Along with the continued reduction in the average daily population in the city’s jail system to approximately 7,400 – about a 35 percent drop since the Mayor took office – the historic drop in jail admissions represents another concrete sign that the City’s plan to close the jails on Rikers Island by 2026 is well on track.

The total number of jail admissions between July 2018 and June 2019 fell to 39,420. This halving of admissions over five years follows a 20% drop over the past year alone, after Fiscal Year 2018 ended with approximately 49,500 admissions. The term “admissions” is not meant to indicate the number of individuals jailed; a person could enter the jail system more than once and each time count towards the total admissions.

“The safest big city in America is ending the era of mass incarceration,” said Mayor de Blasio. “For decades, we’ve been told we can only arrest and imprison our way to a safer city. Under my Administration, New York City has proven that’s not true. Instead, we can keep fathers at home and kids in school and get even safer.”

“These reductions result from a paradigm shift in our approach to public safety, with New York City at the leading edge of what works,” said Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice Director Elizabeth Glazer. “New Yorkers are committing fewer crimes, police are arresting less often, and our courts are releasing more people, resulting in a dramatic decrease in the numbers entering the jail system—all while New York City remains the safest big city in the United States.”

Since the Mayor took office, the City has invested tens of millions of dollars in pretrial services and alternatives to detention. Supervised Release, a diversion program used by judges, has alone served more than 13,600 people since launching citywide in 2016, ensuring that they stay in their communities rather than going to jail.

During the last legislative session, Albany legislators passed historic bail reform into law, which will further reduce the jail population. The Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice has convened a taskforce of criminal justice partners that includes the district attorneys' offices, public defenders, city agencies, representatives from the court system, and advocates.  The task force is helping to identify and coordinate operational and resource needs to implement the new reforms, which take effect January 1, 2020.

“New York City continues to lead the way in criminal justice reform, as this encouraging new data shows,” said Representative Eliot Engel. “I applaud Mayor de Blasio and his team for the work they’re doing in this field and will continue to push for reforms at the federal level that build upon the First Step Act, which I voted for and helped pass last year.”

“This is welcome news for our communities. The rate at which criminal activity, low-level prosecutions, and jail admissions have decreased in New York City in the last year is truly commendable. This is a good example of how progressive policies can reform our criminal justice system to make it more fair. I thank Mayor de Blasio for making this issue a priority,” said Representative José Serrano.

“Under Mayor de Blasio's leadership, New York City has made enormous strides toward ending the era of mass incarceration—and now we have hit a 40 year low for city jail admissions,” said State Senator Brad Hoylman. “I congratulate the Mayor on this achievement, and look forward to seeing the continued impact of the landmark criminal justice reforms passed by the New York State Legislature this year, including the elimination of cash bail for most low-level crimes and speedy trial and discovery reforms.”

“By lowering the number of jail admissions in the City of New York, we take a concrete step towards ending the cycle of incarceration that does nothing to improve public safety, while subjecting entire communities to unfair and unjust criminal justice practices,” said Assembly Member David I. Weprin, Assembly Correction Chair. “I am glad to see that our investments in Alternatives to Incarceration and Re-Entry programming are helping reform our aging penal system and reduce incarceration rates.”

“The City's efforts to reform the criminal justice system while lowering crime are clearly working,” said Council Member Keith Powers. “A drop in the daily jail population also brings us closer to the much-needed closure of Rikers Island. I thank the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice for its continued progress here.”

“New York City continues to show that less incarceration does not lead to more crime and closing Rikers is a reality that we can reach,” said Council Member Donovan Richards, chair of the Committee on Public Safety. “Reducing senseless marijuana arrests, prioritizing alternatives to incarceration and reforming the bail system has allowed tens of thousands of New Yorkers a second chance at leading a more successful life while avoiding the more serious pitfalls of the criminal justice system. I’d like to thank the de Blasio administration, MOCJ Director Glazer, NYPD Commissioner O’Neill, our District Attorneys, and the advocates in the public defender and criminal justice fields who have all played such an integral role in making the progress we’ve made over the last six years.”

“The historic drop in admissions to city jails is an important milestone, driven by efforts from the administration and the City Council to reform our bail system, provide alternative to incarceration programs, and fundamentally change how the city polices low-level, non-violent offenses. The City must now focus on further driving down the jail population by effectively implementing New York State's new criminal justice reform measures,” said Council Member Rory Lancman.

“The reduction of New Yorkers entering the jail system is indicative of the city’s ability to responsibly close Rikers Island,” said Council Member Karen Koslowitz. “As the number of individuals cycling through jail system declines it is imperative that the city continue to revise the size and capacity of the proposed borough based jail in Kew Gardens.”

Lorenzo Jones, Co-Founder and Co-Executive Director of the Katal Center for Health, Equity, and Justice, said: “For all those who care about closing Rikers, the continued drop in NYC's jail admissions is an important development. We applaud the City and the groups on the ground that have been working, and continue to work tirelessly, on reforming NYC's justice system for this achievement. Now, the only population that is increasing in NYC jails and prisons are those detained on parole violations. The next step to close Rikers is to continue reducing the jail population, which is why it is urgently important that the governor and lawmakers in Albany show leadership on this issue and pass the Less Is More: Community Supervision Revocation Reform Act (s1343b/a5493a). The time to close Rikers and overhaul NY's parole system is now.”

“New York City is at a critical turning-point for legal system reform, decades in the making. Reducing by half, the number of admissions into our city’s jail is proof we are moving in the correct direction. By prioritizing the issues impacting vulnerable communities both legislatively and programmatically we have seen reductions in crime and its effects,” said Stanley Richards, Executive Vice President at The Fortune Society. “We are proud to celebrate this enormous success with our participants, staff, allies, City Council members, the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice team, and Mayor de Blasio as part of the multifaceted decarceration plan for our city. The Fortune Society will continue advocating for meaningful investments into our communities, for the expeditious close of Rikers Island, and to diminish the traumatic footprint of incarceration on the lives of all New Yorkers.”

“New York City’s 50% reduction in jail admissions is a monumental achievement,” said Vinny Schiraldi, Co-Director of the Columbia Justice Lab. “New Yorkers everywhere should be proud. We’ve dramatically reduced the number of people who experience jail while simultaneously reducing crime to record low-levels. These changes are the direct result of smart policies, strong advocacy, declining crime and investments in programming. Now is the time to further invest in community programs to further reduce crime and strengthen communities.”

Tyler Nims, Executive Director, Independent Commission on NYC Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform, said, “The steep drop in jail admissions is a major step in the right direction.  Even as fewer people are being incarcerated, New York City is as safe as it’s ever been, providing further demonstration that we don’t have to incarcerate our way to safety.  Jail has immense human and financial costs, particularly for black and brown people and communities in our city, and should be used only as a last resort.  There’s farther to go, but this important news shows that closing the Rikers jails is increasingly within reach.”

“The Mayor's office is to be commended for their steady and sustained effort to ensure the City arrests fewer people, sends fewer people to Rikers Island, and keeps them there for less time,” said Susan Gottesfeld, Chief Program Officer for the Osborne Association. “We are committed to continued collaboration with the City to provide meaningful alternatives to arrest, prosecution, and incarceration—and to offer people who have caused harm a way to make amends for that harm and to return to their communities with the skills and resources they need to be successful. As we work with NYC, our fellow providers and advocates to close Rikers Island, we remain vigilantly focused on the steps needed to improve our justice system, address the great racial disparities in arrests and prosecutions, and ensure the safety of the people who live, work, and visit Rikers Island. By investing in innovation, scaling what works, and offering real alternatives to reduce jail admissions, New York is proving that it can be more than just America's safest big city; it can lead the way in new models of justice and community reinvestment.”

“Directly impacted leaders and advocates with the #CLOSErikers campaign are energized as we move forward in our struggle to accomplish historic decarceration in New York City,” said Brandon J. Holmes - NYC Campaign Coordinator, JustLeadershipUSA. “As we celebrate that jail admissions are down 50%, we recognize that New York City currently has a capacity of 15,000 beds and roughly 7,300 are occupied. With the recent news from the de Blasio administration that they would decrease their proposal for four borough-based facilities with improved conditions from 5,750 to 4,600 beds citywide (with capacity for 4,000) — we are proud that our push for further decarceration has yielded a proposed plan that would achieve the most significant decarceration of a big city in the history of the United States, solidifying New York City as the most decarcerated city in the United States.”

We believe the City must decarcerate further and faster in the near future — reducing the borough-based facilities capacity to under 3,000 beds through additional legislation and executive action. The #CLOSErikers campaign, led by survivors of Rikers, calls on the City Planning Commission to proceed with ULURP review so we can proceed with our plan, providing a clear path for the city to reduce the capacity of incarcerated people by over 75 percent, moving human beings out of torturous conditions on Rikers, the Boat and other jails.”

“There is a difference in saying we are going to do the work and actually getting the work done. The Mayor and his team are getting the work done. Please keep up the good work,” said Leora Keith, 1st Vice Chair of NYCHA Brooklyn West.

“This is amazing work! This reduction shows that our City is moving in the right direction,” said Cynthia Simpson, President of The Marcy Houses Green Committee.

"It's no surprise that New York City is leading the way in criminal justice reform," said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. "While there are still many steps needed to further reform the system, jail admissions at a 40-year low is a great sign that the efforts being made are working. I look forward to continuing to work with community members and the administration to further reduce this number, and continue the fight to make our criminal justice system more fair."

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