Almost 200 people will be released from the Rikers Island jail complex today (Sept. 17) now that Gov. Kathy Hochul has signed the Less Is More Act into New York law. Under the new legislation, people on parole will no longer be reincarcerated for committing technical violations, such as missing curfew or failing a drug test. New York has the highest rate of reincarceration for technical parole violations in the country, which Hochul called a “point of shame” for the state on Friday.
“New York State incarcerates more people for parole violations than anywhere in the country,” the new governor tweeted. “That is a point of shame for us and it needs to be fixed. It’s going to be fixed today.”
While the Less Is More Act won’t go into effect until March, Hochul said inmates at Rikers Island who have “served their sentences under the dictates” of the new law will be released today.
“I believe that we also have to take some very swift action and take it right now,” she said. “So, the Board of Parole, under my direction, will have 191 people released today. They have served their sentences under the dictates of the new Less is More [Act], but they shouldn’t have to wait until the enactment date.”
Another 200 inmates who are still serving sentences at Rikers, which is currently suffering a staff storage crisis, will be transferred to other state facilities over the next five days.
“We know larger, systemic problems still exist. We know that,” Hochul said. “I believe that while we take these first steps, we encourage the City of New York to do what they need to do to alleviate the staffing situation and the other crisis situations.”
Amidst Rikers’ horrifically worsening conditions, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio recently announced an emergency plan for the jail to respond to staff shortages and overcrowding.