Thursday, March 23, 2017


Jail population reaches record lows during safest year in CompStat history

  Mayor Bill de Blasio today announced that the New York City jail population has fallen by 18% since taking office, outpacing any three year decline since 2001. The average daily population declined from 11,478 in December 2013, just before Mayor de Blasio took office, to an average of 9,362 this month. In the last year alone, the jail population has fallen by 6% from 9,981 in March of last year. This drop was largely driven by intentional efforts to reduce the number of people who go into jail and how long they stay while protecting public safety.

“The number of people incarcerated in the U.S. did not fall in the last year, and our nation’s incarcerated population remains the largest in the world,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “But New York City has a different story to tell – we are making every effort to ensure that people who do not need to be behind bars are not, all while keeping crime at historic lows. In the last three years, we’ve been working from every angle to keep lower-level offenders out of jail and speed up case delays, and the total jail population has dropped 18% and the population just at Rikers Island has sunk 23% – that’s significant progress.”

Key achievements:

·         New York City is unique proof that we can have both more safety and smaller jails.
o   The City’s jail population has fallen to the lowest in decades alongside record crime lows: 2016 was the safest year in CompStat history, with homicides down 5%, shootings down 12%, and burglaries down 15% from 2015. Both crime and use of jail have been falling steadily in New York City for twenty years: major crime has declined by 76% and the average daily jail population has been reduced by half over the last 20 years. 

·         New York City’s use of jail is among the lowest nationally
o   While jail and prison populations grew by 11% nationally between 1996 and 2013, NYC’s jail population declined by 39%. New York City’s use of jail is among the lowest nationally (167 individuals detained per 100,000 residents), lower than Los Angeles (263/100,000), Chicago (281/100,000), and the national average (341/100,000).

·         New York City leads the nation in the number of defendants who are in the community instead of in jail while their case is being resolved
o   Over 70% of defendants in New York City are released without any conditions after their first appearance before a judge. This is nearly double the percentage of Washington, D.C., the next highest user in the county of release without conditions.

·         New York City has significantly reduced its jail population while simultaneously focusing enforcement resources on serious, violent crime.
o   In 2015, arrests for murder were up 16% and gun arrests were up 10.5%.
o   The proportion of the jail population detained on violent offenses has increased by 56% over the past 20 years, even while the overall population has dropped precipitously.

·         New York City has dramatically reduced detention for those charged with drug and other low-level misdemeanors.
o   Between 1996 and 2016, the number of people held on felony drug charges declined by 78%, and the number of people held on misdemeanor drug charges declined by 62%. These trends have accelerated in the last three years: the number of jail admissions for misdemeanor detainees has dropped by 25% since 2014. 

“New York, singularly among the nation’s large cities, has reduced the size of the jail population even while reducing crime,” said Elizabeth Glazer, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice. “Jails hold up a mirror to the fair functioning of society and reflect how the many different parts of the criminal justice system, and New Yorkers themselves, affect whether the population grows or shrinks. The significant progress over the last three years to reduce the number of people who enter jail and how long they stay is a shared success, possible because of the close coordination of every part of the criminal justice system and the participation of New Yorkers in keeping crime low.”

Department of Correction Commissioner Joseph Ponte said, “The many strategies NYC is using to reduce the numbers of individuals who end up in jail help us in our drive to create a culture of safety in our facilities. In particular, reducing the number of short stays and people with mental health needs and low-level drug charges allows us to focus on managing serious offenders and persistently violent inmates. Such strategies increase safety for all New Yorkers.” 

Key strategies:

To achieve these reductions while ensuring New York City remains the safest big city in the United States, the City has implemented an array of strategies including:

Reducing the Number of People Who Enter Jail

New York City is taking various steps to reduce reliance on money bail and jail time for low-risk individuals, while the number of people detained on bail of $2,000 and under has fallen by 36% in the last three years. 

·         Expanded community-based alternatives to jail: Supervised Release – a bail alternative program that gives judges the option of allowing eligible, low-risk defendants to remain home with their families and continue working while waiting for trial – has diverted over 3,000 people from jail since the program was launched in March 2016. 
·         Reduced short stays in jail: About 11,000 people were detained on bail for less than one week in 2015. To make it easier to post bail more quickly, and thus reduce these short jail stays, the City is installing ATMs in every courthouse to ensure people have easy access to cash to post bail, and is also rolling out an online bail payment system.
·         Reduced the number of people with behavioral health needs in City jails: After increasing steadily for five years, the number of people with behavioral health needs in City jails has fallen by 5% in the last two years following the implementation of the Mayor’s Action Plan on Behavioral Health and the Criminal Justice System

Reducing the Length of Jail Stay

Detainees awaiting trial at Rikers for long periods of time are the single biggest driver of the City’s jail population. 

In April 2015, the Mayor’s Office, the courts, the city’s five district attorneys and the defense bar launched the Justice Reboot initiative to clear the backlog of old cases and reduce case delay in a lasting, systemic way.


·         Cleared the existing backlog: 93% of the 1,427 cases that were more than a year old when Justice Reboot was announced have been resolved. 50% of those cases were cleared within the first 4 months of the initiative.
·         Reduced case length for the first time in decades: The length of Supreme Court cases has been reduced by an average of 18 days.
·         Dramatically reduced the number of oldest cases: Since Justice Reboot was launched, the number of cases older than three years has been reduced by half.

Reducing Repeated, Short Stays in Jail 

Individuals serving frequent, short jail sentences on low-level offenses tend to be dealing with chronic homelessness and behavioral health needs. In New York City, this relatively small number of people consumes a disproportionate share of shelter, jail and emergency room resources. The 400 “highest use” individuals among this population entered the City’s custody an average of 12.42 times over four years, with each stay averaging 30 days. 

In 2016, New York City has targeted this “frequent use” population with various interventions, including permanent supportive housing, which has been shown to reduce returns to jail by 38% and to save $16,000 per individual in annual jail, shelter, and emergency room costs.

·         Reduced chronic recidivism: 97 individuals who are among the highest users of jail in New York City have been placed in permanent supportive housing. Collectively, these individuals have served over 36,000 days in jail and spent over 22,000 days in shelter over the last five years. Permanent housing, coupled with supportive services to help these individuals stabilize, will save the City an estimated $1.6 million annually through reduced hospital visits, shelter admissions, and trips to jail.

The City will rollout additional strategies in the coming weeks to continue reducing the number of people who enter jail. 

Two new reports are available today that give additional detail on the jail population and opportunities for reduction: a study from the Center for Court Innovation, commissioned by the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, thoroughly examines the baseline jail population in 2014 when Mayor de Blasio took office, availablehere; and a complete data breakdown of the current jail population and opportunities for further reduction, released today by the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice.

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