Mayor de Blasio Announces 18% Drop in City Jail Population Since Taking Office
The jail population of New York City has seen an impressive decline since 2014, reports the Department of Criminal Justice of New York City. A main factor of this drop is the role alternative to jail and alternative to incarceration programs have played recently.
Read the full update below:
Source: Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice
Note from Elizabeth Glazer, Director of the Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice
New York, singularly among the nation’s large cities, has been successful in reducing the size of the jail population even while reducing crime. Over the span of more than twenty years, crime has declined by 76% while the jail population has decreased by half. Over the last three years that trend has accelerated: crime has declined by 9%, and the jail population has decreased by 18%—the single biggest drop since 2001. Today, the jail population is more than 6% lower than it was in March of last year, in what seems, this year, to be a durable trend.
How much further can we reduce the jail population while maintaining public safety? That is the question of the moment.
The actions of many, including those of New Yorkers themselves, will determine the answer. How many people commit offenses? What decisions do police officers make about arrest? How do prosecutors weigh the evidence? How do judges make determinations about bail and do judges have options as alternatives to jail? Do New Yorkers show up to jury service or testify as witnesses? How do courts, district attorneys and defenders move a case to conclusion? These are just some of the factors that affect the size of the jail population.
As we look forward to other opportunities to reduce both crime and incarceration, the path becomes steeper. While the number of people in city jails has fallen dramatically in recent decades, jail is increasingly reserved for those facing serious charges or who pose a risk of flight. Over the past twenty years, the number of people held on violent offenses has increased by 56%, while lower level offenses (in particular drug offenses) have dropped 51%. Today 83% of the pretrial population at Rikers is held on a felony charge (45% on violent felony charges), over half of the jail population is facing multiple cases and 69% are at medium or high risk of failing to appear in court, the primary basis on which a New York State judge can hold a defendant. In addition, a substantial number of people—often those struggling with behavioral health issues and homelessness—stay for a short period but return frequently. Further reducing the size of the jail population will require some seismic changes in how New Yorkers in general, and the criminal justice system in particular, think about violent crime and solutions to address the issues confronting those who repeatedly churn through the criminal justice, health and shelter systems.
Below are some highlights of recent efforts that have helped to reduce the number of people who enter jail and shorten the length of time people spend there. Data on recent reductions are available here. As we look to the future, further reductions will depend upon the actions of New Yorkers themselves in reducing crime and on every part of the criminal justice system working together to ensure that we use jail as parsimoniously as possible while ensuring public safety.