NYC jail admissions down almost 50% since 2014
The safest big city in the U.S. is on track to become the city with the fewest people in jail
By Molly Crane-Newman
New York Daily News
NEW YORK CITY — The safest big city in the U.S. is on track to become the city with the fewest people in jail, reflecting a major achievement for criminal justice reform, according to statistics shared exclusively with The Daily News.
New Yorkers landed in jail in fiscal year 2019, from July 1, 2018, through June 30, 2019, fewer than 40,000 times, according to the statistics compiled by the Mayor’s Office for Criminal Justice. That’s about a 20% decline compared with the prior fiscal year. The figures represent the number of times people were sent to jail in New York City, whether for a day or longer, not the number of people who were jailed.
These statistics were collected by the Mayor’s Office for Criminal Justice and pertain to jails in the five boroughs, namely, Rikers, the Brooklyn Detention Complex, Manhattan Detention Complex, Vernon C. Bain Correctional Center, and the Bellevue and Elmhurst hospital prison wards.
“Dropping to where we are now is about a 50% reduction over the last five years,” said Liz Glazer, director of the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice. “Half those admitted into Rikers before this administration are now no longer coming in.”
The rate of incarceration in New York City jails is the lowest since 1978, Glazer said, attributing the decline to a citywide decrease in crime, decriminalization of marijuana leading to fewer arrests, and progressive policy changes such as bail reform.
The number of people sitting in jail on any given day is down about 36% since 2014, the statistics show, the fastest decline in decades.
“This is a significant drop and it’s good news,” said Tyler Nims, executive director of the Lippman Commission, which focuses on the criminal justice system and reforms.
“There is continued pressure from advocates and a growing recognition at the city level, from district attorneys and from the courts at the human and financial costs of jail.”
Glazer and Nims said a jail population is measured by how many people are sitting in jail on any given day and how many people are walking through the doors because there are people who leave quickly and others who spend considerable time in jail.
The statistics showed that a growing number of people are being admitted to city jails because they have violated state parole. New York State law mandates that when a parole agency issues a warrant for a violation, the person must be brought to the nearest local jail.
“We find that people who are in on parole stay there twice as long as people ... who have similar kinds of charges,” Glazer said. “That state process, we think, could be shortened.”
The number of people aged 18 to 24 who were jailed between Sept. 2016 and Sept. 2018 declined almost 44%, according to the Lippman Commission.
“This is a good thing for those people and their families, but also a good reason to believe the jail census will continue to decline as this group grows up,” Nims said. He said one reason for the decline is that "people tend to age out of criminal activity as they get older.”
While the number of jail admissions has significantly declined, the racial demographics of people going to jail has remained largely unchanged — 86.3% of jail inmates in 2018 were black and Hispanic, according to the Lippman Commission.
Nims said the other point the statistics make is that fewer people in jail does not mean more crime on the city’s streets. “We have been, for several years now, the city that incarcerates the lowest number of people proportionately,” he said.
“It’s sort of testament to the fact that we don’t need to rely on incarceration to live in a city that’s safe.”
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