If anyone was wondering just how far to the left supposedly “moderate” Democratic New York Governor Kathy Hochul was going to veer after taking office, I think that question has pretty much been put to rest. Not long after being sworn in, she ordered the release of a large batch of prisoners at Rikers Island. But she clearly wasn’t about to stop there. She has now signed a new bill into law that’s called the Less Is More Act, preventing prisoners on parole from being returned to the lockup for “technical violations.” She celebrated her accomplishment by immediately ordering almost 200 more jailbirds to be set free. And just like last time, we’re not talking about people who were behind bars for shoplifting. (CBS New York)
Gov. Kathy Hochul acted to immediately free several hundred parolees from Rikers Island and made arrangements to move several hundred more from the notorious jail complex to state lockups to ease the unsafe conditions at the troubled facility.
But the correction officers union is questioning the effectiveness of the actions in ending the crisis.
As CBS2’s Marcia Kramer reports, unlike her predecessor, Hochul was careful not to attack Mayor Bill de Blasio, who bears the ultimate responsibility for fixing Rikers. But as she signed the Less Is More Act into law Friday, she made it clear she was trying to protect the lives of both the prisoners and the correction officers.
The “Less Is More Act” is, as I mentioned above, supposedly going to reduce mass incarceration by no longer sending people on parole back to prison for “technical violations.” These include things like skipping meetings with your parole officer or failing a drug test. Hochul claims that New York locks up parole violators at one of the highest rates in the country, which she calls “a point of shame.”
I would argue that parole exists for a reason. The system allows prisoners who have not yet completed their sentences a chance to return to the outside world early and prove that they have rehabilitated themselves and are ready to play by the rules. If they turn around and immediately start violating those rules yet again, the justification for parole is eliminated.
But even that isn’t really the major point here. The bill that Hochul signed doesn’t even go into effect until next March. So the more than 190 cons she cut loose this week couldn’t have qualified for a law that isn’t on the books yet. She basically just commuted all of their sentences without saying it that way. An additional 100 convicts will be transferred to other prisons in the upstate region of New York, which I suppose is fine.
During a time when New York City is still unable to get its crime rates under control and the NYPD can’t find enough recruits to replenish its vastly depleted ranks, do you really think that dumping hundreds of additional known criminals back out on the streets is a good idea? Hochul claims to be taking these actions to reduce overcrowding at Rikers and relieve pressure on the guards there. But you’re not supposed to address a problem like that by pretending that there isn’t enough work to keep them busy. She needs to be fixing Rikers, allocating money to hire additional guards, and building additional jail space. All we’re seeing here is yet another version of the entire empty the jails movement being hidden under a different name. If New Yorkers were hoping that things might change for the better now that Andrew Cuomo is out of office, that hope seems to have been dashed already.