New York, NY – New York Governor Kathy Hochul has ordered the immediate release of nearly 200 Rikers Island inmates who are serving time for violating their parole.
Hochul said on Friday the reports of chaos and violence inside Rikers she has received have been so “deeply disturbing,” she decided to speed up the convicted felons’ release dates as much as possible, the New York Post reported.
A massive shortage of corrections officers at the 6,000-inmate facility has essentially brought daily operations to a halt, according to The New York Post.
Some have alleged inmates are not receiving medical care, food, or water for days and that gangs are patrolling the hallways.
New York state legislators who recently toured the facility said they saw fecal matter, urine, garbage, rotting food, and dead cockroaches throughout the complex, the New York Daily News reported.
“How does this hell on Earth exist today?” Hochul asked. “This questions who we are as people that we can allow a situation that we’ve seen in Rikers exist in a prosperous, mighty city like New York. The fact that this exists is an indictment on everyone, and I’m going to do what I can.”
Hochul also announced on Friday she will be having another 200 inmates moved out of Rikers and into state prisons in the wake of New York City Correction Commissioner Vincent Schiraldi’s admission that the department cannot implement the city’s reform efforts in the midst of the current conditions inside the massive Rikers jail complex.
Schiraldi has suggested hiring private security guards to help handle duties at Rikers or bringing in officers from juvenile facilities around the state, according to The New York Times.
Assistant Deputy Wardens and Deputy Wardens Association President Joseph Russo said the union is fighting to stop the privatization of jobs currently intended for uniformed corrections officers, according to the paper.
Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association President Benny Boscio argued that privatizing jobs that require employees to have a significant amount of contact with inmates would be illegal and laid blame for Rikers’ current state of affairs at the feet of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Boscio alleged de Blasio has tried “to cover up years of intentional neglect, failing to hire any [correctional officers] and leaving Rikers to rot until it closes,” The New York Times reported.
“Now he’s willing to break the law to help his own reputation before a run for governor,” the union leader said.
The 191 inmates the governor ordered to be immediately released are all currently incarcerated for violating their parole, the New York Post reported.
The governor blew off those violations, arguing that they “do not need to be incarcerated” for testing positive for drugs or alcohol, absconding from parole, violating curfews or various other conditions.
“Parole in this state often becomes a ticket back into jail because of technical violations,” Hochul lamented, according to The New York Times. “Someone was caught with a drink or using a substance or missing an appointment.”
Hochul said these inmates “have served their sentences” for the crimes they committed, the New York Post reported
Parolees are on parole because they have not served their sentences.
The governor said incarcerating convicts who repeatedly fail to abide by the conditions of their parole sentences “doesn’t make us any safer,” the New York Daily News reported.
“These people weren’t a danger in the first place,” Hochul added.
Her announcement came moments before Hochul signed the “Less is More Act,” which will ban the state from sending offenders back to prison for “technical violations” of their parole, the New York Post reported.
Since the new law won’t go into effect until March of 2022, the governor took matters into her own hands and ordered the immediate release of the 191 inmates, the according to the New York Daily News.
“I would like nothing more than to implement the law now,” Hochul said. “I legally cannot change the effective date, but I also think that this sends a message to all others in the system that this is the law going forward.”
“New York incarcerates more people for parole violations than anywhere in the country,” she added. “That is a point of shame for us and it needs to be fixed.”
Boscio said he expects to see New York’s surging crime rate shoot up even further as a result of the new law and Hochul’s decision to release the 191 inmates in the interim, the New York Daily News reported.
“Less criminals in our custody only means more crimes will be committed in our streets, creating more victims, and that is an injustice,” he said.