NEW YORK — As Rikers Island is in full crisis mode, Gov. Kathy Hochul is expected to sign into law the “Less is More Act,” which could potentially lead to the release of hundreds of incarcerated people currently being held for technical parole violations.
Sources confirmed to NY1 that Hochul is expected to sign the legislation later Friday.
But the law is not expected to take effect until March of next year. To speed up implementation, Hochul could add what is known as a chapter amendment to the bill, but sources said that is not currently being considered.
Hazel Crampton-Hays, a spokesperson for the governor, said negotiations are ongoing.
“Governor Hochul is deeply concerned about the conditions on Rikers Island. It will take collaboration at all levels of government to reach solutions, and we are still in ongoing discussions with the City and legislative leaders on what can be done to improve safety and ensure fairness and justice — both immediately and long-term," Crampton-Hays said.
Although the signing of the bill could bring relief to some incarcerated people on the island, advocates are asking Hochul to use her executive power to implement the law immediately. Tina Luongo, Attorney-In-Charge of the Criminal Defense Practice at The Legal Aid Society, said Hochul should enact the law now.
"The legislation, if implemented by the New York State Department of Correction and Community Supervision immediately — will provide essential relief to the ongoing humanitarian crisis at Rikers Island by securing the release of over two hundred people currently held on non-criminal, technical parole violations," Luongo said in a statement.
For weeks, lawmakers have called on the governor to sign the bill, citing the ongoing crisis of mismanagement at the city’s jail complex on Rikers Island that has resulted in 10 deaths — 5 of them suicides — so far this year.
Contributing to the crisis is a lack of staffing by the Department of Correction, which has been struggling to deal with thousands of officers who routinely call out sick or fail to report for duty.
The “Less is More Act” was sponsored by former State Sen. Brian Benjamin, who was tapped by Hochul to serve as her lieutenant governor. Benjamin's bill passed in the state legislature this year and would prevent people on parole from being sent back to prison for non-criminal violations of their parole. The bill also requires that instead of being automatically detained in local jails, people accused of a non-criminal technical parole violation are issued a written notice of violation with a date to appear in court.
Advocates estimate there are approximately 270 people currently held on Rikers for a technical violation of their parole — that's nearly 5% of the total jail population, which stands at 6,056 detainees as of this week.
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