September 28, 2021 22:00

New York Parole System Called ‘Reincarceration Machine’

Photo by Erik McGregor/Gotham Gazette.

New York State’s “broken” parole system costs taxpayers approximately $683 million a year to incarcerate people for technical parole violations, such as missing a court hearing, being out past curfew, or failing a drug test,  according to the latest New Yorkers United For Justice (NYUJ) report.

 Now, officials have been clashing over proposed changes to the parole system as progressive New York Democrats push to enact reform before the end of the session. 

“New York’s parole system is broken,” said Alexander Horwitz, executive director of New Yorkers United For Justice, as quoted by the Adirondack Daily Enterprise.

“(It) does not serve its function, it does not do its job, it is expensive [and] racist.”

Horwitz noted that parole was originally conceived as a state-sponsored system of re-entry to bring people home from incarceration permanently and safely.

“Instead,” he said, “New York’s parole system is a reincarceration machine.”

With help from the Vera Institute of Justice 2019 averaged daily counts of individuals accused of parole violations, the NYUJ researchers used those numbers to estimate annual costs of incarceration. 

The latest report uncovered that New York State spends approximately $683 million of taxpayer dollars annually to incarcerate people for technical violations, while New York localities pay roughly half that staggering amount. 

Focusing in on New York City jails, the NYUJ researchers detail that there are roughly 738 individuals accused daily of parole violations. To that end, the annual cost of incarceration for one individual is $337,524 — resulting in an annual cost to incarcerate all the people for alleged technical parole violations at $249,092,712.

The numbers don’t change much when focusing on upstate localities either, the report details. 

At the Albany County Jail facility, NYUJ details that there are roughly 44 people who allegedly violate their parole daily. This in turn translates to an annual cost of $83,703 to incarcerate someone — resulting in a total annual cost of $3,682,932 for Albany taxpayers.

“Every stage of New York State’s parole system is incredibly costly, both economically and in terms of human lives,” Horwitz concludes in the NYUJ report. 

“Not only does the state’s parole system waste hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars for the sake of unnecessary punishment, it routinely upends lives and families with no benefit to public safety or the well-being of justice-involved individuals.” 

Horwitz and the rest of the New Yorkers United for Justice urge lawmakers in Albany to prioritize system-wide parole reform to put an end to this “costly cycle of reincarceration.”

The full report can be accessed here.

TCR staff writer Andrea Cipriano prepared this summary.

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