New York state officials on Friday announced plans to release 191 people who are in Rikers Island jail in New York City on technical parole violations, but additional incarcerated people across the state could be up for release as well, Gov. Kathy Hochul said.
Hochul on Friday signed the "Less is More" Act, a measure that overhauls New York's parole laws with the goal of reducing the number of people who are incarcerated based on technical parole violations. At the same time, Hochul is moving to release nearly 200 people from Rikers given the new law does not take effect until March.
That move is meant to alleviate the current "pressure cooker" at the jail. Hochul insisted the people being released Friday from Rikers do not pose a threat to the public, but were arrested on non-violent violations.
"There's always a risk to everything. But the question is do we step back and let a possible Attica erupt under our watch?" she said.
But at the same time, Hochul did not rule out addressing jails populations across New York before the measure is fully implemented later next year.
"We'll be looking at other people who qualify around the state," she said.
Republicans blasted the move by Hochul, however, as the party seeks to recapture the governor's office next year for the first time in a generation.
"She’s been governor less than a month and she’s already made every single New Yorker less safe," said New York Republican Chairman Nick Langworthy. "The only way to stop this insanity is with the election of a Republican governor next year.”
Nevertheless, Hochul's signature for the criminal justice reform won her praise from advocates who have called for changes to New York's laws over how people are punished in the state.
“New York has long been a national leader on commonsense criminal justice reform, and while we celebrate this important milestone, we urge elected officials to continue fighting for legal reforms that prioritize fairness, safety, and justice for all New Yorkers," said Alexander Horowitz, the executive director of New Yorkers United for Justice. "We look forward to continuing this work in the years ahead.”