NY governor orders immediate release of 191 inmates from Rikers Island

New York Gov. Kathy HochulKathy HochulThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Uber - Biden makes his pitch as tax questions mount Hochul gets early boost as NY gubernatorial race takes shape Woman accused of trying to set fire at Jewish school arrested in New York City MORE (D) is ordering 191 inmates from Rikers Island to be released on Friday amid a severe staffing shortage, high coronavirus rates and overcrowding.

Hochul ordered that the inmates be released even though legislation she signed on Friday, called the Less is More Act and targeted at technical parole violations, isn't effective until next spring, The New York Times reported. A number of inmates who will be released have parole violations on their record.  

“They have served their sentences under the dictates of the new Less is More, but they shouldn’t have to wait until the enactment date,” Hochul said on Friday, according to The Associated Press. 

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Additionally, Hochul said that over the next five days several hundred more Rikers Island inmates would be transported to state prisons. 

The legislation targets the practice of sending people to jail for technical parole violations, such as missing a curfew or being tardy to a parole officer meeting, a measure that would largely get rid of imposing jail time in those instances, the AP noted. 

New York’s incarceration rate for people with technical parole violations is considered to be among some of the highest in the United States, advocates say, according to the news wire.

The release of those on Rikers Island comes as the jail complex grapples with serious health and staffing conditions, currently holding more than 6,000 inmates, the Times noted, compared to fewer than 4,000 last spring. 

Citing city data, the Times reported that 36 percent of Rikers inmates are fully vaccinated. As of this week, the jail complex has a higher seven-day average positive test rate than that of the city — 4.36 percent to New York’s 3.92 percent, sparking serious health concerns.

The jail is also dealing with roughly a third of its employees who either cannot work or do not show up to work, which has led to some employees working many hours past their shift, unsanitary conditions and unsupervised inmates, the Times reported.