Monday, February 20, 2023

You Had One Job Department


How bad is New York City's jail at Rikers Island? You've heard about the weapons, the drugs, the urine and feces and blood on the floors, the gangs in charge because the guards let them—with unlimited sick leave in their contracts, they don't even show up for work half the time. You've heard of the escalating violence, the inability to get inmates to medical care, the horrifying death rate (19 prisoners died there in 2022, in a population of around 6,000). Here's another one, from today's Gothamist—they now can't even reliably get inmates to their court dates:

According to the most recent Mayor’s Management Report, just 72.2% of those detained from September through December last year were brought to court on time. In the prior fiscal year, it was 79.1%, which was the lowest annual rate since at least before 1999. In years prior, this wasn’t a problem: As recently as the 2021 fiscal year, the percentage of detainees brought to court on time was 94.6%, and every year from 1999 to 2012 it was higher than 95%.

Detainees are typically woken up around 4 a.m. to be handcuffed, shackled and transported by bus from the island in the East River to one of the borough courthouses where their cases are heard. Detainees have about 12,000 court appearances each month, according to Department of Correction data.

People, that's the entire purpose of jail. Some judge at arraignment decides this person can't be trusted to show up for trial, or the person can't raise bail, so they park them in jail while the court system does whatever it does to follow the Sixth Amendment's promise of a speedy trial, though

The average length of stay in DOC custody has steadily gone up over the past three years, records posted online show. The average number was 125 days as of July this year, up from 105 in 2021, 90 in 2020, and 82 in 2019. Those figures include people who were in and out of custody within one day.  

And also includes some who have been there six, seven, ten years. 

Meanwhile, in the one state where serious bail reform has been implemented, New Jersey, since 2017,

The number of people imprisoned pre-trial on bail of $2,500 or less fell from more than 1,500 before the bail reform laws to just 14 people last year, according to the New Jersey court system. At the same time, the rate of people awaiting trial who commit additional “indictable offenses” has remained flat at 13.8%. And the appearance rate — how often people awaiting trial come back to court — increased slightly last year, from 90% in 2019 to 90.9% in 2020. 

People can get themselves to ther pretrial trial and trial appearances much more reliably than Rikers Island can (and there's no evidence, whatever Mayor Eric Adams may profess to believe, of a relationship between bail reform and the increase in crime rates of 2020-21). Rikers simply does not do anything worth doing. It must be closed.

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