Advocates Highlight Costly Impact of Incarceration-First Approach for Parole Violations
March 09, 2021

Advocates Highlight Costly Impact of Incarceration-First Approach for Parole Violations

Erie County Jail and Erie County Correctional Facility Spent Over $9 Million Incarcerating Individuals for Technical Parole Violations in 2019

NYUJ Coalition and Local Advocates Urge Lawmakers in Albany to Pass Parole Reform

BUFFALO, NYNew Yorkers United for Justice (NYUJ)—a bipartisan criminal justice coalition of 14 national and local organizations—today hosted a press conference in Buffalo, New York as part of a major statewide campaign to advocate for systemwide parole reform in the state. In the press conference, NYUJ and local organizations like NAACP Buffalo and Peace Prints of WNY highlighted the fiscal and human impact of a parole system that unfairly focuses on reincarceration, especially for those who allegedly commit noncriminal technical violations (e.g., missing a curfew, being late to an appointment, not being able to secure employment).

NYUJ’s recent analysis showed that in 2019, Erie County jail spent an estimated $4,296,774 to incarcerate individuals who allegedly committed technical violations in county jails; in addition, Erie County Correctional Facility spent an estimated $5,653,650 to incarcerate those who violated their parole. In addition, it costs an average of $310 per day to incarcerate an individual in Erie County; 7% of Erie County’s taxpayer dollars are spent on incarcerating individuals in jails.

In New York State, the financial cost of incarcerating individuals accused of technical parole violations is significant. It has been estimated that, each year, the state spends approximately $359 million incarcerating people returned to state prison for technical parole violations, while localities, including New York City, spend a total of nearly $300 million incarcerating these individuals accused of alleged parole violations while they await disposition of the charges.

“Every stage of New York State’s parole system is broken, costly, and biased,” said Alexander Horwitz, Executive Director of NYUJ. “By needlessly sending individuals back to prisons and jails, our broken parole system wastes millions of taxpayer dollars, upends lives and families—disproportionately those of black and brown New Yorkers—and drains valuable resources that could improve the quality of life in communities like Buffalo. The NYUJ coalition urges lawmakers in Albany to prioritize system-wide parole reform this year and immediately pass meaningful legislation like “Less is More” and “Fair and Timely” now. These efforts will not only save New York taxpayers millions of dollars, but help improve public safety, fairness, and the well-being of our State at a time of extraordinary crisis.”

Reverend Mark Blue, President of NAACP Buffalo, said: “New York’s parole system has a race problem. The system harshly and disproportionately impacts people of color, especially Black and Brown New Yorkers, by focusing on reincarceration. Instead of prioritizing putting people back in prison, we need investments in our communities and resources that can help reduce an individual’s likelihood of recidivating. Parole reform will be an opportunity to re-energize and commit our belief in individuals released from incarceration, their communities and their families.”

Cindi McEachon, CEO of Peace Prints of WNY said: “In New York State, Erie county ranks second in community supervision spending. This cost not only saps away important financial resources from the community, but also has a generational burden on our communities. By over-incarcerating people who commit technical violations, the parole system rips apart families, damages individuals and their ability to be successful, and perpetuates racial and economic disparities propped up by the criminal justice system. If lawmakers truly care about the well-being of our communities, we must look to reinvest in services that increase the likelihood of an individual’s successful reentry, not their chance of going back to prison.”

Ames Grawert, Senior Counsel of Brennan Center for Justice said: “Formerly imprisoned people in New York lose nearly $1.9 billion in earnings a year compared to similarly situated New Yorkers who haven’t been in prison. And more than 80 percent of those losses are borne by Black and Latino New Yorkers. When a person is released from prison, the process of getting their life back together can be extremely difficult, whether it’s finding a job or finding stable housing. And in New York State, our parole system remains a serious barrier for people in reentry by aggressively reincarcerating individuals for noncriminal technical violations of parole. This process doesn’t help lift people out of poverty or improve public safety; it only perpetuates the racial and economic disparities we have. Legislative parole reform not only makes sense in terms of creating savings in the short-term, but it will be beneficial for the long-term fiscal health of our state and communities.”

About New Yorkers United for Justice (NYUJ)

New Yorkers United for Justice is a statewide coalition of local and national non-profit organizations committed to supporting a movement that will bring much-needed criminal justice reform to New York State and ensure that policies promote safety and fairness. NYUJ aims for legislative urgency to fix a broken criminal justice system that punishes the poor and communities of color, tears families apart, and makes New Yorkers less safe. NYUJ believes that a system that ensures equal access to justice for anyone accused in New York State, regardless of age, race, ethnicity or socioeconomic status, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin or religion, must be the standard.