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NYDailyNews: Less is More is law: Gov. Hochul signs an important criminal justice reform bill

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By Daily News Editorial Board via NYDailyNews

Parolees aren’t done serving their sentence, but that status shouldn’t be an all-too-easy tripwire speeding their return to prison caused by a technical violation. So affirmed Gov. Hochul in signing into law the Less is More Act, an important new statute that will responsibly reduce New York’s inmate population.

We aren’t decarceration enthusiasts. All things being equal, we’d love to see the populations of New York State’s prisons and New York City’s jails decline — but all things are rarely equal, which is to say there’s often cause to send people away upon conviction, and cause to lock people up pretrial when they’re a repeat violent offender or known danger to society.

The problem with parole in New York, as district attorneys, and not only the most progressive ones, make clear, is that thousands of parolees have been getting sent right back into cells even when all they’ve done is commit a technical violation like failing to report a change of address, missing appointments with an officer or testing positive for drugs or alcohol. A staggering 40% of the people admitted to New York prisons in 2019 were sent there for violating, nearly three times the national average, and it’s almost always for relatively small potatoes.

Parole violations should have consequences, and the most serious ones should yield jail time. But it serves neither the ex-con — who sees progress in getting a job, housing and more erased — nor the public at large to make prison the destination of first resort for a ticky-tack mistake. As states as ostensibly tough on crime as Alaska, Idaho, Arkansas, South Carolina and Louisiana have proved, taxpayers can save themselves money without risking an increase in recidivism.

Upon signing the bill, Hochul said “today is about protecting human life, the lives of the people who are incarcerated as well as correctional officers,” a suggestion that with the release of 191 people from Rikers, the crisis at the jails could well abate. That’s an oversell, but progress is progress.

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