On Friday, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul ordered the immediate release of 191 inmates currently at Rikers Island she says shouldn't be there to begin with, and signed bill that allows more prisoners to be set free in the future.
According to the New York Daily News, Hochul said these inmates were placed back behind bars again for parole violations "like missing a curfew, consuming alcohol or being late for an appointment with a probation officer."
Hochul reportedly said that these inmates should not have been at Rykers to begin with. "It doesn't make us any safer," the New York governor said during a press conference Friday. "These people weren't a danger in the first place."
Hochul also directed the Department of Corrections to start the process of transferring 200 Rykers Island inmates to state facilities, as part of her newly signed "Less Is More Act."
The bill prevents parolees from being locked up again for violating technical conditions of their supervised release, but does not take effect until March 2022.
"I would like nothing more than to implement the law now. I legally cannot change the effective date," Hochul said. "But I also think that this sends a message to all others in the system that this is the law going forward."
According to the New York Daily News, around 6,000 inmates are currently housed one Rykers Island, double the population of July 2020. 10 inmates have died this year alone due to overcrowding and staffing shortages in the city.
State legislators that visited the facility this week noted seeing "garbage, fecal matter, rotting food, urine and dead cockroaches lining the hallways of the jail," according to the New York Daily News. Some of the inmates told legislators that they haven't had access to food, bathrooms, or medication in a week.
"How does this hell on Earth exist today?" said Hochul. "This questions who we are as people that we can allow a situation that we've seen in Rikers [Island] exist in a prosperous, mighty city like New York. The fact that this exists is an indictment on everyone, and I'm going to do what I can."