The City Council aims for more hard-core criminals out on the streets

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If you’re unhappy with the city’s current elevated rate of crime, just wait: The City Council’s trying to ensure more of it, by springing hard cases from jail.

On Thursday, it passed a bill to set up borough-based “jail population review” teams to pick inmates for “Get Out of Jail Free” cards.

A spokesman for Mayor Eric Adams says Hizzoner backs the legislation, though lawmakers passed it with a veto-proof 39 (of 51) votes.

The official rationale: The new lockups that will supposedly replace the Rikers Island complex by 2027 can’t detain enough people.

So slash the Rikers population, stat!

In reality, progressive lawmakers just don’t want anyone behind bars.

Mayor Bill de Blasio did his part, exploiting COVID to release over 1,500.

Yet as (also pro-criminal) city Comptroller Brad Lander notes, the detained population — which fell below 5,000 in 2021 and then climbed back to a daily average of 5,559 last year — now tops 6,000, and seems stuck there.

Meeting the new jails’ 3,544-bed limit requires freeing 2,500.

There’s just no way to do that without jeopardizing public safety.

In the wake of the no-bail law, Raise the Age, and other “reforms,” only the worst of the worst now get jailed.

Rikers Island jail complex stands in New York with the Manhattan skyline in the background.
The Rikers Island jail complex with the Manhattan skyline in the background.

Now the council hopes to spring 40% of them.

God only knows what it’ll do if (as seems certain) one or more of the new jails doesn’t get built on time.

Good news: City lawmakers have no power to completely sidestep judges and unilaterally reduce bail/jail requirements or sentences for convicts; courts will still have the final say, in most cases.

But the new teams will, in effect, give inmates another attorney arguing for their freedom.

A DOC officer walking inside one of the cell blocks.
A DOC officer walks inside one of the cell blocks at Rikers.
Gregory P. Mango

And it all sends a strong “let ’em out” political message to city judges and DAs — themselves pretty political creatures.

Remember: City judges are already soft on criminals.

The last thing New York needs is more hard-core lawbreakers out on the streets.

And if room at the inn is looking short down the line, why not just build more jails — or, better, keep Rikers open, even if it has to be renovated?

Protesting bail reform in front of 100 Centre Street in Manhattan.
A protest against bail reform in front of 100 Centre Street in Manhattan.
William Farrington

If the council really wants to reduce the jail population, it should aim to reduce crime — by supporting the NYPD in preventing it.

The city’s quarter-century of bringing crime down (via proactive policing) continuously slashed the numbers it sent to jail and prison.

That reduced the Rikers population by more than two-thirds and prompted the closing of multiple state prisons.

Just a decade ago, the city hosted nearly 11,000 inmates, 15,000 in 2000 and almost 22,000 in the early ’90s.

But stopping people from becoming criminals in the first place is no good for modern progressives: They prefer to wage war on law enforcement, public safety be damned.

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