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Data Shows Vast Majority of Parolees are Jailed on Technical Violations

Miguel Lopez
MiguelLopez@minorityreporter.net

Photo by Emiliano Bar on Unsplash

The Monroe County Public Defenders’ (MCPD) office recently outlined specific details regarding the newly passed ‘Less Is More’ Act, and how it will affect those on parole. They detailed the specific minor violations that have previously been used by law enforcement and prosecutors to revoke an individuals’ parole, sending them back to jail or prison. 

According to the Public Defender’s Office, 85% of those Parolee’s that were sent back to prison were due to technical violations. This comes after Rochester Police Department (RPD) and Gates Police Department leaders and officers had an end of summer media firestorm that stemmed from a year filled with illegal gun violence. Rochester and the entire United States has had one of its deadliest years to date,  so far there have been 80 victims of homicides.

Many local law enforcement agencies used the crime spike to advocate for the removal of the Less Is More Act. 

RPD made a small number of arrests of parolee’s who reoffended for a violent crime. The Rochester Police Department, Gates Police Department, or any law enforcement agency, failed to present any evidence or long-term data that shows clear proof that the majority, (or even a quarter) of parolee’s will recommit a crime, nor any proof that sending people on parole back to jail for technical violations, and revoking their parole, reduces recidivism.

Data from the MCPD’s office shows that of the more than 35,000 people in New York State on parole, less than 20% that have returned to prison did so by committing a new crime, a non-technical violation.  Data can be found at https://doccs.ny.gov/research-and-reports.

An overwhelming majority of parolees that have been sent back to prison, did so because of a minor violation in their parole, which could include being out past curfew, alcohol and drug use for those not arrested for DUI or DWI, missing a meeting with their probation officer, failure to pay fines or fees, obtaining a driver’s license/ driving with a valid license, so long as not prohibited by conviction and failure to notify parole of employment or program change. Under the Less is More Act, signed by New York State Governor Kathy Hochul this year, you cannot be incarcerated for those violations.

Monroe County Public Defender Jacquelyn Grippe, has been with the MCPDs office for many years and has been a strong advocate of the Less Is More Act. Grippe specifically pointed out some of the language used by law enforcement when talking about parole in regards to curfew. 

“Being a parolee and being out past curfew in a high crime neighborhood does not prove that the individual is committing any crime, and if they have not been charged with a new crime, the technical violation itself targets African American and Latinos, who often live in high crime, low-income neighborhoods,” Grippe said.

The Public Defender’s office presented a section in the Less Is More act, dubbed “30 for 30,” which highlighted that for every 30 days a person on parole goes without a sustained violation, 30 days will be taken off the back end, meaning their end of parole is pushed a month closer. However, no time will be given if that person is re-incarcerated, for the time that person is incarcerated for. 

It is an incentive that the PD’s office believes will promote honesty and transparency between the parolee and their parole Officers.

Before the Less Is More Act, jail time for absconding, or missing a parole meeting, could last anywhere between 3-15 months, even if the individual has not been charged with a new crime. 

Parolee’s also can now appeal their violations, and all violations have to be sustained by a judge, whereas before, Parole Officers just needed a 51% majority vote on a violation to revoke an individual’s parole. Parole officers also cannot seek parolees who have missed multiple parole meetings after curfew hours, which would entice a technical violation.

Under the Less Is More Act, that time brought down to 7 days for a first offense, after a judge has sustained the violation and all reasonable community resources have been exhausted, meaning, they cannot wait for a parolee to simply miss his or her parole officer meeting, they have to actively search for that person.

However, data continues to show only a small percentage of parolees are reoffending with non-technical violations.  

“Discretion is needed on these violations such as curfew, ” said Monroe County Undersheriff Korey Brown.

However, data continues to show only a small percentage of parolees are reoffending with non-technical violations. 

Further information of the Less is More Act can be found at https://www.lessismoreny.org/.