City Hall expanded supervised release to create an alternative to Rikers Island and ensure defendants show up for trial. The number being rearrested far exceeds projections.
High-flight-risk criminal defendants are being rearrested on felony charges at a much higher rate than city officials projected after being freed without bail under an alternative-to-jail program, newly released state stats show.
Under criminal justice reforms that went into effect in 2020, judges can no longer impose monetary bail against defendants for a vast array of charges. As before, they also cannot factor in whether a defendant is a potential danger to the community.
But for defendants judges consider prone to blow off returning to court, supervised release allows them to be freed pending trial without putting up bail. Instead, they are monitored by social workers to ensure they return to court.
Starting with these programs’ launch in 2016, city officials have insisted that only a small number of supervised release participants were being rearrested on felony charges while on release.
A November 2019 announcement of the program’s expansion by the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice (MOCJ) estimated that only 8% had been rearrested for felonies.
But the numbers began to slide: MOCJ listed that rate as 9% in 2018, 10% in 2019, and 13% in 2020, according to annual scorecards on the program the office later released.
But an analysis by THE CITY of data compiled by the state Office of Court Administration and the state Division of Criminal Justice Services reveals a much higher rate more recently: 28% of those freed on supervised release were re-arrested on felony charges from January 2020 through June 2021.
And the data show that participants in supervised release are re-arrested at an even higher rate when misdemeanor rearrests are factored in: 50%.
In all, one out of every two individuals placed in the supervised release program from Jan. 1, 2020 through June 2021 was rearrested after being freed.
That includes 8% rearrested for violent felonies — nearly twice the 5% rate for those released without any restrictions on their own recognizance, according to the data.
Elizabeth Glazer, MOCJ’s former director, was heavily involved in the formation and then expansion of supervised release. Speaking with THE CITY, she acknowledged that the program “was designed for a higher risk population.”
Glazer contends that supervised release defendants are similar to defendants for whom bail is set, estimating that re-arrest rates for both are similar.