Jailed Without a Crime: How Technical Parole Violations Drive Mass Incarceration in New York and What to Do About It

Each day more than 5,000 people are incarcerated across New York State not because they have committed a crime but rather for failing to follow the stringent rules set by their parole officers. Such so-called “technical” violations include being late for curfew, testing positive for alcohol use, or missing an appointment with a parole officer. Punishment for these lapses is a major driver of mass incarceration in New York with no discernible benefit to public safety and poses a substantial obstacle to reform efforts, such as closing Rikers Island. Parole exacerbates the already-extreme racial inequities in criminal justice with Black and Latinx people disproportionately supervised and jailed for violations. These trends have continued unabated even as COVID-19 has spread uncontrollably through jails and prisons with lethal consequences, costing the lives of at least two people jailed for technical violations.

Learn more about the substantial financial and human cost of parole supervision in New York, its origins and failings, and pending reform efforts, including the proposed Less is More Act, which has been endorsed by prosecutors, lawmakers, and criminal justice reform advocates across the State. Our panel includes experts from criminal defense, community and advocacy organizations, academia, former New York City and State corrections officials, and previously incarcerated people who have experienced parole supervision firsthand.


Zachary Katznelson, Policy Director, Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform


Wesley Caines, Chief of Staff, The Bronx Defenders
Laura Eraso, Staff Attorney, The Legal Aid Society Parole Revocation Defense Unit
Donna Hylton, President & Founder, A Little Piece of Light
Vincent Schiraldi, Co-Director, The Justice Lab at Columbia University; formerly Commissioner, New York City Department of Probation
Dr. Vanda Seward, Professor of Criminal Justice, Kingsborough Community College; formerly Statewide Director of Reentry Services, New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision
Kenyatta Thompson, Lead Community Organizer, Katal Center for Equity, Health, and Justice

Co-Sponsoring Organizations:

The Justice Lab at Columbia University
Katal Center for Equity, Health, and Justice
The Legal Aid Society
A Little Piece of Light
A More Just NYC
We Are Unchained

Related Reports

City Bar Support for the Less is More Act –
Columbia Justice Lab “The Enormous Cost of Parole Violations in New York” –