By Rich Bockmann
Just a few days before he left office, Mayor Michael Bloomberg was in downtown Jamaica last week touting his administration’s work to reduce incarceration rates at the same time the city is experiencing record-low levels of crime.
“Now we think that this is a huge success and that there is a connection between incarcerating fewer young people and having a lower crime rate,” Bloomberg said during a news conference at the city Department of Probation office at the corner of Guy R. Brewer Boulevard and Jamaica Avenue.
“We kept our city safer — the bottom line — while locking up fewer people and the connection is exactly what you think because all the evidence shows that all too often repeated spells behind bars can lock inmates into a cycle of poverty and crime,” he added. “So if we can avoid putting people into that situation, we should be having fewer people in the streets committing crimes.”
Bloomberg said that while the national incarceration rate has risen 3 percent between 2001 and 2012, the city’s lockup rate has fallen 36 percent during the same time period.
“We’re really the only city that can say anything remotely like this,” the three-term mayor said.
In the summer of 2012, the city launched four Neighborhood Opportunity Network programs in probation offices across the boroughs, including one in Jamaica, that pull together a network of resources for offenders such as employment help, health care and literacy programs.
The idea was to bring the resources to the communities where probationers live, and Bloomberg said the re-arrest rate for 16- to 24-year-olds is 23 percent lower than for their peers who are not in the program.
Other initiatives include the Inmate Correction Achievement Network, which targets pretrial and city-sentenced inmates at risk of returning to jail, and the Adolescent Behavioral Learning Experience, an after-school program for adolescent inmates.
In addition to reducing recidivism rates at Rikers Island and other city lockups — for those awaiting trial or sentenced to jail for less than a year — the city was also doing a better job at keeping New Yorkers from heading to the state prison system, Bloomberg said.
Since 2004, the number of city residents sent upstate on drug charges has dropped 56 percent, a decline Bloomberg attributed to his administration’s support- and intervention-services and the 2009 reform to the state’s strict Rockefeller Drug Laws.
“Over the past 12 years our administration has shown New Yorkers and the entire nation that there is a different and better way to go,” he said. “We’ve reduced crime with a combination of effective and targeted policing, sound community-based correction programs.”
Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4574.