NYC Court Backlog Mirrors Delays Around the Country

A recent review of city data by Matt Katz at the Gothamist found that more than a quarter of people in New York City Jails aren’t getting to court on time for hearings and trials.  

In the 2022 fiscal year, 79.1 percent of detainees in New York City made it to jail on time, down 15 percent from 2021. These are the highest rates on record since 1999 when modern record-keeping became available.  

Transportation delays can cause postponed court appearances and trials, further delaying people’s release and exacerbating mental health struggles. 

In New York, those delays lead to a higher number of people spending longer periods in jails such as Rikers Island, which is notoriously overcrowded. Overcrowding at Rikers Island is an ongoing issue as the detainee population must be reduced from the current level of close to 6,000 to 3,300 to facilitate the planned closure

Last year New York City Jails reported their highest death rate in 25 years. While it is unclear exactly why detainees are arriving at court late, staffing and management issues at the Department of Corrections could be factors.  

In Dallas, Texas delays in granting probation are causing inmates to stay in jails for two weeks awaiting mandatory clinical assessment, Josephine Peterson reports for The Dallas Morning News. 

Delays are causing the Dallas County Jail to be close to capacity, costing the county $87,000 every two weeks, according to data obtained by Dallas Morning News. According to Community Supervision and Corrections Director Arnold Patrick, other counties in the area don’t seem to have the same problem. 

“If [they] can show me a better way, I’m gonna take it, and we’re gonna put it in place,” Patrick told The Dallas Morning News.

The larger issue of overcrowding while inmates wait for trial has been a talking point of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in recent weeks. Almost two out of three inmates across the state are pretrial detainees or have been not convicted at the same time the state is reporting high levels of violence in jails. 

Michele Deitch, director of the Prison and Jail Innovation Lab at the University of Texas’ LBJ School of Public Affairs told Texas Public Radio they are seeing dangerously high levels of crowding. Deitch pointed to Covid backlogs and the implementation of Senate Bill 6, a bail reform law passed two years ago, as reasons for the overcrowding. The bill set restrictions on who could be released on cash-free bonds. 

“It’s absolutely true that there is still a backlog of cases because of the courts not being able to hold hearings and trials during the pandemic,” Deitch said. “So that is absolutely a factor. But SB 6 [Senate Bill 6] has contributed to the crowding in very substantial ways as well.”

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