New York City Jail Population in 2019

Since 2017, New York City has been implementing a citywide plan to reduce the city’s jail population to 3,300 and replace the Rikers Island jail complex with four borough-based jails (a project currently targeted for completion by 2027). This report sheds light on the progress made in reducing the jail population and focuses mainly on 2019 data.* Specifically, it examines two main drivers of the jail population: the number of people admitted to the jails and how long they stay. This report is intended to help the public and policymakers better understand the New York City jail population, including the factors driving reductions in the population and where there may be opportunities for additional reforms.

The New York City jail population is comprised primarily of people who fall into one of the following admissions groups: (1) people who have been charged, but not convicted of a crime(s) and are detained while their case is waiting resolution (“pretrial”), (2) people who have been sentenced, typically for a misdemeanor offense with sentences of a year or less (“city sentenced”), or (3) people who have allegedly violated the conditions of parole (“technical parole violation”). For these three groups of admissions, this report examines the number and proportion of admissions from 1995 to 2019. For 2019, this report also examines the following outcomes by group: bail amounts set at admission, average and median length of stay, number of jail bed days utilized, and discharge type. Finally, the report assesses variance in outcomes by top charge, race/ethnicity, and age.

Key Findings:

  • Admissions & Average Length of Stay between 1995 and 2019:
    • The number of admissions to New York City jails declined by 72% from 121,412 admissions in 1995 to 34,389 admissions in 2019.
    • During the same time period, average length of stay in jail increased from 47 days to 82 days and the median length of stay more than doubled from 7 days to 20 days.
  •  Pretrial Admissions in 2019:
    • 77% of New York City jail admissions were pretrial (26,563 people).
    • The three most common charges were assault in the 3rd degree, assault in the 2nd degree, and weapons possession in the 2nd degree.
    • The average amount of bail set in was $23,731 (an increase from $9,308 in 1995).
    • The average length of stay for pretrial admissions discharged in 2019 was 79 days (an increase from 39 days in 2000), accounting for 2,209,413 bed days.
    • Black people made up 52% of pretrial admissions (13,771), Latinx people made up 33% of admissions (8,640), and White people made up 9% of admissions (2,453).
    • 38% of people admitted pretrial were discharged after paying bail, 22% were released on recognizance (ROR), and 24% were transferred to prison, hospitals, or other agencies.
  • City Sentenced Admissions in 2019:
    • 7% of New York City jail admissions were for city sentences (2,505 people).
    • Petit larceny was the most common charge for people admitted to jail on a city sentence and accounted for 25% of city sentenced admissions (641 people). Petit larceny combined with the three other most common charges – disorderly conduct, possession of a controlled substance in the 7th degree, and driving on a suspended license – accounted for approximately 40% of city sentenced admissions.
    • The average length of stay for city sentences was 38 days in 2019 (an increase from 18 days in 2000).
    • Black people made up 51% of city sentenced admissions (1,271), Latinx people made up 30% of admissions (776), and White people made up 12% of admissions (301).
  • Technical Parole Violations in 2019:
    • 11% of New York City jail admissions were for technical parole violations (3,885 people).
    • The average length of stay for technical parole violations was 63 days in 2019 (and increase from 62 days in 2000).
    • Black people made up 62% of technical parole violation admissions (2,396), Latinx people made up 28% of admissions (1,115), and White people made up 6% of admissions (232).

* For additional information on long-term trends from 1995 to 2019, please see two related DCJ reports: (1) Data Report: Trends in Admissions to New York City Jails, 1995–2019, and (2) Data Report: Trends in Pretrial the Jail Population in New York City Jails, 2000-2019. DCJ has also published a report focused on women in DOC custody, Women in New York City Jails, 1995-2019.