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line graph showing increasing jail population across 415 county jails after initial population drops in early 2020

Data Source: Compiled by the Prison Policy Initiative from NYC DOC daily reports to the NYC Board of Correction as of October 1, 2021. Data from early 2020 interpolated based on infrequent data as reported by NYC DOC. Data for population over 50+ available starting March 21, 2020. (Graph: Emily Widra, 2022)

This graph originally appeared in State prisons and local jails appear indifferent to COVID outbreaks, refuse to depopulate dangerous facilities.

Graph showing the daily count of the NYC jail population by 5 key metrics. By all metrics, the NYC jail population dropped quickly at the start of the pandemic, but then started to rise again. On July 29, 2021 the total NYC jail population was higher than before the pandemic. Critically, the number of people detained pretrial has actually grown — from 4,284 on January 1, 2020 to 4,881 people on December 21, 2021 (with a peak of 5,768 in early July 2021) — likely because of the rollback of significant bail reform efforts last year. The population drops in September 2021 are encouraging but are likely the consequence of Governor Hochul signing the Less is More Act, releasing people on technical violations from jail, and would therefore represent a helpful policy change that will reduce the population. However, the steep slope of the decline in September 2021 is unlikely to continue at that rate on its own without additional policy changes. Even with these reforms, the October 1st NYC jail population was only 7% below its pre-pandemic levels. (Dotted lines connect periods with missing data, so the start of each dotted line and their bends represent specific historical data points.)

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