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Parole Officers Warn 'Less Is More' Law Could Have Dangerous Consequences Amid Rikers Island Crisis

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Parole officers are sounding new alarms about the crisis at Rikers Island.

After Gov. Kathy Hochul signed the Less Is More Act last month, people on parole who were being held at Rikers for technical violations were eligible for immediate release.

As CBS2's Aundrea Cline-Thomas reported Thursday, parole officer warn the law aimed at reducing overcrowding could have dangerous consequences.

Hazen Street and 19th Avenue illustrated the widening divide in the fight to address the crisis on Rikers Island and beyond.

Parole officers are at odds with inmate advocates over the law that immediately released more than 160 people on parole being held on non-violent technical violations from Rikers.

Statewide implementation starts next year.

"How is Less Is More passed when it's an unfunded mandate, meaning there is no money for us to do our jobs," said Gina Lopez of Public Employees Federation Division.

Parole officers argue instead of adding funding for more programming for those on parole to successfully reenter society, the legislation adds to an already overwhelming case load, which they say needs 400 additional officers across the state to manage.

But their biggest concern is crime.

"What you'll get more of is gonna be more felons in your community," said Wayne Spence, Public Employees Federation president.

According to a report from the State Department of Correction, 35% of people on parole released in 2015 in New York City were back in custody within three years. It was 42% statewide. Among those, 9% had new violent felony convictions.

"This legislation removes all meaningful consequences and accountability for individuals still completing their sentence," said Lopez.

With increasing violence and deaths on Rikers Island, both sides say it's too dangerous for anyone to work or live.

Instead, parole officers say they want people who violate parole to be housed at different correctional facilities across the boroughs.

Those on parole make up a small fraction of detainees being held on Rikers Island. The vast majority are being held pretrial, meaning they have not been convicted of a crime.

CBS2 reached out to the governor's office for comment on the parole officers' concerns, but we did not hear back before this story aired.

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