Reducing Case Delay
Moving cases through the criminal justice system more quickly will further reduce the average daily population in Rikers Island jails.
- Defendants who are detained in City jails for extensive periods while waiting for trial are the single biggest contributor to the size of the jail population. Just 5 percent of all defendants discharged from Rikers Island in 2014 filled 44 percent of the jail's beds—because these inmates each spent over 270 days on Rikers waiting for their trial.
- The vast majority of defendants spent much shorter periods in city jails. Immediate reforms are focusing on clearing the oldest cases first while ongoing work on systemic issues will ensure lasting change.
Steps to reduce case processing times include:
- Resolution of 50 percent of the cases pending for longer than a year within the next six months. Average case lengths throughout the city have increased over the last 20 years. Within 45 days of this initiative's announcement, all five boroughs met an unprecedented, citywide commitment from the courts, the Mayoral agencies, the District Attorneys, the defense bar, the NYPD, and the Department of Probation – all of which have a role to play in reducing case processing times – to schedule a court date for all cases citywide that had been pending for longer than one year. At Chief Judge Lippman's direction, cases that were not disposed by plea were assigned a fixed trial date.
- Deep, analytic dives into borough-specific problems and solutions. To ensure swift implementation and accountability, each borough has established a dedicated team of representatives from the courts, the Mayor's office, the District Attorneys' offices, law enforcement, and the defense bar. These teams, led by each county's Administrative Judge, are mapping the specific causes of case delay in each borough, monitoring the progress of the oldest cases, developing systemic reforms to institutionalize shorter case processing times, and implementing these reforms. These teams are being assisted by a team of research and operations experts.
- A centralized coordinating body. Starting with an initial meeting in mid-April 2015, leadership from the Mayor's Office, the Office of Court Administration, the District Attorneys' offices, and the defense bar are meeting regularly to review progress toward goals and make implementation decisions based on the borough teams' recommendations.
- A sophisticated technological tool to track case trends in real time. To provide transparency and real-time information on case processing times citywide, the City is building an online tracking tool. This tool will allow each part of the criminal justice system to assess specific causes of delays in individual cases, track borough-specific case processing timelines alongside volume and resource availability, prepare status reports to pinpoint bottlenecks, and help the Coordinating Committee develop solutions and ensure progress implementing them.
- A 21st century scheduling system. To minimize adjournments, which contribute to case delay, the case tracking tool will also include a centralized scheduling function that integrates the individual schedules of judges, prosecutors, corrections, the police, and defense attorneys to allow courts to quickly and reliably set future court appearance dates.