A small population known as frequent fliers, battling substance abuse, severe mental illness and homelessness, cycles regularly and quickly through New York City jails for mostly nonviolent offenses. The 800 people with the most jail stays from November 2008 through 2013 accounted for 18,713 incarcerations through last year at a cost of $129 million, says a study by city officials published in the American Journal of Public Health, reports the Wall Street Journal. One person was jailed 66 times during the six-year period.
In 88.7 percent of the detentions, the top charges were misdemeanors. Petit larceny and possession of trace amounts of drugs accounted for more than half of the charges. Under 1.2 percent were violent crimes. As the city confronts record levels of homelessness and officials try to fix a troubled jail system amid a continuing debate over law-enforcement's response to low-level offenses, the study illustrates the costly relationship between the criminal-justice system and a population adrift. Elizabeth Glazer, director of the Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice, said the study “highlights a sad truth about the toxic combination of substance abuse, mental illness, homelessness and jail,” calling it a “needless and expensive cycle.”