Stringer calls for increased transparency of spending and results

Agency Watch List report to be released quarterly on three City agencies that must deliver better results: DOC, DOE, and DHS

(New York, NY) — As the New York City Council Committee on Criminal Justice holds hearings on the Executive Budget, New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer today released the first “Agency Watch List” report on the Department of Correction (DOC), one of three agencies the Comptroller’s Office is monitoring for spending and results. The watch list is a tool to track the relationship between spending on and results of programs run by city agencies, and highlights areas where the public lacks sufficient data to determine program value. This analysis of DOC found that despite a record low inmate population, the agency’s costs continue to climb rapidly – with little evidence that the higher spending is resulting in material changes in conditions at Rikers. There is also insufficient transparency around other critical initiatives, such as recidivism reduction programs and mental health services, making it impossible to assess whether the agency is maximizing every dollar in these critical areas.

The Agency Watch List, first announced in Comptroller Stringer’s Preliminary Budget Presentation, spotlights City agencies – the Department of Correction (DOC), Department of Education (DOE), and Department of Homeless Services (DHS) – that raise the most alarming budgetary concerns due to rapidly increased spending and meager measurable results. Reports, to be released on each department quarterly, will review trends and recommend indicators that should be publicized and monitored to evaluate the effectiveness of agency spending in achieving the Administration’s stated goals.

“Providing New Yorkers with the services they deserve is a critical responsibility – but with a cooling city economy, the Agency Watch List is a new tool to ensure that the City is making every dollar count. Our city agencies must do better when it comes to tracking the results of their investments – and sharing those results with the public,” said New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer. “When it comes to the Department of Correction, we know that some numbers are moving in the wrong direction. The DOC is putting far more money into far fewer inmates and yet we’re still seeing more violence. We have to do better to ensure a smart, modern, and fair corrections system. That starts with collecting the data and raising common-sense questions about the effectiveness of enormous – and growing – budgets. Transparency matters, and that’s what our Agency Watch List brings.”

Comptroller Stringer’s report provides an extensive analysis of available data, including rates of violent incidents, spending on overtime pay for correction officers, and participation in new recidivism programs. But the data provided by DOC and the Administration is incomplete, and fails to adequately illustrate the results of new spending. As such, the Comptroller’s Office is calling for more data to be released publicly on the Department of Correction’s spending on anti-violence initiatives and re-entry services – including alternative housing strategies and inmate education initiatives – in order to fully determine whether spending is in line with the Administration’s stated goals.

The report includes the following findings:

Inmate Population Down, but Spending, Staffing, and Violence Up

  • Since 2014, New York City’s inmate population has fallen 20 percent, from an average daily population of 11,400 in FY 2014 to under 9,200 in FY 2018, through October 2017;
  • Yet total agency spending is projected to rise 29% over the same period, as of the FY 2019 Executive Budget;
  • Over the same period, the ratio of inmates to correction officers has fallen, from 1.28 to 0.87, while the cost of staffing per inmate has increased from $96,695 in FY 14 to over $144,000 in FY 17; and
  • Yet the number of violent incidents has nearly doubled over the same period, from 774 incidents per 1,000 average daily population in 2014 to over 1,300 incidents per 1,000 average daily population in the first four months of FY 18.

Participation in Re-Entry and Recidivism Services Up but Results Not Tracked

  • Program spending is projected to increase five-fold, from $3.8 million in FY 14, to a projected $21.4 million in FY 19;
  • In new initiatives to reduce idleness, spending is projected at $11 million in FY 19, roughly even with FY 18; and
  • Expansion of the I-CAN recidivism reduction program to medium-risk inmates has resulted in a significant increase in the number of participants, which is good news. But information on the outcome – reduced recidivism – is lacking.

Despite Increased Investment in Health and Mental Health Services, Clinic Visits Flat

  • Spending on Health Affairs and the Health Management Division has risen from $3.1 million in FY 14 to $5.5 million in FY 18 (budgeted, as of the FY 2019 Executive Budget); and
  • The number of total inmate health clinic visits has been largely consistent between FY 14 and FY 17, only increasing slightly from 77,825 to 79,844 in those respective years.

Key Data Not Provided by City to Measure Results

A number of key indicators are not currently publicly reported, resulting in a gap between the Administration’s stated goals and the measures available to evaluate their success. As part of the Agency Watch List report, the Comptroller’s Office is calling on the Administration to immediately make these statistics publicly available and incorporate them into the Mayor’s Management Report:

  • Average length of stay (not reported in FY 2018 Preliminary MMR)
  • Average cost per inmate (not reported; calculated by Comptroller’s Office)
  • Crisis intervention team deployments (not reported)
  • Inmates reported receiving mental health services as a percent of those with diagnosis (not reported)
  • Overtime spending per uniformed headcount (calculated by Comptroller’s Office)
  • Average number of fixed posts requiring coverage (not reported)
  • Percent of inmates eligible for discharge planning who receive a plan (not reported)
  • Inmates earning a GED (not reported)
  • Post-release job placements and retention (not reported)
  • Re-admissions (not reported)

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