Bill Bratton Is Worried About 6,000 Federal Prisoners Getting Released

Police Commissioner Bill Bratton. (Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Police Commissioner Bill Bratton. (Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Agreeing with his predecessor, Ray Kelly, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said today that he believed the Justice Department’s plans to release 6,000 prisoners amounted to a social experiment.

Mr. Bratton, speaking at a New York Law School breakfast, said releasing prisoners was “well-intended” but would raise a host of new questions, likening it to a 1970s initiative in his native Massachusetts that left many mentally-ill people on the streets.

“My concern is that once again a well-intended societal effort is being rushed forward without the appropriate safety nets,” he said. “Where are they all going to go?”

“Where are the jobs? Where is the housing? Where is the ability to allow them to not become recidivists?” he asked.

The Justice Department announced this week that 6,000 prisoners would be set free–the largest ever one-time release–in an effort to reduce overcrowding and provide relief to drug offenders who received harsh sentences over the past 30 years. The inmates will be released between October 30 and November 2. About two-thirds of them will go to halfway houses and home confinement before being put on supervised release and roughly one-third are foreign citizens who will be quickly deported.

Mr. Kelly, the longest-serving police commissioner in city history, said on Fox radio this week that the release was “questionable” at best and would allow former drug dealers and users to potentially commit crimes again

Mr. Bratton insisted more federal parole officers would need to be hired to oversee the released inmates and Congress, currently undergoing a leadership crisis in the House, wouldn’t be able to provide the funding.

“My concern as echoed by Commissioner Kelly from the law enforcement side of it is that it is a laboratory,” he said. “[There are] well-intended but potentially unintended consequences with these people coming out, not being able to find jobs, not finding adequate housing, not in the sense being accepted back into communities which they left eight, 10, 12, 15 years ago.”

Mr. Bratton said he was attending a law enforcement conference in Washington, D.C. next Wednesday and hoped there would be an opportunity to meet with President Barack Obama to discuss the issue.

“If we’re gonna do it, let’s do it right. Otherwise it might create what the 1970s did … we did not do those people any good service by putting them out on the streets,” he said. “Effectively 40 years later, we see many of them still on those streets.”

Bill Bratton Is Worried About 6,000 Federal Prisoners Getting Released