NEW YORK — After many former inmates of Rikers Island and other city jails complained the correction department kept their commissary money when they were released, the City Council on Tuesday passed a bill to ensure that money is given back to those who've been released from jail.

Inmates or their family members put money on commissary accounts so detainees can buy snacks, toiletries and other items.

The bill covers those who will be released in the future, and those previously released.

“It all comes back down to accountability, and right now there is none,” said Queens Councilwoman Adrienne Adams, one of the bill's sponsors. “There is no accountability on this issue at the DOC [Department of Correction] level, there’s no accountability at the NYPD level. This is going to force the accountability and make this law.”

Money not collected from city jails by former detainees remains with the Department of Correction.

When this legislation was introduced in the Council back in 2018, about 180,000 former inmates said they were owed money.

Adams estimates that more than $4 million may now be owed to former detainees.

In response to the City Council vote, a correction department spokesperson sent a written statement to NY1.

“We support this bill and look forward to working with Council on its implementation,” said the spokesperson. “People departing the City’s jails should be able to access their money as easily as possible. That can only help support their successful return to the community.”

Former inmates say families use a PayPal machine at jails to put money into commissary accounts. They think the same machines should return the money. They say it’s not an easy process trying to get their money when leaving the system.

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story indicated that money not collected from city jails by former detainees was turned over to an NYPD fund. This was the case in the past, but that money now remains with the Department of Correction.


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