Gotham Gazette Gotham Gazette is an online publication covering New York policy and politics as well as news on public safety, transportation, education, finance and more. http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/bail-reform 2018-11-21T20:24:10+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com Assemblymember Walker, Sponsor of Bail Reform Bill, Optimistic About 2019 2018-11-18T05:00:00+00:00 2018-11-18T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8084-assemblymember-walker-sponsor-of-bail-reform-bill-optimistic-about-2019 Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/assembly-sponsor-bail.jpg" alt="assembly sponsor bail" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>Assemblymember Latrice Walker (photo: Kevin Coughlin/Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>This is part of AGENDA 2019, a joint Gotham Gazette-City Limits project<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019" data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?q=http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1542727012992000&amp;usg=AFQjCNFY2bJ6BA6AesUwakCrfkUOqoU35A">Find the rest of the series here</a></em></p> <p>Assemblymember Latrice Walker, a Brooklyn Democrat, has been pushing for criminal justice reform in New York, and believes that 2019 will hold long-sought progress. Among the several pieces of legislation introduced in the Democrat-dominated Assembly that address criminal justice reform, one of the most significant proposals is Walker’s <a href="https://nyassembly.gov/leg/?default_fld=&amp;leg_video=&amp;bn=A10137&amp;term=2017&amp;Summary=Y&amp;Actions=Y&amp;Memo=Y" target="_blank" rel="noopener">bail reform bill</a>, which passed the Assembly in June but did not move in the Republican-controlled state Senate.</p> <p>With Democrats having taken the majority in the state Senate through this month’s elections, next year could bring sweeping changes to the criminal justice system in New York, with bail reform atop the priorities for many elected officials, advocates, and others, including Walker, soon-to-be Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, and Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat entering his third term. The two legislative majorities and governor will have to work out the details of any reforms, of course, and there are different bail reform proposals.</p> <p>The need for such reform is evident in Walker’s district, she explains. Representing neighborhoods such as Brownsville and Ocean Hill, Walker, a Brownsville native herself, has seen the current system’s effects first-hand. <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8072-max-murphy-podcast-bail-reform-with-assemblymember-latrice-walker" target="_blank" rel="noopener">During a recent appearance on the Max &amp; Murphy show on WBAI radio</a>, Walker explained the “billion-dollar blocks” in her district, which is home to significant poverty, and elsewhere, as areas from which many people have gone to jail or prison, with government spending totaling billions of dollars to detain those people. It’s a way of both pointing out the high costs of mass incarceration and the lack of investment in those same communities for helping people escape poverty and related problems.</p> <p>Walker believes the current criminal justice system is based around punishing people, and that bail should not be part of that picture, but one area for reform that can then stop feeding the larger problem.</p> <p>“Bail is supposed to just ensure a person’s return to court. We know that the constitution declares that it’s not supposed to be cruel, unusual, and it’s not supposed to be punishment. And I think that that’s the term that many people forget about New York’s bail system,” Walker said. She’s observed that there has been a rubric of sorts set up in courts where there is more focus on the type of crime allegedly committed, the individual, and the neighborhood in which they live, to determine whether a person is required to post bail.</p> <p>With her proposal, Walker aims to make the system what it was supposed to be, she says. “It bewilders me when I see attorneys, judges and the like say to me, even across the state of New York, ‘well there has to be some system or something put in place that will ensure that bad people don’t get put back into the streets,’ but that’s not what bail is about, and that’s what I’m here to defend.”</p> <p>Of course there are certain alleged crimes where the defendant should either have conditions put on their release or not be released at all, argue Walker and others pushing for bail reform, especially major changes or an end to cash bail, but there are many, many others where bail has simply become a punishment of poverty, leading many poor people to spend time in jail for lower-level offenses.</p> <p>“The bail bill that I introduced allows for an automatic release on a person’s own recognizance in certain situations where their violations, misdemeanors -- other than sex offense misdemeanors, non-violent felonies, and two categories of violent felonies,” Walker explained. A person is not released on their own recognizance if they’ve committed sex offense misdemeanors or most violent felonies. However, the two categories of violent felonies the bill does exempt are burglary or robbery in the second degree, as well as falsely reporting an incident in the second degree.</p> <p>Walker’s proposal was developed by looking at bail “in the context of speedy trial” and “discovery reform,” she said, which are two other major categories of criminal justice reform Democrats pledge to pursue in Albany next year, where state Senate Republicans had largely disagreed with the bills put forth by Assembly majority and Senate minority Democrats.</p> <p>The bill would also allow for a defendant to be released on non-monetary conditions but with court-ordered monitoring. Depending on what the court decides, the defendant could be monitored by a pre-trial services agency, the imposition of travel restrictions, and as mentioned by Walker on WBAI, through the use of electronic monitoring systems.</p> <p>In the cases such as violent felonies, sex offense misdemeanors, and situations where the person released on recognizance or under non-monetary conditions fails to follow through with the conditions of their release, monetary bail can be set. In cases where a person is charged with sex offense felonies, terrorism crimes, class A felonies, witness intimidation, or felonies involving intent to causes injury or death, monetary bail may also be set, though remand without bail (no pre-trial release at all) is also an option.</p> <p>C<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/agenda19v2-a.jpg" alt="agenda19v2 a" width="250" height="127" style="margin-right: 10px; float: left;" /></a>ourt-ordered electronic location monitoring would be applicable to defendants when "no other realistic conditions (would) suffice to reasonably assure the defendant's return to court" or when they are charged with a felony, misdemeanor domestic violence, a misdemeanor sex offense, or other crimes outlined in the bill.</p> <p>Walker recognizes that there are opponents of her plan to her right and her left, and says she’s taken into account the concerns some may have with parts of her proposal. The non-monetary condition situation, as she put it, brings about the question of whether mass incarceration is going to be allowed to be replaced by mass surveillance.</p> <p>“I wanted to be able to protect that because this new electric monetary system is a new iteration of the billion dollar blocks. Now instead of incarcerating people, you’re got everyone in the ankle bracelets,” said Walker. The widespread use of ankle bracelets is a secondary set-up that Walker said “sets up a system that we’re trying to do away with.”</p> <p>There have been other versions of bail reform introduced in the Assembly, one of them by Assemblymember Daniel O’Donnell of Manhattan. When asked if there are any significant differences between the two versions of bail reform, Walker highlighted only one.</p> <p>“In my bill, where a person is still required to be remanded in pre-trial jail, you have discovery reform procedures that kick into play. There is a certain number of time, I believe it’s five days, by which the defense is able to request of the prosecution a discovery evidence or any evidence that might lead to that person being acquitted at the end of a trial,” she explained. This component of her plan gives the person being charged with a crime other mechanisms to “put forth a formidable defense.”</p> <p>According to the listing of Walker’s bill in the Assembly legislation database, the purpose of the bill is to significantly amend “New York's antiquated cash bail system” for the first in “nearly fifty years.”</p> <p>“This legislation would move our state toward a more intelligent, individualized system of pre-trial release, monitoring and, when necessary, detention,” the bill states. “The bill is designed to end the current, reflexive overreliance on monetary bail, which each year results in the unnecessary and expensive pre-trial jailing of thousands of persons simply because they cannot afford a modest sum as collateral.”</p> <p>The Assembly passed Walker’s bill in June as part of a broader criminal justice reform package. <a href="https://nyassembly.gov/leg/?default_fld=&amp;leg_video=&amp;bn=A05033&amp;term=2017&amp;Summary=Y&amp;Actions=Y&amp;Memo=Y&amp;Text=Y" target="_blank" rel="noopener">O’Donnell’s bill</a>, known as the "bail elimination act of 2018," would fully eliminate the use of cash bail while also ensuring “provisions for pretrial detention,” but has not been voted on in the Assembly.</p> <p>However, O’Donnell’s bill does have a “same-as” bill in the Senate, whereas Walker’s does not. That may well change come January when the new Legislature begins its work.</p> <p>Walker said she remains “blindly optimistic,” though she is aware that there are other things that may take priority when the new legislative session begins and Democrats in control of the legislative and executive branches start getting to a long agenda, and that Democrats are not a “monolithic body.”</p> <p>“I anticipate that bail reform, and criminal justice reform will remain an in-vogue topic,” she said.</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Listen to the full conversation: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8072-max-murphy-podcast-bail-reform-with-assemblymember-latrice-walker" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Assemblymember Latrice Walker on Max &amp; Murphy</a> Nov. 14 2018]&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>This is part of AGENDA 2019, a joint Gotham Gazette-City Limits project<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019" data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?q=http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1542727012992000&amp;usg=AFQjCNFY2bJ6BA6AesUwakCrfkUOqoU35A">Find the rest of the series here</a></em></p> <p>

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by Annie Abreu, Gotham Gazette
@GothamGazette

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/assembly-sponsor-bail.jpg" alt="assembly sponsor bail" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>Assemblymember Latrice Walker (photo: Kevin Coughlin/Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>This is part of AGENDA 2019, a joint Gotham Gazette-City Limits project<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019" data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?q=http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1542727012992000&amp;usg=AFQjCNFY2bJ6BA6AesUwakCrfkUOqoU35A">Find the rest of the series here</a></em></p> <p>Assemblymember Latrice Walker, a Brooklyn Democrat, has been pushing for criminal justice reform in New York, and believes that 2019 will hold long-sought progress. Among the several pieces of legislation introduced in the Democrat-dominated Assembly that address criminal justice reform, one of the most significant proposals is Walker’s <a href="https://nyassembly.gov/leg/?default_fld=&amp;leg_video=&amp;bn=A10137&amp;term=2017&amp;Summary=Y&amp;Actions=Y&amp;Memo=Y" target="_blank" rel="noopener">bail reform bill</a>, which passed the Assembly in June but did not move in the Republican-controlled state Senate.</p> <p>With Democrats having taken the majority in the state Senate through this month’s elections, next year could bring sweeping changes to the criminal justice system in New York, with bail reform atop the priorities for many elected officials, advocates, and others, including Walker, soon-to-be Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, and Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat entering his third term. The two legislative majorities and governor will have to work out the details of any reforms, of course, and there are different bail reform proposals.</p> <p>The need for such reform is evident in Walker’s district, she explains. Representing neighborhoods such as Brownsville and Ocean Hill, Walker, a Brownsville native herself, has seen the current system’s effects first-hand. <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8072-max-murphy-podcast-bail-reform-with-assemblymember-latrice-walker" target="_blank" rel="noopener">During a recent appearance on the Max &amp; Murphy show on WBAI radio</a>, Walker explained the “billion-dollar blocks” in her district, which is home to significant poverty, and elsewhere, as areas from which many people have gone to jail or prison, with government spending totaling billions of dollars to detain those people. It’s a way of both pointing out the high costs of mass incarceration and the lack of investment in those same communities for helping people escape poverty and related problems.</p> <p>Walker believes the current criminal justice system is based around punishing people, and that bail should not be part of that picture, but one area for reform that can then stop feeding the larger problem.</p> <p>“Bail is supposed to just ensure a person’s return to court. We know that the constitution declares that it’s not supposed to be cruel, unusual, and it’s not supposed to be punishment. And I think that that’s the term that many people forget about New York’s bail system,” Walker said. She’s observed that there has been a rubric of sorts set up in courts where there is more focus on the type of crime allegedly committed, the individual, and the neighborhood in which they live, to determine whether a person is required to post bail.</p> <p>With her proposal, Walker aims to make the system what it was supposed to be, she says. “It bewilders me when I see attorneys, judges and the like say to me, even across the state of New York, ‘well there has to be some system or something put in place that will ensure that bad people don’t get put back into the streets,’ but that’s not what bail is about, and that’s what I’m here to defend.”</p> <p>Of course there are certain alleged crimes where the defendant should either have conditions put on their release or not be released at all, argue Walker and others pushing for bail reform, especially major changes or an end to cash bail, but there are many, many others where bail has simply become a punishment of poverty, leading many poor people to spend time in jail for lower-level offenses.</p> <p>“The bail bill that I introduced allows for an automatic release on a person’s own recognizance in certain situations where their violations, misdemeanors -- other than sex offense misdemeanors, non-violent felonies, and two categories of violent felonies,” Walker explained. A person is not released on their own recognizance if they’ve committed sex offense misdemeanors or most violent felonies. However, the two categories of violent felonies the bill does exempt are burglary or robbery in the second degree, as well as falsely reporting an incident in the second degree.</p> <p>Walker’s proposal was developed by looking at bail “in the context of speedy trial” and “discovery reform,” she said, which are two other major categories of criminal justice reform Democrats pledge to pursue in Albany next year, where state Senate Republicans had largely disagreed with the bills put forth by Assembly majority and Senate minority Democrats.</p> <p>The bill would also allow for a defendant to be released on non-monetary conditions but with court-ordered monitoring. Depending on what the court decides, the defendant could be monitored by a pre-trial services agency, the imposition of travel restrictions, and as mentioned by Walker on WBAI, through the use of electronic monitoring systems.</p> <p>In the cases such as violent felonies, sex offense misdemeanors, and situations where the person released on recognizance or under non-monetary conditions fails to follow through with the conditions of their release, monetary bail can be set. In cases where a person is charged with sex offense felonies, terrorism crimes, class A felonies, witness intimidation, or felonies involving intent to causes injury or death, monetary bail may also be set, though remand without bail (no pre-trial release at all) is also an option.</p> <p>C<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/agenda19v2-a.jpg" alt="agenda19v2 a" width="250" height="127" style="margin-right: 10px; float: left;" /></a>ourt-ordered electronic location monitoring would be applicable to defendants when "no other realistic conditions (would) suffice to reasonably assure the defendant's return to court" or when they are charged with a felony, misdemeanor domestic violence, a misdemeanor sex offense, or other crimes outlined in the bill.</p> <p>Walker recognizes that there are opponents of her plan to her right and her left, and says she’s taken into account the concerns some may have with parts of her proposal. The non-monetary condition situation, as she put it, brings about the question of whether mass incarceration is going to be allowed to be replaced by mass surveillance.</p> <p>“I wanted to be able to protect that because this new electric monetary system is a new iteration of the billion dollar blocks. Now instead of incarcerating people, you’re got everyone in the ankle bracelets,” said Walker. The widespread use of ankle bracelets is a secondary set-up that Walker said “sets up a system that we’re trying to do away with.”</p> <p>There have been other versions of bail reform introduced in the Assembly, one of them by Assemblymember Daniel O’Donnell of Manhattan. When asked if there are any significant differences between the two versions of bail reform, Walker highlighted only one.</p> <p>“In my bill, where a person is still required to be remanded in pre-trial jail, you have discovery reform procedures that kick into play. There is a certain number of time, I believe it’s five days, by which the defense is able to request of the prosecution a discovery evidence or any evidence that might lead to that person being acquitted at the end of a trial,” she explained. This component of her plan gives the person being charged with a crime other mechanisms to “put forth a formidable defense.”</p> <p>According to the listing of Walker’s bill in the Assembly legislation database, the purpose of the bill is to significantly amend “New York's antiquated cash bail system” for the first in “nearly fifty years.”</p> <p>“This legislation would move our state toward a more intelligent, individualized system of pre-trial release, monitoring and, when necessary, detention,” the bill states. “The bill is designed to end the current, reflexive overreliance on monetary bail, which each year results in the unnecessary and expensive pre-trial jailing of thousands of persons simply because they cannot afford a modest sum as collateral.”</p> <p>The Assembly passed Walker’s bill in June as part of a broader criminal justice reform package. <a href="https://nyassembly.gov/leg/?default_fld=&amp;leg_video=&amp;bn=A05033&amp;term=2017&amp;Summary=Y&amp;Actions=Y&amp;Memo=Y&amp;Text=Y" target="_blank" rel="noopener">O’Donnell’s bill</a>, known as the "bail elimination act of 2018," would fully eliminate the use of cash bail while also ensuring “provisions for pretrial detention,” but has not been voted on in the Assembly.</p> <p>However, O’Donnell’s bill does have a “same-as” bill in the Senate, whereas Walker’s does not. That may well change come January when the new Legislature begins its work.</p> <p>Walker said she remains “blindly optimistic,” though she is aware that there are other things that may take priority when the new legislative session begins and Democrats in control of the legislative and executive branches start getting to a long agenda, and that Democrats are not a “monolithic body.”</p> <p>“I anticipate that bail reform, and criminal justice reform will remain an in-vogue topic,” she said.</p> <p style="text-align: center;">[Listen to the full conversation: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8072-max-murphy-podcast-bail-reform-with-assemblymember-latrice-walker" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Assemblymember Latrice Walker on Max &amp; Murphy</a> Nov. 14 2018]&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>This is part of AGENDA 2019, a joint Gotham Gazette-City Limits project<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019" data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?q=http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1542727012992000&amp;usg=AFQjCNFY2bJ6BA6AesUwakCrfkUOqoU35A">Find the rest of the series here</a></em></p> <p>

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by Annie Abreu, Gotham Gazette
@GothamGazette

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Enact Sweeping Criminal Justice Reform Responsibly 2018-11-15T05:00:00+00:00 2018-11-15T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8077-enact-sweeping-criminal-justice-reform-responsibly Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/mayor-bloomberg-grad2010.jpg" alt="mayor bloomberg grad2010" width="600" /></p> <p>(photo: Spencer T. Tucker/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>This is part of AGENDA 2019, a joint Gotham Gazette-City Limits project<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019" data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?q=http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1542727012992000&amp;usg=AFQjCNFY2bJ6BA6AesUwakCrfkUOqoU35A">Find the rest of the series here</a></em></p> <p>The Governor and the Legislature should use this once in a generation opportunity to make New York State the world leader in thoughtful and effective public protection policies that hold offenders accountable in a humane and forgiving way, and which allows those who offend to, within reason, receive opportunities to make amends and start afresh.</p> <p>They could start strong by creating a grand blue ribbon commission with multiple subsidiary groups consisting of cross-partisan experts representing a broad public justice and human services spectrum.</p> <p>And they should forego the impulse, admittedly hard to resist in the afterglow of strong electoral results 10 days ago, to pursue ideological approaches at the expense of posing honest questions and hunting for approaches that work.</p> <p>The poisonous blue versus red state rhetoric is polluting this conversation (this is happening all over the country where more liberal states seem to relish the chance to stick a finger into conservative eyes - and the contempt is mutual): this divisive tact has no place in devising rational, humane, and effective approaches. It presents the false choice that one has to pick a side: the ACLU or Jeff Sessions. We must do better.</p> <p>This is a task that is bigger than the Legislature and the Governor. Indeed, it is our political system that has bequeathed the contemporary system that is criticized from all sides. It must be stipulated that much bad criminal justice policy was the product of scare-mongering politicians of a different era seizing on anecdotal, low-probability events as grounds for enactment of draconian laws, such as ones that target narcotics possession and sale. There should have been, but frequently was not, pushback when these laws and policies were gathering steam.</p> <p>Now, the danger runs in the other direction.</p> <p>Advocates have commandeered the conversation and this has dangerous implications. Far too frequently, this means that several shades of only one side of an argument are presented.</p> <p>Bail and parole reform of some sort is a commendable pursuit, but the public must be leveled with: early release will mean that there will likely be more victims, and some may lose their lives. Will cashless bail mean that a defendant who has no skin in the game will be less concerned about skipping court appearances? This is not a reason not to embrace change, but advocates (who are often backed up by billionaires who are unelected and unaccountable and who are, themselves, and their families, unlikely to have violence fall on them) have a maddening tendency to obscure or dissemble in the face of evidence that runs counter to their objectives. When reforms are being discussed the lives put at risk are almost invariably not in affluent places.</p> <p>And the voices of individual victims and communities as a whole have been marginalized or stifled altogether.</p> <p>To be sure, there are daily miscarriages involving charged individuals -- people supposed to be presumed innocent -- locked up for prolonged periods, despite the presumption of innocence, in true Kafkaesque fashion. Dramatically speeding up adjudication will make much of the bail debate academic.</p> <p>A blue ribbon commission can look in a sweeping and holistic way at the agencies charged with delivering justice, with a keen eye to unintended or collateral consequences to seemingly simple silver bullet reforms. It is far too easy for elected officials to succumb to sponsoring slapdash reforms that allow them to bask in the glow without considering the wider implications of the bills they sponsor.</p> <p>Certainly, some legislative steps taken in the name of “police reform” have helped lead to the current death spiral of the police profession. There are a number of public officials who seem to believe, misguidedly, that it is a great accomplishment to create an atmosphere where the police avoid engaging festering community conditions. If they looked across the country before acting, they would know that urban police departments willing to take risks and bear the brunt of criticisms for defending communities against disorder and insecurity are becoming as rare as the dodo. They would also notice that police departments are struggling mightily to find someone, anyone, to put on a uniform these days. This may not seem like a pressing concern in our presently supersafe city, but what if the future sees dramatic shifts and upheavals?</p> <p>The blue ribbon commission could launch its work by conducting in-depth, high-quality, sustained surveys to gauge the sentiments of people in communities (in my experience the feedback gathered will always contain surprises). And true justice would have a local flavor: it is folly to try to create one uniform, static standard in each of the state’s 62 very different counties. Indeed, even in a single NYPD precinct, there can be many different communities and seemingly, at times, as many opinions and sensibilities about safety as there are residents.</p> <p>The country (and we could seek out leaders from overseas as well) has many current and former law enforcement, justice, and human services professionals who have progressive instincts but who will not forget that the duty is to strike a practical, humane balance.</p> <p>We should pursue grand and workable ideas, research, and demonstration programs from all over the planet, rejecting the chauvinism and insularity that is a hallmark of a 50-state justice system.</p> <p>Consideration should be given to creating a statewide super-agency, something like the Department of Community Well Being and Safety. Perhaps it should be led by a First Deputy Secretary or Deputy Secretary to the Governor.</p> <p>Too often agencies continue to work siloed off from one another, law enforcement agencies separated from agencies with other portfolios, working at cross-purposes. Protecting the public and treating offenders decently demands that the education, health, employment, mental health, and drug and alcohol addiction infrastructure be central to any final package of reforms. Can the notoriously independent, aloof even, federal law enforcement community be looped into these efforts?</p> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019" target="_self"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/agenda19v2-a.jpg" alt="agenda19v2 a" width="250" height="127" style="margin-right: 10px; float: left;" /></a>We must also not ignore hard truths. It is a noble and fiscally prudent goal to urgently seek to shrink prison and jail populations. But these populations would be significantly higher if the justice system was better at apprehending those who commit serious crimes. Most of these offenders <a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/nypd/downloads/excel/analysis_and_planning/clearance/clearance-report-q4-2017.xlsx" target="_blank" rel="noopener">are never apprehended</a>. Can true justice system reform ignore this reality?</p> <p>And despite all the rhetoric about shrinking the punitive footprint of the system, new laws continue to be added with each passing legislative session, while existing laws are almost never revoked.</p> <p>The system has to be repaired but also defended and re-legitimized. There is a widespread misbelief that convictions of the innocent are commonplace. Elected officials must embrace, vouch for, and sell the system; after all, it is their creation. In the wake of serious crimes, people are sometimes not cooperating with investigators. What do lawmakers offer as a remedy?</p> <p>We need a complete blue sky review of the uses of technology to prevent crime and to track offenders so that they are getting what they need to steer clear of re-arrest. How can technology be used to vitiate the need for the police to make custodial arrests?</p> <p>What is the promise for treating breaches of public peace and order in a civil, rather than criminal, context?</p> <p>We need to examine the work of all prosecutors’ offices, but also the concerning trend where “progressive prosecutors” pursue or decline prosecutions or overlook laws never repealed by the Legislature on the basis of what can be spongy, unstructured, idiosyncratic whims -- that Is not a system of laws, but of ‘men.’</p> <p>There is also a need to provide affirmative policy preventing and responding to mass casualty shootings and terrorist acts ranging from unsophisticated lone wolves to catastrophic uses of chemical or biological warfare in our streets.</p> <p>And we need to examine big business and white collar crime anew in the face of evidence that some business bottom lines are being topped off by what can only be described as scams, schemes, and frauds.</p> <p>And essentially, it must be said that this economy is not working for millions of people. Anyone who interacts with young people knows of their fears and insecurities about finding a place in this society. High turnover, insecure, minimum wage jobs represent a menace to society's well being. In her new book, "The Job," Ellen Ruppel Shell sums it up succinctly: “Good work brings stability of the sort that staves off conflict…”</p> <p>It is always hard to ask political folks to soar above political considerations and to deliver evidence-based solutions to thorny problems, come what may. New York’s political establishment has a chance to rise to the challenge. Will they take it? Will they go big?</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>This is part of AGENDA 2019, a joint Gotham Gazette-City Limits project<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019" data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?q=http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1542727012992000&amp;usg=AFQjCNFY2bJ6BA6AesUwakCrfkUOqoU35A">Find the rest of the series here</a></em></p> <p>***<br />Eugene O’Donnell is a former NYPD officer and prosecutor in Brooklyn and Queens, and currently a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.</p> <p>

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/mayor-bloomberg-grad2010.jpg" alt="mayor bloomberg grad2010" width="600" /></p> <p>(photo: Spencer T. Tucker/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>This is part of AGENDA 2019, a joint Gotham Gazette-City Limits project<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019" data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?q=http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1542727012992000&amp;usg=AFQjCNFY2bJ6BA6AesUwakCrfkUOqoU35A">Find the rest of the series here</a></em></p> <p>The Governor and the Legislature should use this once in a generation opportunity to make New York State the world leader in thoughtful and effective public protection policies that hold offenders accountable in a humane and forgiving way, and which allows those who offend to, within reason, receive opportunities to make amends and start afresh.</p> <p>They could start strong by creating a grand blue ribbon commission with multiple subsidiary groups consisting of cross-partisan experts representing a broad public justice and human services spectrum.</p> <p>And they should forego the impulse, admittedly hard to resist in the afterglow of strong electoral results 10 days ago, to pursue ideological approaches at the expense of posing honest questions and hunting for approaches that work.</p> <p>The poisonous blue versus red state rhetoric is polluting this conversation (this is happening all over the country where more liberal states seem to relish the chance to stick a finger into conservative eyes - and the contempt is mutual): this divisive tact has no place in devising rational, humane, and effective approaches. It presents the false choice that one has to pick a side: the ACLU or Jeff Sessions. We must do better.</p> <p>This is a task that is bigger than the Legislature and the Governor. Indeed, it is our political system that has bequeathed the contemporary system that is criticized from all sides. It must be stipulated that much bad criminal justice policy was the product of scare-mongering politicians of a different era seizing on anecdotal, low-probability events as grounds for enactment of draconian laws, such as ones that target narcotics possession and sale. There should have been, but frequently was not, pushback when these laws and policies were gathering steam.</p> <p>Now, the danger runs in the other direction.</p> <p>Advocates have commandeered the conversation and this has dangerous implications. Far too frequently, this means that several shades of only one side of an argument are presented.</p> <p>Bail and parole reform of some sort is a commendable pursuit, but the public must be leveled with: early release will mean that there will likely be more victims, and some may lose their lives. Will cashless bail mean that a defendant who has no skin in the game will be less concerned about skipping court appearances? This is not a reason not to embrace change, but advocates (who are often backed up by billionaires who are unelected and unaccountable and who are, themselves, and their families, unlikely to have violence fall on them) have a maddening tendency to obscure or dissemble in the face of evidence that runs counter to their objectives. When reforms are being discussed the lives put at risk are almost invariably not in affluent places.</p> <p>And the voices of individual victims and communities as a whole have been marginalized or stifled altogether.</p> <p>To be sure, there are daily miscarriages involving charged individuals -- people supposed to be presumed innocent -- locked up for prolonged periods, despite the presumption of innocence, in true Kafkaesque fashion. Dramatically speeding up adjudication will make much of the bail debate academic.</p> <p>A blue ribbon commission can look in a sweeping and holistic way at the agencies charged with delivering justice, with a keen eye to unintended or collateral consequences to seemingly simple silver bullet reforms. It is far too easy for elected officials to succumb to sponsoring slapdash reforms that allow them to bask in the glow without considering the wider implications of the bills they sponsor.</p> <p>Certainly, some legislative steps taken in the name of “police reform” have helped lead to the current death spiral of the police profession. There are a number of public officials who seem to believe, misguidedly, that it is a great accomplishment to create an atmosphere where the police avoid engaging festering community conditions. If they looked across the country before acting, they would know that urban police departments willing to take risks and bear the brunt of criticisms for defending communities against disorder and insecurity are becoming as rare as the dodo. They would also notice that police departments are struggling mightily to find someone, anyone, to put on a uniform these days. This may not seem like a pressing concern in our presently supersafe city, but what if the future sees dramatic shifts and upheavals?</p> <p>The blue ribbon commission could launch its work by conducting in-depth, high-quality, sustained surveys to gauge the sentiments of people in communities (in my experience the feedback gathered will always contain surprises). And true justice would have a local flavor: it is folly to try to create one uniform, static standard in each of the state’s 62 very different counties. Indeed, even in a single NYPD precinct, there can be many different communities and seemingly, at times, as many opinions and sensibilities about safety as there are residents.</p> <p>The country (and we could seek out leaders from overseas as well) has many current and former law enforcement, justice, and human services professionals who have progressive instincts but who will not forget that the duty is to strike a practical, humane balance.</p> <p>We should pursue grand and workable ideas, research, and demonstration programs from all over the planet, rejecting the chauvinism and insularity that is a hallmark of a 50-state justice system.</p> <p>Consideration should be given to creating a statewide super-agency, something like the Department of Community Well Being and Safety. Perhaps it should be led by a First Deputy Secretary or Deputy Secretary to the Governor.</p> <p>Too often agencies continue to work siloed off from one another, law enforcement agencies separated from agencies with other portfolios, working at cross-purposes. Protecting the public and treating offenders decently demands that the education, health, employment, mental health, and drug and alcohol addiction infrastructure be central to any final package of reforms. Can the notoriously independent, aloof even, federal law enforcement community be looped into these efforts?</p> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019" target="_self"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/agenda19v2-a.jpg" alt="agenda19v2 a" width="250" height="127" style="margin-right: 10px; float: left;" /></a>We must also not ignore hard truths. It is a noble and fiscally prudent goal to urgently seek to shrink prison and jail populations. But these populations would be significantly higher if the justice system was better at apprehending those who commit serious crimes. Most of these offenders <a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/nypd/downloads/excel/analysis_and_planning/clearance/clearance-report-q4-2017.xlsx" target="_blank" rel="noopener">are never apprehended</a>. Can true justice system reform ignore this reality?</p> <p>And despite all the rhetoric about shrinking the punitive footprint of the system, new laws continue to be added with each passing legislative session, while existing laws are almost never revoked.</p> <p>The system has to be repaired but also defended and re-legitimized. There is a widespread misbelief that convictions of the innocent are commonplace. Elected officials must embrace, vouch for, and sell the system; after all, it is their creation. In the wake of serious crimes, people are sometimes not cooperating with investigators. What do lawmakers offer as a remedy?</p> <p>We need a complete blue sky review of the uses of technology to prevent crime and to track offenders so that they are getting what they need to steer clear of re-arrest. How can technology be used to vitiate the need for the police to make custodial arrests?</p> <p>What is the promise for treating breaches of public peace and order in a civil, rather than criminal, context?</p> <p>We need to examine the work of all prosecutors’ offices, but also the concerning trend where “progressive prosecutors” pursue or decline prosecutions or overlook laws never repealed by the Legislature on the basis of what can be spongy, unstructured, idiosyncratic whims -- that Is not a system of laws, but of ‘men.’</p> <p>There is also a need to provide affirmative policy preventing and responding to mass casualty shootings and terrorist acts ranging from unsophisticated lone wolves to catastrophic uses of chemical or biological warfare in our streets.</p> <p>And we need to examine big business and white collar crime anew in the face of evidence that some business bottom lines are being topped off by what can only be described as scams, schemes, and frauds.</p> <p>And essentially, it must be said that this economy is not working for millions of people. Anyone who interacts with young people knows of their fears and insecurities about finding a place in this society. High turnover, insecure, minimum wage jobs represent a menace to society's well being. In her new book, "The Job," Ellen Ruppel Shell sums it up succinctly: “Good work brings stability of the sort that staves off conflict…”</p> <p>It is always hard to ask political folks to soar above political considerations and to deliver evidence-based solutions to thorny problems, come what may. New York’s political establishment has a chance to rise to the challenge. Will they take it? Will they go big?</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>This is part of AGENDA 2019, a joint Gotham Gazette-City Limits project<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019" data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?q=http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1542727012992000&amp;usg=AFQjCNFY2bJ6BA6AesUwakCrfkUOqoU35A">Find the rest of the series here</a></em></p> <p>***<br />Eugene O’Donnell is a former NYPD officer and prosecutor in Brooklyn and Queens, and currently a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.</p> <p>

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Max & Murphy Podcast: Assemblymember Latrice Walker 2018-11-14T05:00:00+00:00 2018-11-14T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8072-max-murphy-podcast-bail-reform-with-assemblymember-latrice-walker Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/mxm-logo.jpg" alt="mxm logo" width="600" height="239" /></p> <p>Ben Max, left, of Gotham Gazette,&nbsp;and Jarrett Murphy, right, of City Limits</p> <hr /> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>This is part of AGENDA 2019, a joint Gotham Gazette-City Limits project<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019" data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?q=http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1542727012992000&amp;usg=AFQjCNFY2bJ6BA6AesUwakCrfkUOqoU35A">Find the rest of the series here</a></em></p> <p><strong>November 14, 2018 - Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: Bail Reform with Assemblymember Latrice Walker<br /></strong></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/latrice-walker-wbai-org.jpg" alt="latrice walker wbai org" width="134" height="200" style="margin: 10px; float: left;" />Assemblymember Latrice Walker, a Brooklyn Democrat, joined the show to discuss her push for criminal justice reform, among other issues, including the prospects for a wave of Democratic legislation to pass through the state Legislature in 2019 after the state Senate flipped and will potentially work with the long-standing Assembly majority to pass long-stalled bills.</p> <p>Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@TweetBenMax </a>and <a href="https://twitter.com/jarrettmurphy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@JarrettMurphy</a>. You can listen to the show through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts, under "Max &amp; Murphy," and listen to Max &amp; Murphy live on Wednesdays at 5 p.m. on WBAI radio, 99.5FM or wbai.org</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/530038692&amp;color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_teaser=true" width="100%" height="180" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/agenda19v2-a.jpg" alt="agenda19v2 a" width="250" height="127" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>This is part of AGENDA 2019, a joint Gotham Gazette-City Limits project<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019" data-saferedirecturl="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019">Find the rest of the series here</a></em></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/mxm-logo.jpg" alt="mxm logo" width="600" height="239" /></p> <p>Ben Max, left, of Gotham Gazette,&nbsp;and Jarrett Murphy, right, of City Limits</p> <hr /> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>This is part of AGENDA 2019, a joint Gotham Gazette-City Limits project<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019" data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?q=http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1542727012992000&amp;usg=AFQjCNFY2bJ6BA6AesUwakCrfkUOqoU35A">Find the rest of the series here</a></em></p> <p><strong>November 14, 2018 - Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: Bail Reform with Assemblymember Latrice Walker<br /></strong></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/latrice-walker-wbai-org.jpg" alt="latrice walker wbai org" width="134" height="200" style="margin: 10px; float: left;" />Assemblymember Latrice Walker, a Brooklyn Democrat, joined the show to discuss her push for criminal justice reform, among other issues, including the prospects for a wave of Democratic legislation to pass through the state Legislature in 2019 after the state Senate flipped and will potentially work with the long-standing Assembly majority to pass long-stalled bills.</p> <p>Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@TweetBenMax </a>and <a href="https://twitter.com/jarrettmurphy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@JarrettMurphy</a>. You can listen to the show through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts, under "Max &amp; Murphy," and listen to Max &amp; Murphy live on Wednesdays at 5 p.m. on WBAI radio, 99.5FM or wbai.org</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/530038692&amp;color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_teaser=true" width="100%" height="180" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/agenda19v2-a.jpg" alt="agenda19v2 a" width="250" height="127" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>This is part of AGENDA 2019, a joint Gotham Gazette-City Limits project<br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019" data-saferedirecturl="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8029-agenda-2019">Find the rest of the series here</a></em></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
What Happens Next? A Service-Provider on the Mass Bail Out 2018-10-25T04:00:00+00:00 2018-10-25T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/8021-what-happens-next-a-service-provider-on-the-mass-bail-out Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/melinda-katz-ribbon-mass-bail-out.jpg" alt="melinda katz ribbon mass bail out" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>(photo: Office of Queens Borough President Melinda Katz [CJ])</p> <hr /> <p>The Mass Bail Out action is currently underway, attempting to post bail for women and youth on Rikers Island and in city jails throughout New York.&nbsp;At last count, there were about&nbsp;243 women held in jail because they cannot afford bail -- not because they’ve been proven guilty of their charges. We think this is an incredible and necessary effort rooted in the quest for justice.&nbsp;</p> <p>The only legal reason to hold a person on bail is to ensure they return to court, but research proves time and again that most people return to court on their own, especially women. This includes&nbsp;people&nbsp;bailed out by&nbsp;charitable&nbsp;bail funds. In fact, the Bronx and Brooklyn bail funds have been operating for over a decade and the people they serve return for their court dates 95 percent of the time.&nbsp;</p> <p>Further, women in jail are more likely than men to be the primary caretakers of their children, to have survived histories of violence and abuse, to be battling drug addiction and mental illness, and to live in poverty; circumstances only exacerbated when isolated on Rikers Island (or in any jail or prison). &nbsp;To theorize that women are less a danger to themselves or others in jail is to erase their agency and to ignore the many needs we neglect to meet as a community.&nbsp;</p> <p>New Yorkers have a responsibility to reimagine the criminal justice system and to set an example for the rest of the country. At the Women's&nbsp;Prison&nbsp;Association (WPA), we&nbsp;envision a community where our reliance on incarceration as the default response to crime has been replaced by constructive, community-driven responses. Women come to WPA from Rikers every day.&nbsp;Partnering with the Mass Bail Out simply means providing the same services to more women at once.</p> <p>There has been a plan set in place for every woman thus far, including transportation to safe housing, connection to health care, legal support, and provision of emergency needs like food and clothing.&nbsp;WPA's social workers&nbsp;are meeting these women at Rikers with tailored service plans and nonjudgmental&nbsp;support.&nbsp;Every day&nbsp;our staff work hard&nbsp;to meet the immediate and long-term&nbsp;needs of our clients, and&nbsp;I am proud of the tireless effort extended throughout this movement.&nbsp;These are supports every New Yorker should have available to them.&nbsp;</p> <p>WPA is 173 years old.&nbsp;We are familiar with the misconceptions around our work and similar efforts toward social progress like the Mass Bail Out.&nbsp;Critical to our vision of a world with fewer jails and prisons is the belief that all human beings have the capacity for change and that every individual can be accountable for her actions and the results.&nbsp; We support the freedom of these women&nbsp;and teens, so that they can imagine and realize law-abiding, self-directed, and satisfying lives in the community, possible with our support and that of the city at large.</p> <p>***<br /> Georgia Lerner is Executive Director at the <a href="http://www.wpaonline.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Women’s Prison Association</a>, which works with women at all stages of criminal justice involvement. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/Georgia_Lerner">@Georgia_Lerner</a> &amp; <a href="https://twitter.com/WPA_NYC" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@WPA_NYC</a>.</p> <p>

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/melinda-katz-ribbon-mass-bail-out.jpg" alt="melinda katz ribbon mass bail out" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>(photo: Office of Queens Borough President Melinda Katz [CJ])</p> <hr /> <p>The Mass Bail Out action is currently underway, attempting to post bail for women and youth on Rikers Island and in city jails throughout New York.&nbsp;At last count, there were about&nbsp;243 women held in jail because they cannot afford bail -- not because they’ve been proven guilty of their charges. We think this is an incredible and necessary effort rooted in the quest for justice.&nbsp;</p> <p>The only legal reason to hold a person on bail is to ensure they return to court, but research proves time and again that most people return to court on their own, especially women. This includes&nbsp;people&nbsp;bailed out by&nbsp;charitable&nbsp;bail funds. In fact, the Bronx and Brooklyn bail funds have been operating for over a decade and the people they serve return for their court dates 95 percent of the time.&nbsp;</p> <p>Further, women in jail are more likely than men to be the primary caretakers of their children, to have survived histories of violence and abuse, to be battling drug addiction and mental illness, and to live in poverty; circumstances only exacerbated when isolated on Rikers Island (or in any jail or prison). &nbsp;To theorize that women are less a danger to themselves or others in jail is to erase their agency and to ignore the many needs we neglect to meet as a community.&nbsp;</p> <p>New Yorkers have a responsibility to reimagine the criminal justice system and to set an example for the rest of the country. At the Women's&nbsp;Prison&nbsp;Association (WPA), we&nbsp;envision a community where our reliance on incarceration as the default response to crime has been replaced by constructive, community-driven responses. Women come to WPA from Rikers every day.&nbsp;Partnering with the Mass Bail Out simply means providing the same services to more women at once.</p> <p>There has been a plan set in place for every woman thus far, including transportation to safe housing, connection to health care, legal support, and provision of emergency needs like food and clothing.&nbsp;WPA's social workers&nbsp;are meeting these women at Rikers with tailored service plans and nonjudgmental&nbsp;support.&nbsp;Every day&nbsp;our staff work hard&nbsp;to meet the immediate and long-term&nbsp;needs of our clients, and&nbsp;I am proud of the tireless effort extended throughout this movement.&nbsp;These are supports every New Yorker should have available to them.&nbsp;</p> <p>WPA is 173 years old.&nbsp;We are familiar with the misconceptions around our work and similar efforts toward social progress like the Mass Bail Out.&nbsp;Critical to our vision of a world with fewer jails and prisons is the belief that all human beings have the capacity for change and that every individual can be accountable for her actions and the results.&nbsp; We support the freedom of these women&nbsp;and teens, so that they can imagine and realize law-abiding, self-directed, and satisfying lives in the community, possible with our support and that of the city at large.</p> <p>***<br /> Georgia Lerner is Executive Director at the <a href="http://www.wpaonline.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Women’s Prison Association</a>, which works with women at all stages of criminal justice involvement. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/Georgia_Lerner">@Georgia_Lerner</a> &amp; <a href="https://twitter.com/WPA_NYC" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@WPA_NYC</a>.</p> <p>

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Doing the Mass Bail Out the Right Way 2018-10-01T04:00:00+00:00 2018-10-01T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/7968-how-to-do-the-mass-bail-out-the-right-way Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/arniess.jpg" alt="arniess" width="600" height="431" /></p> <p>(photo via @RoryLancman)</p> <hr /> <p>The Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Foundation’s just-launched “mass bail out” -- which could release from New York City jails 500 incarcerated indigent young and women defendants charged with misdemeanors and violent felonies -- is a good plan if it is implemented responsibly.</p> <p>The plan dramatically highlights the bail system’s glaring inequities, as thousands sit in jail for months, unable to pay bail.</p> <p>Not surprisingly, the plan has caused an immediate and strong reaction, particularly from the NYPD.</p> <p>NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill warned of an oncoming crime wave if the Foundation’s bailed defendants are released, claiming it will make New York City “less safe.” He also decried, “What about the victims? What about witness intimidation? What about retaliation?” New York City’s district attorneys have sided with O’Neill; though oddly, they remain some of the biggest supporters of bail reform.</p> <p>The fear is that newly bailed defendants will start a crime wave even though no crime wave was ever started by those with the financial resources to make bail. In fact, most defendants on bail return for their court date.</p> <p>This unfounded fear only underscores the economic disparity in our court system and is inconsistent with justice and with New York state law.</p> <p>Bail is set at arraignment: the prosecutor and defense attorney are heard, then a judge applies the statutory criteria for setting bail, including considering the main standard: will a defendant return to court for his or her case.</p> <p>Perhaps defensively, the Foundation’s president mistakenly stated, “If a judge feels this person is a danger to society, they will not make them bail eligible.” New York does not have a pre-trial detention bail criteria. However, federal law specifically permits pre-trial detention if “such person poses a danger to any other person or the community.”</p> <p>It also demonstrates just how tricky ending bail inequity is.</p> <p>But, before the Foundation and its partners can implement their program they must have a dialogue with the city’s district attorneys regarding their bail policies and concerns.</p> <p>Before posting bail the advocates must consider why bail was set by a judge and ensure a potentially released defendant meets any conditions, such as not contacting a victim or witness and attending future court appearances. After all, this plan places the Foundation in the place of a family member who would normally put up bail and suffers a financial hardship if a defendant skips court. This means the Foundation will also have to supervise the defendant while on bail.</p> <p>The Foundation and partners must also comply with existing bail laws, which restrict depositing bail for multiple defendants. Among other things, New York State’s Superintendent of Insurance must authorize a certificate for the Foundation to become a “charitable bail organization.”</p> <p>Other opportunities for bail reform dialogue also exist.</p> <p>For instance, a reform must include fast tracking incarcerated young defendants’ cases to disposition.</p> <p>Encouraging the NYPD to issue Desk Appearance Tickets (DATs) for all misdemeanor arrests and seeking statutory authority to issue DATs for nonviolent low-level felony arrests. A DAT releases an accused with a future court date at the station house without waiting 18-24 hours in custody for arraignment.</p> <p>There must be greater use of existing non-cash bail alternatives permitted under New York law, eliminating costly bail bonds.</p> <p>The Foundation’s program – if successful – is a significant step forward for criminal justice and bail reform. After more than 20 years of stop-and-frisk excesses, broken windows arrests, and inequitable bail practices, economic disparity must end for the many who are incarcerated in our city’s jails waiting inordinately for their day in court. <br /> <br />***<br />Arnold N. Kriss is an attorney in private practice in Manhattan, and a former NYPD Deputy Commissioner for Trials and Brooklyn Assistant District Attorney. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/ArnieKriss" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@ArnieKriss</a>.</p> <p>

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/arniess.jpg" alt="arniess" width="600" height="431" /></p> <p>(photo via @RoryLancman)</p> <hr /> <p>The Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Foundation’s just-launched “mass bail out” -- which could release from New York City jails 500 incarcerated indigent young and women defendants charged with misdemeanors and violent felonies -- is a good plan if it is implemented responsibly.</p> <p>The plan dramatically highlights the bail system’s glaring inequities, as thousands sit in jail for months, unable to pay bail.</p> <p>Not surprisingly, the plan has caused an immediate and strong reaction, particularly from the NYPD.</p> <p>NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill warned of an oncoming crime wave if the Foundation’s bailed defendants are released, claiming it will make New York City “less safe.” He also decried, “What about the victims? What about witness intimidation? What about retaliation?” New York City’s district attorneys have sided with O’Neill; though oddly, they remain some of the biggest supporters of bail reform.</p> <p>The fear is that newly bailed defendants will start a crime wave even though no crime wave was ever started by those with the financial resources to make bail. In fact, most defendants on bail return for their court date.</p> <p>This unfounded fear only underscores the economic disparity in our court system and is inconsistent with justice and with New York state law.</p> <p>Bail is set at arraignment: the prosecutor and defense attorney are heard, then a judge applies the statutory criteria for setting bail, including considering the main standard: will a defendant return to court for his or her case.</p> <p>Perhaps defensively, the Foundation’s president mistakenly stated, “If a judge feels this person is a danger to society, they will not make them bail eligible.” New York does not have a pre-trial detention bail criteria. However, federal law specifically permits pre-trial detention if “such person poses a danger to any other person or the community.”</p> <p>It also demonstrates just how tricky ending bail inequity is.</p> <p>But, before the Foundation and its partners can implement their program they must have a dialogue with the city’s district attorneys regarding their bail policies and concerns.</p> <p>Before posting bail the advocates must consider why bail was set by a judge and ensure a potentially released defendant meets any conditions, such as not contacting a victim or witness and attending future court appearances. After all, this plan places the Foundation in the place of a family member who would normally put up bail and suffers a financial hardship if a defendant skips court. This means the Foundation will also have to supervise the defendant while on bail.</p> <p>The Foundation and partners must also comply with existing bail laws, which restrict depositing bail for multiple defendants. Among other things, New York State’s Superintendent of Insurance must authorize a certificate for the Foundation to become a “charitable bail organization.”</p> <p>Other opportunities for bail reform dialogue also exist.</p> <p>For instance, a reform must include fast tracking incarcerated young defendants’ cases to disposition.</p> <p>Encouraging the NYPD to issue Desk Appearance Tickets (DATs) for all misdemeanor arrests and seeking statutory authority to issue DATs for nonviolent low-level felony arrests. A DAT releases an accused with a future court date at the station house without waiting 18-24 hours in custody for arraignment.</p> <p>There must be greater use of existing non-cash bail alternatives permitted under New York law, eliminating costly bail bonds.</p> <p>The Foundation’s program – if successful – is a significant step forward for criminal justice and bail reform. After more than 20 years of stop-and-frisk excesses, broken windows arrests, and inequitable bail practices, economic disparity must end for the many who are incarcerated in our city’s jails waiting inordinately for their day in court. <br /> <br />***<br />Arnold N. Kriss is an attorney in private practice in Manhattan, and a former NYPD Deputy Commissioner for Trials and Brooklyn Assistant District Attorney. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/ArnieKriss" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@ArnieKriss</a>.</p> <p>

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What's The [Data] Point? 5,000 with Liz Glazer, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice 2018-08-30T04:00:00+00:00 2018-08-30T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/7901-what-s-the-data-point-5-000-with-liz-glazer-director-of-the-mayor-s-office-of-criminal-justice Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/whats-the-data-point.jpg" alt="whats the data point" width="600" height="600" /></p> <hr /> <p><strong>What's The [Data] Point? Episode 52</strong><strong> -- 5,000, with Liz Glazer, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice [You can download What's The [Data] Point? wherever you get your podcasts, including on iTunes]</strong></p> <!--<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/wtdp-w-cbrecher-120.jpg" alt="wtdp w cbrecher 120" width="440" height="120" style="display: block; margin: 10px auto;" /></p>--> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/glazer-elizabeth-pod.jpg" alt="glazer elizabeth pod" width="130" height="173" style="margin-right: 10px; float: left;" /></p> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio has a plan to close the jails on Rikers Island, in part by reducing the overall city jail population to 5,000 detainees, down from about 8,000 now, which is down from well over 20,000 two decades ago. Liz Glazer, director of the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, joined the podcast to discuss the administration’s criminal justice policies.</p> <p>Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think: Ben Max of GG (<a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@TweetBenMax</a>), Maria Doulis of CBC (<a href="https://twitter.com/MariaDoulis" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@MariaDoulis</a>). Listen below or download wherever you get your podcasts!</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/492867240%3Fsecret_token%3Ds-KXhRL&amp;color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_teaser=true" width="100%" height="170" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/whats-the-data-point.jpg" alt="whats the data point" width="600" height="600" /></p> <hr /> <p><strong>What's The [Data] Point? Episode 52</strong><strong> -- 5,000, with Liz Glazer, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice [You can download What's The [Data] Point? wherever you get your podcasts, including on iTunes]</strong></p> <!--<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/wtdp-w-cbrecher-120.jpg" alt="wtdp w cbrecher 120" width="440" height="120" style="display: block; margin: 10px auto;" /></p>--> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/glazer-elizabeth-pod.jpg" alt="glazer elizabeth pod" width="130" height="173" style="margin-right: 10px; float: left;" /></p> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio has a plan to close the jails on Rikers Island, in part by reducing the overall city jail population to 5,000 detainees, down from about 8,000 now, which is down from well over 20,000 two decades ago. Liz Glazer, director of the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, joined the podcast to discuss the administration’s criminal justice policies.</p> <p>Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think: Ben Max of GG (<a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@TweetBenMax</a>), Maria Doulis of CBC (<a href="https://twitter.com/MariaDoulis" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@MariaDoulis</a>). Listen below or download wherever you get your podcasts!</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/492867240%3Fsecret_token%3Ds-KXhRL&amp;color=%23ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_teaser=true" width="100%" height="170" frameborder="no" scrolling="no"></iframe></p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

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The Justice System Case for Radical Incrementalism 2018-04-18T04:00:00+00:00 2018-04-18T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/7618-the-justice-system-case-for-radical-incrementalism Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/mbdb-graduation.jpg" alt="mbdb graduation" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>(photo: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Social media was full of despair as advocates bemoaned the failure of New York state government to approve bail reform legislation in the recently-passed budget. The push to eliminate cash bail brought together dozens of organizations and hundreds of concerned citizens to advance an important reform. This kind of mobilization is not atypical – advocacy campaigns tend to focus on passing legislation or electing officials.</p> <p>Eliminating cash bail is a good idea, and over time, our bet is that it will end up succeeding in Albany. But we know from the Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform chaired by former Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman that you don’t need to pass new legislation in order to transform the justice system. Indeed, the commission made the case that it is possible to reimagine criminal justice in New York City – including closing Rikers Island – without any new legislation whatsoever. In fact, this process is already underway. &nbsp;</p> <p>The Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice has just announced that the city's jail population is now less than 8,500 – down from a high of over 20,000 in the 1990s. This did not happen overnight. It also did not happen thanks to the passage of any single piece of legislation or the election of any single official.</p> <p>Reducing incarceration in New York City took place over the course of multiple decades and mayoral administrations. It was a slow, incremental process, involving dozens, if not hundreds of decisions by different agencies and actors, the vast majority of which never made newspaper headlines. For example, in 1997, New York City’s criminal court judges released roughly 50 percent of defendants on their own recognizance pending trial, without setting bail. Today, this figure is closer to 70 percent. The implications of this shift in practice are enormous – it adds up to tens of thousands of defendants being given the chance to avoid the harms and abuses of Rikers Island. &nbsp;</p> <p>Based on our work in New York and our recent examination of successful reform efforts across the country in <em><a href="https://thenewpress.com/books/start-here" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Start Here</a></em>, we argue for an approach to criminal justice reform that focuses on practice not politics. We believe that we need to transform the culture of our justice system – and that the best way to achieve this is by working directly with the police officers, prosecutors, judges, and correctional officials who staff our precincts, jails, and courts to help them change the way they do their jobs on a daily basis.</p> <p>Many criminal justice reformers go over the heads of practitioners and speak directly to elected officials. Legislating change is an enormously tempting path to pursue. A successful bill in Albany or Washington can alter the course of government more or less overnight. At least that's the promise. In reality, things often don't pan out that way.</p> <p>As Michael Lipsky pointed out more than a generation ago in Street-Level Bureaucracy, frontline staffers can sabotage or undermine any initiative that they do not believe in. That's why real criminal justice reform requires time – time to change the hearts and minds of the people who run the criminal justice system.</p> <p>Let’s be real: it can be profoundly frustrating to take an incrementalist approach to reform. While there is much to celebrate in New York City, which now has the lowest rate of incarceration of any major American city to go along with dramatically reduced levels of crime, there is also much work still to be done. A trip to criminal court reveals that racial disparities are still very much with us. A visit to Rikers Island indicates that we have a long way to go before we can say that our system treats defendants with decency and dignity.</p> <p>Here are three changes in practice that would go a long way toward making our justice system more fair and more effective.</p> <p>First, police officers and prosecutors need to create off-ramps so that more low-level cases can be diverted out of the system entirely. Second, judges and court administrators need to do everything in their power to expedite case processing and avoid unnecessary delays – especially when defendants are being held in jail pretrial. And finally, elected officials need to make deeper investments in pretrial services and alternative sentencing programs so that judges have options beyond jail and nothing.</p> <p>None of these fixes requires new laws to be passed -- just the active engagement of the people who run the justice system in New York City. The good news is that policymakers are aggressively pursuing all of the above.</p> <p>New York City is a case study for the kind of justice reform that takes a long time to see to fruition – but it’s the kind of reform that is both durable and sustainable. The process is gradual; the results are nothing short of radical. &nbsp;</p> <p>***<br /> Greg Berman is the director of the Center for Court Innovation and co-author of <em><a href="https://thenewpress.com/books/start-here" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Start Here: A Road Map to Reducing Incarceration </a></em>(The New Press). Julian Adler is the director of policy and research at the Center for Court Innovation and co-author of Start Here.</p> <p>

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/mbdb-graduation.jpg" alt="mbdb graduation" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>(photo: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Social media was full of despair as advocates bemoaned the failure of New York state government to approve bail reform legislation in the recently-passed budget. The push to eliminate cash bail brought together dozens of organizations and hundreds of concerned citizens to advance an important reform. This kind of mobilization is not atypical – advocacy campaigns tend to focus on passing legislation or electing officials.</p> <p>Eliminating cash bail is a good idea, and over time, our bet is that it will end up succeeding in Albany. But we know from the Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform chaired by former Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman that you don’t need to pass new legislation in order to transform the justice system. Indeed, the commission made the case that it is possible to reimagine criminal justice in New York City – including closing Rikers Island – without any new legislation whatsoever. In fact, this process is already underway. &nbsp;</p> <p>The Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice has just announced that the city's jail population is now less than 8,500 – down from a high of over 20,000 in the 1990s. This did not happen overnight. It also did not happen thanks to the passage of any single piece of legislation or the election of any single official.</p> <p>Reducing incarceration in New York City took place over the course of multiple decades and mayoral administrations. It was a slow, incremental process, involving dozens, if not hundreds of decisions by different agencies and actors, the vast majority of which never made newspaper headlines. For example, in 1997, New York City’s criminal court judges released roughly 50 percent of defendants on their own recognizance pending trial, without setting bail. Today, this figure is closer to 70 percent. The implications of this shift in practice are enormous – it adds up to tens of thousands of defendants being given the chance to avoid the harms and abuses of Rikers Island. &nbsp;</p> <p>Based on our work in New York and our recent examination of successful reform efforts across the country in <em><a href="https://thenewpress.com/books/start-here" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Start Here</a></em>, we argue for an approach to criminal justice reform that focuses on practice not politics. We believe that we need to transform the culture of our justice system – and that the best way to achieve this is by working directly with the police officers, prosecutors, judges, and correctional officials who staff our precincts, jails, and courts to help them change the way they do their jobs on a daily basis.</p> <p>Many criminal justice reformers go over the heads of practitioners and speak directly to elected officials. Legislating change is an enormously tempting path to pursue. A successful bill in Albany or Washington can alter the course of government more or less overnight. At least that's the promise. In reality, things often don't pan out that way.</p> <p>As Michael Lipsky pointed out more than a generation ago in Street-Level Bureaucracy, frontline staffers can sabotage or undermine any initiative that they do not believe in. That's why real criminal justice reform requires time – time to change the hearts and minds of the people who run the criminal justice system.</p> <p>Let’s be real: it can be profoundly frustrating to take an incrementalist approach to reform. While there is much to celebrate in New York City, which now has the lowest rate of incarceration of any major American city to go along with dramatically reduced levels of crime, there is also much work still to be done. A trip to criminal court reveals that racial disparities are still very much with us. A visit to Rikers Island indicates that we have a long way to go before we can say that our system treats defendants with decency and dignity.</p> <p>Here are three changes in practice that would go a long way toward making our justice system more fair and more effective.</p> <p>First, police officers and prosecutors need to create off-ramps so that more low-level cases can be diverted out of the system entirely. Second, judges and court administrators need to do everything in their power to expedite case processing and avoid unnecessary delays – especially when defendants are being held in jail pretrial. And finally, elected officials need to make deeper investments in pretrial services and alternative sentencing programs so that judges have options beyond jail and nothing.</p> <p>None of these fixes requires new laws to be passed -- just the active engagement of the people who run the justice system in New York City. The good news is that policymakers are aggressively pursuing all of the above.</p> <p>New York City is a case study for the kind of justice reform that takes a long time to see to fruition – but it’s the kind of reform that is both durable and sustainable. The process is gradual; the results are nothing short of radical. &nbsp;</p> <p>***<br /> Greg Berman is the director of the Center for Court Innovation and co-author of <em><a href="https://thenewpress.com/books/start-here" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Start Here: A Road Map to Reducing Incarceration </a></em>(The New Press). Julian Adler is the director of policy and research at the Center for Court Innovation and co-author of Start Here.</p> <p>

***
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New York Justice Delayed Is New York Justice Denied 2018-04-03T04:00:00+00:00 2018-04-03T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/7588-new-york-justice-delayed-is-new-york-justice-denied Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/govandrewcuomo-cjustice.jpg" alt="govandrewcuomo cjustice" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo at church (Kevin P. Coughlin/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo)</p> <hr /> <p>It has been nearly three years since Kalief Browder tragically ended his own life after being caged, abused, and tortured on Rikers Island. Elected officials promised us that his story would be a turning point and that New York would fundamentally transform a criminal justice system designed to criminalize low-income black and brown New Yorkers and then place a bounty, through the money bail system, on our freedom. With another new state budget now passed in Albany, it is clear state leaders are not going to make good on those promises and New York will continue to keep people locked in cages because they are too poor to pay bail.</p> <p>I cannot imagine what Kalief must have felt while trapped in a cage, spending much of his time in solitary confinement, facing abuse from the guards and other incarcerated youth -- only there because he could not afford bail. As a young black person, growing up in Brooklyn, I can relate to how Kalief must have felt that night; his future was permanently disrupted. I have been out in my neighborhood, just enjoying myself, or hanging out with friends, only to have the NYPD initiate an interaction that reminds black youth we cannot afford to be care-free when the criminal justice system surveils, restricts, and criminalizes our very existence.</p> <p>That is why I organize with youth across Brooklyn and New York City to end racist and biased policies and practices throughout the criminal justice system. It is why last week, I traveled three hours to Albany to join civil rights organizations, public defenders, community organizations, and NFL player DeMario Davis (formerly of the New York Jets), to demand New York legislators pass bail reform that will completely eliminate wealth-based detention, significantly reduce the number of New Yorkers caged before their trial, reduce racial disparities, end profiteering in pre-trial services, and does not increase the likelihood that people will be detected, detained or deported by federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).</p> <p>In Governor Cuomo’s State of the State speech he made promises to reshape New York’s bail and pre-trial detention that will “will transform our criminal justice system by removing critical barriers, reaffirming our beliefs in fairness, opportunity and dignity, and continue our historic progress toward a more equal society for all." He did not follow through by passing reforms that would have made positive change.</p> <p>And, unfortunately, when I studied his proposals, it became clear some parts could actually bring reform in the wrong direction. If passed, the governor’s proposal would increase the number of New Yorkers who are detained before trial without the possibility of release, give prosecutors the power to hold New Yorkers before trial, expand the use of electronic monitoring and house arrests, and pass the costs of pre-trial services on to people awaiting their trial. It isn’t progress if we extend mass incarceration into our homes and communities through ankle bracelets and house arrests and then charge poor people for the cost of their release before trial.</p> <p>A recent report from the New York Civil Liberties Union found that black New Yorkers are twice as likely as white New Yorkers to spend at least one night in custody on bail, and more than 90,000 New Yorkers spent a day or longer in custody on bail between 2010 and 2014. Kalief Browder was arrested in 2010. Eight years after his arrest and three years after his death, the turning point we were all promised seems farther and farther away.</p> <p>With Governor Cuomo now celebrating the new budget and the state Legislature on vacation; and as we hit the 50th anniversary of the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we should all remind our elected officials that justice delayed is justice denied.</p> <p>***<br />Nicshel Samedi is Youth Leader, Make The Road New York. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/MaketheRoadNY" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@MaketheRoadNY</a>.</p> <p>

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/govandrewcuomo-cjustice.jpg" alt="govandrewcuomo cjustice" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo at church (Kevin P. Coughlin/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo)</p> <hr /> <p>It has been nearly three years since Kalief Browder tragically ended his own life after being caged, abused, and tortured on Rikers Island. Elected officials promised us that his story would be a turning point and that New York would fundamentally transform a criminal justice system designed to criminalize low-income black and brown New Yorkers and then place a bounty, through the money bail system, on our freedom. With another new state budget now passed in Albany, it is clear state leaders are not going to make good on those promises and New York will continue to keep people locked in cages because they are too poor to pay bail.</p> <p>I cannot imagine what Kalief must have felt while trapped in a cage, spending much of his time in solitary confinement, facing abuse from the guards and other incarcerated youth -- only there because he could not afford bail. As a young black person, growing up in Brooklyn, I can relate to how Kalief must have felt that night; his future was permanently disrupted. I have been out in my neighborhood, just enjoying myself, or hanging out with friends, only to have the NYPD initiate an interaction that reminds black youth we cannot afford to be care-free when the criminal justice system surveils, restricts, and criminalizes our very existence.</p> <p>That is why I organize with youth across Brooklyn and New York City to end racist and biased policies and practices throughout the criminal justice system. It is why last week, I traveled three hours to Albany to join civil rights organizations, public defenders, community organizations, and NFL player DeMario Davis (formerly of the New York Jets), to demand New York legislators pass bail reform that will completely eliminate wealth-based detention, significantly reduce the number of New Yorkers caged before their trial, reduce racial disparities, end profiteering in pre-trial services, and does not increase the likelihood that people will be detected, detained or deported by federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).</p> <p>In Governor Cuomo’s State of the State speech he made promises to reshape New York’s bail and pre-trial detention that will “will transform our criminal justice system by removing critical barriers, reaffirming our beliefs in fairness, opportunity and dignity, and continue our historic progress toward a more equal society for all." He did not follow through by passing reforms that would have made positive change.</p> <p>And, unfortunately, when I studied his proposals, it became clear some parts could actually bring reform in the wrong direction. If passed, the governor’s proposal would increase the number of New Yorkers who are detained before trial without the possibility of release, give prosecutors the power to hold New Yorkers before trial, expand the use of electronic monitoring and house arrests, and pass the costs of pre-trial services on to people awaiting their trial. It isn’t progress if we extend mass incarceration into our homes and communities through ankle bracelets and house arrests and then charge poor people for the cost of their release before trial.</p> <p>A recent report from the New York Civil Liberties Union found that black New Yorkers are twice as likely as white New Yorkers to spend at least one night in custody on bail, and more than 90,000 New Yorkers spent a day or longer in custody on bail between 2010 and 2014. Kalief Browder was arrested in 2010. Eight years after his arrest and three years after his death, the turning point we were all promised seems farther and farther away.</p> <p>With Governor Cuomo now celebrating the new budget and the state Legislature on vacation; and as we hit the 50th anniversary of the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we should all remind our elected officials that justice delayed is justice denied.</p> <p>***<br />Nicshel Samedi is Youth Leader, Make The Road New York. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/MaketheRoadNY" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@MaketheRoadNY</a>.</p> <p>

***
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As We Close Rikers, Setting Our Sights on Essential State-Level Reforms 2017-10-18T04:00:00+00:00 2017-10-18T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/7261-as-we-close-rikers-setting-our-sights-on-essential-state-level-reforms Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/cuomo128.jpg" alt="Andrew Cuomo" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo at an update prison (Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Anyone following New York City politics knows about <a href="https://www.justleadershipusa.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">JustLeadershipUSA</a>’s mission to close the jails at Rikers Island. In less than a year, the <a href="http://closerikers.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">#CLOSErikers campaign</a> successfully pressured Mayor Bill de Blasio to commit to shuttering the jail complex. It is no longer a question of if Rikers will close, but when. But the campaign has always known that closing Rikers would require reforms at the state level as well. An overhaul of our statewide bail, speedy trial, and discovery statutes is necessary to reduce the population at Rikers so that it can finally and expeditiously close its doors.</p> <p>Even if Rikers were closed tomorrow, these reforms would still be necessary. While New York City has successfully reduced its jail population over the past few years, county jail populations across the state are growing. Today, 63% of people held in jail in New York State are held in jails outside New York City. Of those 25,000 husbands, fathers, brothers, sisters, children, and loved ones who are sitting in jails across our state, 70% have not been convicted but remain unjustifiably caged while they await the outcome of their cases.</p> <p>This reality is a consequence of punitive and discriminatory criminal justice policies that have decimated communities, primarily poor communities and communities of color, for decades.</p> <p>To end this human rights crisis, we need bold action from Governor Andrew Cuomo and our state Legislature. That is why JustLeadershipUSA launched <a href="https://www.justleadershipusa.org/freenewyork/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">#FREEnewyork</a>, a campaign focused on empowering those who have been most harmed by our jails and prisons to hold Governor Cuomo and our elected leaders in Albany accountable and unapologetically demand real solutions to these self-inflicted problems.</p> <p><a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/prison-reform-group-demanding-rikers-closure-vows-hound-cuomo-article-1.3467190" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Governor Cuomo said</a> that Rikers should be closed in three years. Now he must deliver around the state he leads. He and his colleagues in Albany have both the power and the responsibility to drive us toward that Rikers goal while also addressing the failings of our statewide criminal justice system.</p> <p>They can start with overhauling our broken bail system. We need reform that eliminates money bail, protects the presumption of innocence and the right to freedom, <a href="https://www.themarshallproject.org/2017/08/28/when-less-is-more" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">limits when and how any pretrial conditions are instituted</a>, and prohibits <a href="https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/07/17/human-rights-watch-advises-against-using-profile-based-risk-assessment-bail-reform" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">biased risk assessment tools</a>. Bail reform must focus on ending the devastating repercussions that even initial involvement with the criminal justice system can have on people, especially on low-income families who too often must choose between paying bills or paying for their loved one’s freedom. People who can afford bail <a href="https://brooklynbailfund.org/the-problem/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">achieve better outcomes</a> in their cases, and everyone deserves access to these outcomes.</p> <p>Albany must also enact comprehensive statewide speedy trial and discovery reform. Today, no other state in the country comes close to matching the appalling unfairness of New York’s readiness rule approach to ‘protecting’ one’s right to a fair and expedient process.</p> <p>We need a true speedy trial law that&nbsp;sets concrete limits on when a defendant must actually be brought to trial. As it stands now, prosecutors can cause unforeseeable and unending delays in the trial process without significant repercussions. Combined with the current state of our bail laws, this leads to human beings trapped in cages while they await their hearing before a judge or jury.</p> <p>What is already a bad situation is only made worse by New York’s current discovery laws, which are widely regarded as some of the most regressive in the country. We need a new discovery law that requires open, early, automatic, and mandatory discovery, guaranteeing defendants and their lawyers access to vital information about their cases. Without this, defendants and their attorneys have little to no access to information about the charges they face.</p> <p>These reforms are vital for New Yorkers most affected by mass incarceration, and <a href="http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/projects/public-safety-performance-project" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">countless studies</a> have shown that criminal justice reforms like these increase public safety, improve relations between communities and law enforcement, and create better outcomes for victims and taxpayers. Yet, while each of these reforms and each of their respective components are important, none are sufficient on their own if we truly want to end the plague of mass incarceration that grips New York State. Comprehensive, connected reforms are necessary for the real, lasting, and positive change in our criminal justice system that New Yorkers deserve.</p> <p>Without this action at the state level, New York will continue to commit human rights abuses on a daily basis. The atrocities of our criminal justice system will linger, and New Yorkers will suffer unimaginable harm as a result. To fight for reform, close Rikers, and decarcerate county jails throughout New York State, directly impacted individuals and communities across the state must raise their voice, and, together, bring a simple message to Governor Cuomo and our legislators in Albany: we are watching you, we demand real and bold reform, and the time to act is now.</p> <p>***<br />Glenn E. Martin is founder and President of JustLeadershipUSA. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/glennEmartin" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@GlennEMartin</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/JustLeadersUSA" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@JustLeadersUSA</a>.</p> <p>

***
Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/cuomo128.jpg" alt="Andrew Cuomo" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo at an update prison (Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Anyone following New York City politics knows about <a href="https://www.justleadershipusa.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">JustLeadershipUSA</a>’s mission to close the jails at Rikers Island. In less than a year, the <a href="http://closerikers.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">#CLOSErikers campaign</a> successfully pressured Mayor Bill de Blasio to commit to shuttering the jail complex. It is no longer a question of if Rikers will close, but when. But the campaign has always known that closing Rikers would require reforms at the state level as well. An overhaul of our statewide bail, speedy trial, and discovery statutes is necessary to reduce the population at Rikers so that it can finally and expeditiously close its doors.</p> <p>Even if Rikers were closed tomorrow, these reforms would still be necessary. While New York City has successfully reduced its jail population over the past few years, county jail populations across the state are growing. Today, 63% of people held in jail in New York State are held in jails outside New York City. Of those 25,000 husbands, fathers, brothers, sisters, children, and loved ones who are sitting in jails across our state, 70% have not been convicted but remain unjustifiably caged while they await the outcome of their cases.</p> <p>This reality is a consequence of punitive and discriminatory criminal justice policies that have decimated communities, primarily poor communities and communities of color, for decades.</p> <p>To end this human rights crisis, we need bold action from Governor Andrew Cuomo and our state Legislature. That is why JustLeadershipUSA launched <a href="https://www.justleadershipusa.org/freenewyork/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">#FREEnewyork</a>, a campaign focused on empowering those who have been most harmed by our jails and prisons to hold Governor Cuomo and our elected leaders in Albany accountable and unapologetically demand real solutions to these self-inflicted problems.</p> <p><a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/prison-reform-group-demanding-rikers-closure-vows-hound-cuomo-article-1.3467190" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Governor Cuomo said</a> that Rikers should be closed in three years. Now he must deliver around the state he leads. He and his colleagues in Albany have both the power and the responsibility to drive us toward that Rikers goal while also addressing the failings of our statewide criminal justice system.</p> <p>They can start with overhauling our broken bail system. We need reform that eliminates money bail, protects the presumption of innocence and the right to freedom, <a href="https://www.themarshallproject.org/2017/08/28/when-less-is-more" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">limits when and how any pretrial conditions are instituted</a>, and prohibits <a href="https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/07/17/human-rights-watch-advises-against-using-profile-based-risk-assessment-bail-reform" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">biased risk assessment tools</a>. Bail reform must focus on ending the devastating repercussions that even initial involvement with the criminal justice system can have on people, especially on low-income families who too often must choose between paying bills or paying for their loved one’s freedom. People who can afford bail <a href="https://brooklynbailfund.org/the-problem/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">achieve better outcomes</a> in their cases, and everyone deserves access to these outcomes.</p> <p>Albany must also enact comprehensive statewide speedy trial and discovery reform. Today, no other state in the country comes close to matching the appalling unfairness of New York’s readiness rule approach to ‘protecting’ one’s right to a fair and expedient process.</p> <p>We need a true speedy trial law that&nbsp;sets concrete limits on when a defendant must actually be brought to trial. As it stands now, prosecutors can cause unforeseeable and unending delays in the trial process without significant repercussions. Combined with the current state of our bail laws, this leads to human beings trapped in cages while they await their hearing before a judge or jury.</p> <p>What is already a bad situation is only made worse by New York’s current discovery laws, which are widely regarded as some of the most regressive in the country. We need a new discovery law that requires open, early, automatic, and mandatory discovery, guaranteeing defendants and their lawyers access to vital information about their cases. Without this, defendants and their attorneys have little to no access to information about the charges they face.</p> <p>These reforms are vital for New Yorkers most affected by mass incarceration, and <a href="http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/projects/public-safety-performance-project" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">countless studies</a> have shown that criminal justice reforms like these increase public safety, improve relations between communities and law enforcement, and create better outcomes for victims and taxpayers. Yet, while each of these reforms and each of their respective components are important, none are sufficient on their own if we truly want to end the plague of mass incarceration that grips New York State. Comprehensive, connected reforms are necessary for the real, lasting, and positive change in our criminal justice system that New Yorkers deserve.</p> <p>Without this action at the state level, New York will continue to commit human rights abuses on a daily basis. The atrocities of our criminal justice system will linger, and New Yorkers will suffer unimaginable harm as a result. To fight for reform, close Rikers, and decarcerate county jails throughout New York State, directly impacted individuals and communities across the state must raise their voice, and, together, bring a simple message to Governor Cuomo and our legislators in Albany: we are watching you, we demand real and bold reform, and the time to act is now.</p> <p>***<br />Glenn E. Martin is founder and President of JustLeadershipUSA. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/glennEmartin" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@GlennEMartin</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/JustLeadersUSA" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@JustLeadersUSA</a>.</p> <p>

***
Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

</p>
Much Agreement on Need for Bail Reform, But Little Movement 2016-12-08T05:00:00+00:00 2016-12-08T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6658-much-agreement-on-need-for-bail-reform-but-little-movement Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/29104861780_6cb6772e58_z.jpg" alt="de Blasio rikers ponte officers" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p dir="ltr">On Rikers Island (photo:&nbsp;Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p dir="ltr">There is an ongoing conversation in New York about how to fix the bail system that many agree is broken, keeping too many poor people in jail after they are arrested for low-level nonviolent offenses but cannot afford to post bond and, at times, allowing individuals back onto the street who are prone to violence but able to pay bail. Efforts at reform have been full of fits and starts.</p> <p dir="ltr">About a month ago, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced measures to make it easier for people to pay bail through an online payment system, as opposed to the insistence that bail is paid in person. More recently, City Council Member Rory Lancman introduced <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=2895202&amp;GUID=FC7C10BE-F3FA-4388-935C-D01544F0940A&amp;Options=&amp;Search=" target="_blank">legislation</a> that would require a city service provider to furnish judges setting bail with details of a defendant’s financial situation.</p> <p dir="ltr">These latest incremental local reform ideas and others are aimed at chipping away at the problems with the system, but many advocates, legal experts, and elected officials agree that there is a need for an expanded statewide conversation around the culture of bail and actual statutory reform, chiefly to ensure that those with limited material resources are not punished simply for their economic status.</p> <p dir="ltr">Reforming the bail system in New York has been something of a priority at both the city and state levels, though tangible progress has been limited.</p> <p dir="ltr">In January, Governor Andrew Cuomo included the issue in his <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/sites/governor.ny.gov/files/atoms/files/2016_State_of_the_State_Book.pdf" target="_blank">policy agenda</a> for this year, although there has been little follow-up through legislation. Cuomo proposed requiring judges to assess risk to public safety when making a bail decision -- something de Blasio and others are in agreement with -- and stronger regulations of bail bondsman practices.</p> <p dir="ltr">In New York City, the de Blasio administration has implemented a number of initiatives this year to make bail payments less complicated and to provide alternatives to bail that keep people from being incarcerated. There have also been concerted efforts both in policing practice and through legislation to reduce arrests for low-level offenses in the first place, and arrests are down significantly while the city has become safer in terms of major crimes.</p> <p dir="ltr">The population at Rikers Island jails, where about three-quarters of the city’s jail population is housed, hovers around 7,500 daily, down significantly from peak years over recent decades.</p> <p dir="ltr">In April, the mayor <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/336-16/mayor-de-blasio-citywide-rollout-17-8-million-bail-alternative-program" target="_blank">committed</a> nearly $18 million for a citywide expansion of a supervised release program that will allow as many as 3,000 low-level offenders each year to remain out of jail and work while they await trial. The program cuts down on the use of monetary bail, ensuring that people who are of low risk to public safety but cannot afford bail do not languish in prison.</p> <p dir="ltr">Last month, the mayor announced the creation of a system that allows cash bail to be paid online, by a phone, or through a courthouse kiosk by family members and friends of defendants. The system, due to be launched citywide by the spring, aims at alleviating the difficulty of having to physically visit a corrections facility to pay bail. “Nobody with the ability to pay bail should sit in jail just because the bail process is an inconvenience,” de Blasio said at the announcement.</p> <p dir="ltr">The City Council has also been <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6650-city-council-bail-fund-continues-slow-path-to-reality" target="_blank">inching closer</a> to establishing a public bail fund, which was first announced by Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito in her February 2015 State of the City speech. The fund received a license from the state Department of Financial Services in August but cannot begin operations until a pending license application for a bail bond agent is approved. If it becomes operational, the fund will provide bail money for qualifying participants so that they can leave jail between arrest and court appearance.</p> <p dir="ltr">Bail reform is a key consideration for the Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform, a body that was set up at the speaker’s behest earlier this year to recommend broad criminal justice reforms, with an eye toward creating a plan for closing the Rikers Island prison complex. The body is being headed by former New York State chief judge Jonathan Lippman, who, when he filled that role, argued vehemently for bail reform.</p> <p dir="ltr">Lippman believes that bail reform is moving ahead slowly in the city, but he stressed in a phone interview that there needs to be statutory change in law to effect broad change. “The city is doing really good things but they’re nibbling around the edges, not able to get at the heart of it,” he said. “My belief is that we need cooperation from Albany and we need a new bail statute.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Lippman suggested a two-fold approach to bail: giving judges the authority to assess risk to public safety and the need to “flip the assumption” that someone should be incarcerated instead of being released while waiting for a court date. “Bail doesn’t assure the person coming back and it’s an anachronism,” he said, promising that the commission will directly address the issue when it releases its recommendations sometime in spring 2017.</p> <p dir="ltr">Last year, when Lippman was serving as chief judge (he was forced to retire due to age restrictions and is now “of counsel” at Latham &amp; Watkins), he <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/02/nyregion/jonathan-lippman-bail-incarceration-new-york-state-chief-judge.html" target="_blank">announced</a> administrative measures to reform the bail system in the absence of legislative action by the state. His own proposals from 2013 to essentially do away with cash bail have not been taken up by legislators in Albany, where Republicans control the state Senate and are often opposed to what is seen as progressive criminal justice reform.</p> <p dir="ltr">“I think we got a lot of attention when I proposed the legislation,” Lippman said, rueing that “getting a lot of attention and getting things done are two different things.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The challenge to changing the bail statute, he said, is the same that creeps up in any issue of criminal justice reform. “Legislators are elected and get into this soft-on-crime/tough-on-crime syndrome,” he said. “I think we need to be smart on crime.”</p> <p dir="ltr">A major impetus to the conversation around bail reform was the tragic death of Kalief Browder, a young Bronx resident who spent three years on Rikers Island awaiting trial on charges of stealing a backpack. Browder couldn’t pay bail but was eventually released when the case was dismissed. In jail, he faced physical and mental abuse and was placed in solitary confinement for nearly two years. In June 2015, Browder committed suicide.</p> <p dir="ltr">The case prompted widespread outrage and besides putting a spotlight on the culture of violence at Rikers, it highlighted the problems in the bail system. Advocates use Browder’s experience as a rallying cry in their push for change.</p> <p dir="ltr">While there’s a lot of agreement that an update of the legal statutes is necessary, there’s a greater need, many say, for reexamining the purpose of the bail mechanism and reeducation in how it is practiced.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Bail, by definition, discriminates against the poor,” said State Senator Michael Gianaris, deputy Democratic Conference leader, who proposed a bill last year to scrap cash bail. “There’s no rational basis for continuing this process.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Gianaris, of Queens, believes that reform is being slowed by a misunderstanding of the issue. “Bail was never intended to keep dangerous people off the street,” he said, pointing out that defendants have a constitutional presumption of innocence and cannot be considered dangerous for the purposes of bail if they haven’t been convicted yet.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Ezra Ritchin, project director of the Bronx Freedom Fund, one of two charitable bail funds already operating in New York City, commends the mayor and the City Council for the steps they’ve taken and says there is an urgency around bail reform at the state level.</p> <p dir="ltr">“We’re in an important moment right now where there’s a lot of change happening,” he said. “Since Kalief Browder...there has been momentum for reform.”</p> <p dir="ltr">But Ritchin warned, “There are things that we are missing in all of this.” The root of the issue, he said, is the high volume of arrests in New York City, and the consideration that a defendant is likely to miss their court date. “It’s often labeled as flight-risk,” he said. “That’s a massive misunderstanding of what’s going on. No one is fleeing.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“It’s a question of the way that we frame risk,” Ritchin said, referring to the chances that a person might flee or even be a risk to public safety, which is a consideration that both Mayor de Blasio and Governor Cuomo have proposed as an addition to the bail statute. “What we don’t talk about,” Ritchin said, “is the risk of a person’s life falling apart from being wrenched into the system.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Therein lies the biggest issue for Ritchin, the way the bail statute is put into practice. The current statute allows nine different forms of bail, including cash bail, that a judge can impose, some of which are less onerous.</p> <p dir="ltr">“I think the statute, if used correctly, could result in a very different system than the one we see now,” Ritchin said. This “golden question” of how to change the culture of imposing bail, among prosecutors and judges, is one for which Ritchin said he has no clear answer.</p> <p dir="ltr">City Council Member Lancman echoed that sentiment. As the chair of the Council’s Committee on Courts and Legal Services, Lancman is at the frontline of this issue. “The major obstacle is the unwillingness of judges and prosecutors to accept other forms of assurances for a defendant...than cash bail or bond, as well as the unwillingness to look at each defendant’s financial circumstances,” Lancman told Gotham Gazette in a phone interview. “The system in every way possible -- from the city side, the judiciary side, the district attorney’s side, and, to a lesser extent, from the defense’s side -- is not focused on eliminating this reality of people being sent to Rikers Island because they’re poor.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Under the bill Lancman introduced November 29, an arraignment screening organization contracted by the city to provide details about a defendant, including a recommendation on their risk of flight, would also have to include information on a defendant’s ability to pay bail. This is just one of the few ways the city can change how the bail system works, Lancman said, stressing the need for action at multiple levels. “The effort to reform bail requires many stakeholders adopting the new procedures and policies and outlook, which cumulatively would have an effect of greatly reducing the number of people on Rikers Island because they’re poor,” he said.&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr">The understanding that cash bail is a misguided concept has taken hold in an unprecedented way at the city and state level, according to Insha Rahman, senior planner at the Center on Sentencing and Corrections at the Vera Institute of Justice. Less than a decade ago, “it wasn’t a part of the rhetoric and conversation around bail as it is now,” Rahman said.&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr">She insisted that any legislative proposal, such as one that would consider adding public safety as a consideration, should be informed by data obtained through a statewide survey. “The push needs to be to understand the problems with the use of bail statewide to avoid unintended consequences in places where it’s being used effectively as opposed to ineffectively,” she added, pointing out that different counties employ different practices and that the system is far from a monolith even within New York City’s five boroughs.</p> <p dir="ltr">There is no cash bail <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/public-safety/when-it-comes-to-pretrial-release-few-other-jurisdictions-do-it-dcs-way/2016/07/04/8eb52134-e7d3-11e5-b0fd-073d5930a7b7_story.html?utm_term=.562833e8fc1c" target="_blank">in Washington D.C.</a>, where defendants are only detained if they are considered a risk to public safety. It’s considered a model by many advocates of bail reform in New York. But, as Rahman argued, adding risk as a consideration in setting bail could create problems if not studied carefully. “Any change to that is basically change in the sorting mechanism of who stays in and who is released,” she said.</p> <p dir="ltr">Judge Lippman supports the idea of factoring public risk. So do Gov. Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio, and they <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/state/6106-dangerousness-aspect-of-cuomos-bail-plan-troubles-reformers" target="_blank">have been criticized</a> for it. The proposal has also held up reform at the state level as different stakeholders struggle to find middle ground. Advocates and legal experts fear that it could deprive defendants of their rights and further institutionalize racism in the judicial system.</p> <p dir="ltr">Cuomo has not changed his stance since he first included it in his 2016 agenda, according to his office. “The Governor continues to champion comprehensive criminal justice reform, including changes to the state’s antiquated bail system,” said Abbey Fashouer, a spokesperson for the governor, in a statement. “New York is one of only four states in the nation that does not currently take into account public safety risks when making bail and release decisions – and it’s past time to develop a new approach.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The mayor recently doubled down on his support for the proposal. During a November 7 appearance on <a href="http://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/inside-city-hall/2016/11/7/ny1-online---mondays-with-the-mayor--shakeup-at-health-and-hospitals-and-more.html" target="_blank">NY1’s Inside City Hall</a>, de Blasio spoke of the need for bail reform in the context of the fatal shooting of NYPD Sergeant Paul Tuozzolo in the Bronx just three days prior. Tuozzolo was shot and killed by a man who was out on bail and suffered from mental health problems. It was reminiscent of the <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/21/nyregion/police-officer-is-shot-in-east-harlem.html" target="_blank">October 2015 killing</a> of NYPD Officer Randolph Holder, which the mayor referenced in the interview as well. Holder was killed in East Harlem while pursuing an armed suspect who had earlier been sentenced to a treatment program by a drug court rather than being sent to jail.</p> <p dir="ltr">“This is a reminder that we need bail reform in the State of New York,” de Blasio told NY1 anchor Errol Louis of Tuozzolo’s murder. “We need to include the question of how dangerous a criminal is in the bail decision because there are times when someone is not – a criminal is not a flight risk, but they are a threat to the community, or they have a profound mental health challenge that needs to be addressed. These issues have to be taken into account and we need a state law that recognizes that bail – judges should have the opportunity to consider the dangerousness of the individual when making a bail decision.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Peter Goldberg, executive director of the Brooklyn Community Bail Fund, said, as others did, that, “The fundamental problem with how bail operates is that it cages presumptively innocent people for their inability to come up with a certain amount of money.” He warns that replacing it with a system that assesses public safety might ignore that presumption as well.</p> <p dir="ltr">“There’s a risk that &nbsp;a system that replaces it will exacerbate existing racial and socioeconomic inequalities,” Goldberg said. “And in any system that looks to judge a person’s dangerousness merely based on the accusation of a crime, the data being used to create that system needs to be made available to the public, to be vigorously validated, but the bedrock principle needs to be the presumption of release.”</p> <p dir="ltr">As 2017 approaches and with it the next budget and legislative agendas for state legislators and the governor, there’s widespread optimism that bail reform will be a priority. Judge Lippman believes the issue has gestated long enough. “That digestive process has already taken place and it’s time to pick it up and run with it,” he said, confident that his commission’s recommendations will be bold and “out of the box” and will not be politically constrained. “Because of the credibility of the commission, because of the depth of the research...no public official is going to be able to fuzz around these issues,” he said. “That releases some of the political pressure.”</p> <p>Senator Gianaris is bullish on bail reform as well. “We’ve seen enough injustice,” he said, “that the time has come to take a comprehensive look at this and get rid of bail once and for all.”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/29104861780_6cb6772e58_z.jpg" alt="de Blasio rikers ponte officers" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p dir="ltr">On Rikers Island (photo:&nbsp;Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p dir="ltr">There is an ongoing conversation in New York about how to fix the bail system that many agree is broken, keeping too many poor people in jail after they are arrested for low-level nonviolent offenses but cannot afford to post bond and, at times, allowing individuals back onto the street who are prone to violence but able to pay bail. Efforts at reform have been full of fits and starts.</p> <p dir="ltr">About a month ago, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced measures to make it easier for people to pay bail through an online payment system, as opposed to the insistence that bail is paid in person. More recently, City Council Member Rory Lancman introduced <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=2895202&amp;GUID=FC7C10BE-F3FA-4388-935C-D01544F0940A&amp;Options=&amp;Search=" target="_blank">legislation</a> that would require a city service provider to furnish judges setting bail with details of a defendant’s financial situation.</p> <p dir="ltr">These latest incremental local reform ideas and others are aimed at chipping away at the problems with the system, but many advocates, legal experts, and elected officials agree that there is a need for an expanded statewide conversation around the culture of bail and actual statutory reform, chiefly to ensure that those with limited material resources are not punished simply for their economic status.</p> <p dir="ltr">Reforming the bail system in New York has been something of a priority at both the city and state levels, though tangible progress has been limited.</p> <p dir="ltr">In January, Governor Andrew Cuomo included the issue in his <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/sites/governor.ny.gov/files/atoms/files/2016_State_of_the_State_Book.pdf" target="_blank">policy agenda</a> for this year, although there has been little follow-up through legislation. Cuomo proposed requiring judges to assess risk to public safety when making a bail decision -- something de Blasio and others are in agreement with -- and stronger regulations of bail bondsman practices.</p> <p dir="ltr">In New York City, the de Blasio administration has implemented a number of initiatives this year to make bail payments less complicated and to provide alternatives to bail that keep people from being incarcerated. There have also been concerted efforts both in policing practice and through legislation to reduce arrests for low-level offenses in the first place, and arrests are down significantly while the city has become safer in terms of major crimes.</p> <p dir="ltr">The population at Rikers Island jails, where about three-quarters of the city’s jail population is housed, hovers around 7,500 daily, down significantly from peak years over recent decades.</p> <p dir="ltr">In April, the mayor <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/336-16/mayor-de-blasio-citywide-rollout-17-8-million-bail-alternative-program" target="_blank">committed</a> nearly $18 million for a citywide expansion of a supervised release program that will allow as many as 3,000 low-level offenders each year to remain out of jail and work while they await trial. The program cuts down on the use of monetary bail, ensuring that people who are of low risk to public safety but cannot afford bail do not languish in prison.</p> <p dir="ltr">Last month, the mayor announced the creation of a system that allows cash bail to be paid online, by a phone, or through a courthouse kiosk by family members and friends of defendants. The system, due to be launched citywide by the spring, aims at alleviating the difficulty of having to physically visit a corrections facility to pay bail. “Nobody with the ability to pay bail should sit in jail just because the bail process is an inconvenience,” de Blasio said at the announcement.</p> <p dir="ltr">The City Council has also been <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/6650-city-council-bail-fund-continues-slow-path-to-reality" target="_blank">inching closer</a> to establishing a public bail fund, which was first announced by Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito in her February 2015 State of the City speech. The fund received a license from the state Department of Financial Services in August but cannot begin operations until a pending license application for a bail bond agent is approved. If it becomes operational, the fund will provide bail money for qualifying participants so that they can leave jail between arrest and court appearance.</p> <p dir="ltr">Bail reform is a key consideration for the Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform, a body that was set up at the speaker’s behest earlier this year to recommend broad criminal justice reforms, with an eye toward creating a plan for closing the Rikers Island prison complex. The body is being headed by former New York State chief judge Jonathan Lippman, who, when he filled that role, argued vehemently for bail reform.</p> <p dir="ltr">Lippman believes that bail reform is moving ahead slowly in the city, but he stressed in a phone interview that there needs to be statutory change in law to effect broad change. “The city is doing really good things but they’re nibbling around the edges, not able to get at the heart of it,” he said. “My belief is that we need cooperation from Albany and we need a new bail statute.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Lippman suggested a two-fold approach to bail: giving judges the authority to assess risk to public safety and the need to “flip the assumption” that someone should be incarcerated instead of being released while waiting for a court date. “Bail doesn’t assure the person coming back and it’s an anachronism,” he said, promising that the commission will directly address the issue when it releases its recommendations sometime in spring 2017.</p> <p dir="ltr">Last year, when Lippman was serving as chief judge (he was forced to retire due to age restrictions and is now “of counsel” at Latham &amp; Watkins), he <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/02/nyregion/jonathan-lippman-bail-incarceration-new-york-state-chief-judge.html" target="_blank">announced</a> administrative measures to reform the bail system in the absence of legislative action by the state. His own proposals from 2013 to essentially do away with cash bail have not been taken up by legislators in Albany, where Republicans control the state Senate and are often opposed to what is seen as progressive criminal justice reform.</p> <p dir="ltr">“I think we got a lot of attention when I proposed the legislation,” Lippman said, rueing that “getting a lot of attention and getting things done are two different things.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The challenge to changing the bail statute, he said, is the same that creeps up in any issue of criminal justice reform. “Legislators are elected and get into this soft-on-crime/tough-on-crime syndrome,” he said. “I think we need to be smart on crime.”</p> <p dir="ltr">A major impetus to the conversation around bail reform was the tragic death of Kalief Browder, a young Bronx resident who spent three years on Rikers Island awaiting trial on charges of stealing a backpack. Browder couldn’t pay bail but was eventually released when the case was dismissed. In jail, he faced physical and mental abuse and was placed in solitary confinement for nearly two years. In June 2015, Browder committed suicide.</p> <p dir="ltr">The case prompted widespread outrage and besides putting a spotlight on the culture of violence at Rikers, it highlighted the problems in the bail system. Advocates use Browder’s experience as a rallying cry in their push for change.</p> <p dir="ltr">While there’s a lot of agreement that an update of the legal statutes is necessary, there’s a greater need, many say, for reexamining the purpose of the bail mechanism and reeducation in how it is practiced.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Bail, by definition, discriminates against the poor,” said State Senator Michael Gianaris, deputy Democratic Conference leader, who proposed a bill last year to scrap cash bail. “There’s no rational basis for continuing this process.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Gianaris, of Queens, believes that reform is being slowed by a misunderstanding of the issue. “Bail was never intended to keep dangerous people off the street,” he said, pointing out that defendants have a constitutional presumption of innocence and cannot be considered dangerous for the purposes of bail if they haven’t been convicted yet.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Ezra Ritchin, project director of the Bronx Freedom Fund, one of two charitable bail funds already operating in New York City, commends the mayor and the City Council for the steps they’ve taken and says there is an urgency around bail reform at the state level.</p> <p dir="ltr">“We’re in an important moment right now where there’s a lot of change happening,” he said. “Since Kalief Browder...there has been momentum for reform.”</p> <p dir="ltr">But Ritchin warned, “There are things that we are missing in all of this.” The root of the issue, he said, is the high volume of arrests in New York City, and the consideration that a defendant is likely to miss their court date. “It’s often labeled as flight-risk,” he said. “That’s a massive misunderstanding of what’s going on. No one is fleeing.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“It’s a question of the way that we frame risk,” Ritchin said, referring to the chances that a person might flee or even be a risk to public safety, which is a consideration that both Mayor de Blasio and Governor Cuomo have proposed as an addition to the bail statute. “What we don’t talk about,” Ritchin said, “is the risk of a person’s life falling apart from being wrenched into the system.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Therein lies the biggest issue for Ritchin, the way the bail statute is put into practice. The current statute allows nine different forms of bail, including cash bail, that a judge can impose, some of which are less onerous.</p> <p dir="ltr">“I think the statute, if used correctly, could result in a very different system than the one we see now,” Ritchin said. This “golden question” of how to change the culture of imposing bail, among prosecutors and judges, is one for which Ritchin said he has no clear answer.</p> <p dir="ltr">City Council Member Lancman echoed that sentiment. As the chair of the Council’s Committee on Courts and Legal Services, Lancman is at the frontline of this issue. “The major obstacle is the unwillingness of judges and prosecutors to accept other forms of assurances for a defendant...than cash bail or bond, as well as the unwillingness to look at each defendant’s financial circumstances,” Lancman told Gotham Gazette in a phone interview. “The system in every way possible -- from the city side, the judiciary side, the district attorney’s side, and, to a lesser extent, from the defense’s side -- is not focused on eliminating this reality of people being sent to Rikers Island because they’re poor.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Under the bill Lancman introduced November 29, an arraignment screening organization contracted by the city to provide details about a defendant, including a recommendation on their risk of flight, would also have to include information on a defendant’s ability to pay bail. This is just one of the few ways the city can change how the bail system works, Lancman said, stressing the need for action at multiple levels. “The effort to reform bail requires many stakeholders adopting the new procedures and policies and outlook, which cumulatively would have an effect of greatly reducing the number of people on Rikers Island because they’re poor,” he said.&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr">The understanding that cash bail is a misguided concept has taken hold in an unprecedented way at the city and state level, according to Insha Rahman, senior planner at the Center on Sentencing and Corrections at the Vera Institute of Justice. Less than a decade ago, “it wasn’t a part of the rhetoric and conversation around bail as it is now,” Rahman said.&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr">She insisted that any legislative proposal, such as one that would consider adding public safety as a consideration, should be informed by data obtained through a statewide survey. “The push needs to be to understand the problems with the use of bail statewide to avoid unintended consequences in places where it’s being used effectively as opposed to ineffectively,” she added, pointing out that different counties employ different practices and that the system is far from a monolith even within New York City’s five boroughs.</p> <p dir="ltr">There is no cash bail <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/public-safety/when-it-comes-to-pretrial-release-few-other-jurisdictions-do-it-dcs-way/2016/07/04/8eb52134-e7d3-11e5-b0fd-073d5930a7b7_story.html?utm_term=.562833e8fc1c" target="_blank">in Washington D.C.</a>, where defendants are only detained if they are considered a risk to public safety. It’s considered a model by many advocates of bail reform in New York. But, as Rahman argued, adding risk as a consideration in setting bail could create problems if not studied carefully. “Any change to that is basically change in the sorting mechanism of who stays in and who is released,” she said.</p> <p dir="ltr">Judge Lippman supports the idea of factoring public risk. So do Gov. Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio, and they <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/state/6106-dangerousness-aspect-of-cuomos-bail-plan-troubles-reformers" target="_blank">have been criticized</a> for it. The proposal has also held up reform at the state level as different stakeholders struggle to find middle ground. Advocates and legal experts fear that it could deprive defendants of their rights and further institutionalize racism in the judicial system.</p> <p dir="ltr">Cuomo has not changed his stance since he first included it in his 2016 agenda, according to his office. “The Governor continues to champion comprehensive criminal justice reform, including changes to the state’s antiquated bail system,” said Abbey Fashouer, a spokesperson for the governor, in a statement. “New York is one of only four states in the nation that does not currently take into account public safety risks when making bail and release decisions – and it’s past time to develop a new approach.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The mayor recently doubled down on his support for the proposal. During a November 7 appearance on <a href="http://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/inside-city-hall/2016/11/7/ny1-online---mondays-with-the-mayor--shakeup-at-health-and-hospitals-and-more.html" target="_blank">NY1’s Inside City Hall</a>, de Blasio spoke of the need for bail reform in the context of the fatal shooting of NYPD Sergeant Paul Tuozzolo in the Bronx just three days prior. Tuozzolo was shot and killed by a man who was out on bail and suffered from mental health problems. It was reminiscent of the <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/21/nyregion/police-officer-is-shot-in-east-harlem.html" target="_blank">October 2015 killing</a> of NYPD Officer Randolph Holder, which the mayor referenced in the interview as well. Holder was killed in East Harlem while pursuing an armed suspect who had earlier been sentenced to a treatment program by a drug court rather than being sent to jail.</p> <p dir="ltr">“This is a reminder that we need bail reform in the State of New York,” de Blasio told NY1 anchor Errol Louis of Tuozzolo’s murder. “We need to include the question of how dangerous a criminal is in the bail decision because there are times when someone is not – a criminal is not a flight risk, but they are a threat to the community, or they have a profound mental health challenge that needs to be addressed. These issues have to be taken into account and we need a state law that recognizes that bail – judges should have the opportunity to consider the dangerousness of the individual when making a bail decision.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Peter Goldberg, executive director of the Brooklyn Community Bail Fund, said, as others did, that, “The fundamental problem with how bail operates is that it cages presumptively innocent people for their inability to come up with a certain amount of money.” He warns that replacing it with a system that assesses public safety might ignore that presumption as well.</p> <p dir="ltr">“There’s a risk that &nbsp;a system that replaces it will exacerbate existing racial and socioeconomic inequalities,” Goldberg said. “And in any system that looks to judge a person’s dangerousness merely based on the accusation of a crime, the data being used to create that system needs to be made available to the public, to be vigorously validated, but the bedrock principle needs to be the presumption of release.”</p> <p dir="ltr">As 2017 approaches and with it the next budget and legislative agendas for state legislators and the governor, there’s widespread optimism that bail reform will be a priority. Judge Lippman believes the issue has gestated long enough. “That digestive process has already taken place and it’s time to pick it up and run with it,” he said, confident that his commission’s recommendations will be bold and “out of the box” and will not be politically constrained. “Because of the credibility of the commission, because of the depth of the research...no public official is going to be able to fuzz around these issues,” he said. “That releases some of the political pressure.”</p> <p>Senator Gianaris is bullish on bail reform as well. “We’ve seen enough injustice,” he said, “that the time has come to take a comprehensive look at this and get rid of bail once and for all.”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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