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/criminal-justice-reform 2018-07-20T06:35:38+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com I’m with Cynthia Because She Stands for Schools, Not Jails 2018-07-12T04:00:00+00:00 2018-07-12T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7800:i-m-with-cynthia-because-she-stands-for-schools-not-jails Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/cmreynoso34-cynthia-2.jpg" alt="cmreynoso34 cynthia 2" width="600" height="566" /></p> <p>Antonio Reynoso, the author, endorses Cynthia Nixon (photo: @CMReynoso34)</p> <hr /> <p>Last week, I endorsed Cynthia Nixon for Governor because her campaign is focused on making sure young people of color across New York thrive in school, rather than wither away in jail. As a City Council member from a predominantly black and brown community in Brooklyn, I constantly hear from young people who know what they need to succeed in school and what stands in their way.</p> <p>Right now, there are more police in New York City schools than there are guidance counselors and social workers combined. What message does that send our children?</p> <p>It is time to drastically change course in how we invest in the lives of black and brown young people. Talking to friends and allies across the state, the stories and experiences of the young people in my district are strikingly similar to those of young people across New York, from the Hudson Valley to Syracuse and beyond—because, while we can draw geographical lines to separate their school districts, it’s the color line that ensures they will all still be impacted by racially discriminatory school discipline policies and practices.</p> <p>These policies have created a school-to-prison pipeline that afflicts young people of color across the State of New York. As Governor, Cynthia Nixon is committed to transformative policy changes to dismantle this system. That’s why a central part of her #SchoolsNotJails platform is school climate reform. Cynthia’s plan will push New York to lead the way by creating a Restorative Practices Training department within the State Department of Education to support schools in implementing restorative practices, introduce legislation to end school-based arrests for misdemeanors and violations, support schools to remove ineffective security measures, such as law enforcement and metal detectors, and only use suspensions as a last resort.</p> <p>In New York State, there are over 500 suspensions per day and a disproportionate number of our young people being suspended are students of color. Statewide, one in five black boys are suspended from school each year; for black girls, it is one in seven. In New York City, black students are 27% of the population but nearly half of all students suspended; in Kingston they are 14% of the student body but 36% of all suspensions; and in Troy, they are 31% of the population but 61% of all students who are expelled.</p> <p>The racial disparities in the statistics on referrals to law enforcement are just as alarming. In New York City, black and Latino students are 92% of all students who receive a summons; in Schenectady, black and Latino students are 75% of all students referred to law enforcement; and in Buffalo, black and Latino students are 85% of all students referred to law enforcement.</p> <p>These disparities begin in pre-kindergarten, where black students are 3.6 times more likely to be suspended from school. And they continue through high school and beyond—one suspension in high school doubles the likelihood that a student will drop out before graduation and it denies students from critical instructional time. Last year, students in New York lost 686,000 days of instruction because of suspension. If the school discipline gap continues, it’s no wonder that our state is struggling to close the graduation gap.</p> <p>Those numbers alone should be enough evidence to convince Governor Cuomo to take steps to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline. But instead of confronting this reality, under his leadership, New York has done nothing to curtail the school-to-prison pipeline.</p> <p>The young people I meet with are clear that the way forward is not to continue to “harden” their schools and rely on ineffective and harsh school discipline and policing, but to ensure equity in school discipline policies and practices and reimagine our approach to safety. There is no evidence that police officers and metal detectors make schools any safer, but there is ample research that shows they makes students feel less safe and result in more young people being pushed in front of police officers, prosecutors, and judges instead of guidance counselors, social workers, and school administrators.</p> <p>Students feel safest in their schools not when they know technology exists that track their every move, or police officers do random checks and sweeps, but when they have staff trained in trauma-informed care, restorative practices, and youth development that are there to attend to their needs and create an inclusive environment.</p> <p>Young people in my district are leading the way in demonstrating what safe and supportive schools can look like. Many of these schools are implementing restorative practices with real results -- dramatically decreasing suspensions and building strong school communities. This year my district saw one of the largest decreases in suspensions across the city. We can replicate this and transform schools into the safe and supportive learning environments our students and families deserve.</p> <p>New York needs a public school system that is completely disentangled from the criminal justice system and a commitment that we are creating a nurturing and supportive environment for all students. This is the commitment that Cynthia Nixon is making. We need to invest in schools, not repeat the same policy failures that have led to our children ending up in jails.</p> <p>***<br /> Antonio Reynoso is the City Council member for New York’s 34th Council District in Brooklyn. On Twitter: <a href="https://twitter.com/CMReynoso34" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@CMReynoso34</a>.</p> <p>

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/cmreynoso34-cynthia-2.jpg" alt="cmreynoso34 cynthia 2" width="600" height="566" /></p> <p>Antonio Reynoso, the author, endorses Cynthia Nixon (photo: @CMReynoso34)</p> <hr /> <p>Last week, I endorsed Cynthia Nixon for Governor because her campaign is focused on making sure young people of color across New York thrive in school, rather than wither away in jail. As a City Council member from a predominantly black and brown community in Brooklyn, I constantly hear from young people who know what they need to succeed in school and what stands in their way.</p> <p>Right now, there are more police in New York City schools than there are guidance counselors and social workers combined. What message does that send our children?</p> <p>It is time to drastically change course in how we invest in the lives of black and brown young people. Talking to friends and allies across the state, the stories and experiences of the young people in my district are strikingly similar to those of young people across New York, from the Hudson Valley to Syracuse and beyond—because, while we can draw geographical lines to separate their school districts, it’s the color line that ensures they will all still be impacted by racially discriminatory school discipline policies and practices.</p> <p>These policies have created a school-to-prison pipeline that afflicts young people of color across the State of New York. As Governor, Cynthia Nixon is committed to transformative policy changes to dismantle this system. That’s why a central part of her #SchoolsNotJails platform is school climate reform. Cynthia’s plan will push New York to lead the way by creating a Restorative Practices Training department within the State Department of Education to support schools in implementing restorative practices, introduce legislation to end school-based arrests for misdemeanors and violations, support schools to remove ineffective security measures, such as law enforcement and metal detectors, and only use suspensions as a last resort.</p> <p>In New York State, there are over 500 suspensions per day and a disproportionate number of our young people being suspended are students of color. Statewide, one in five black boys are suspended from school each year; for black girls, it is one in seven. In New York City, black students are 27% of the population but nearly half of all students suspended; in Kingston they are 14% of the student body but 36% of all suspensions; and in Troy, they are 31% of the population but 61% of all students who are expelled.</p> <p>The racial disparities in the statistics on referrals to law enforcement are just as alarming. In New York City, black and Latino students are 92% of all students who receive a summons; in Schenectady, black and Latino students are 75% of all students referred to law enforcement; and in Buffalo, black and Latino students are 85% of all students referred to law enforcement.</p> <p>These disparities begin in pre-kindergarten, where black students are 3.6 times more likely to be suspended from school. And they continue through high school and beyond—one suspension in high school doubles the likelihood that a student will drop out before graduation and it denies students from critical instructional time. Last year, students in New York lost 686,000 days of instruction because of suspension. If the school discipline gap continues, it’s no wonder that our state is struggling to close the graduation gap.</p> <p>Those numbers alone should be enough evidence to convince Governor Cuomo to take steps to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline. But instead of confronting this reality, under his leadership, New York has done nothing to curtail the school-to-prison pipeline.</p> <p>The young people I meet with are clear that the way forward is not to continue to “harden” their schools and rely on ineffective and harsh school discipline and policing, but to ensure equity in school discipline policies and practices and reimagine our approach to safety. There is no evidence that police officers and metal detectors make schools any safer, but there is ample research that shows they makes students feel less safe and result in more young people being pushed in front of police officers, prosecutors, and judges instead of guidance counselors, social workers, and school administrators.</p> <p>Students feel safest in their schools not when they know technology exists that track their every move, or police officers do random checks and sweeps, but when they have staff trained in trauma-informed care, restorative practices, and youth development that are there to attend to their needs and create an inclusive environment.</p> <p>Young people in my district are leading the way in demonstrating what safe and supportive schools can look like. Many of these schools are implementing restorative practices with real results -- dramatically decreasing suspensions and building strong school communities. This year my district saw one of the largest decreases in suspensions across the city. We can replicate this and transform schools into the safe and supportive learning environments our students and families deserve.</p> <p>New York needs a public school system that is completely disentangled from the criminal justice system and a commitment that we are creating a nurturing and supportive environment for all students. This is the commitment that Cynthia Nixon is making. We need to invest in schools, not repeat the same policy failures that have led to our children ending up in jails.</p> <p>***<br /> Antonio Reynoso is the City Council member for New York’s 34th Council District in Brooklyn. On Twitter: <a href="https://twitter.com/CMReynoso34" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@CMReynoso34</a>.</p> <p>

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De Blasio ‘Jails to Jobs’ Program Launches 2018-07-05T04:00:00+00:00 2018-07-05T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7788:de-blasio-jails-to-jobs-program-launches-close-rikers Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/33958745514_911123a5ff_z.jpg" alt="Rikers jails to jobs" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>On Rikers Island (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Judith is a newly-minted head chef. She had previously been a line cook, and was nervous about interviewing for a job running her own kitchen, but decided to take the plunge after some convincing. When it came time to speak to the hiring manager, Judith, in her own self-assessment, “killed it.”</p> <p>Before Judith was head chef, before she was a line cook, before she knew kitchen skills, she was incarcerated. But it was her time in “Rosie,” the Rose M. Singer women’s jail on Rikers Island, that placed her on her trajectory to becoming a chef.</p> <p>In April 2017, four months before her release from Rikers, Judith began participating in the workforce development programming offered onsite by the <a href="http://www.osborneny.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Osborne Association</a>, a New York-based nonprofit that provides social services for the currently and formerly incarcerated. Osborne offers a number of professional education workshops and certification programs on Rikers, and Judith began training intensely with the group.</p> <p>“I took advantage of...everything I could get my hands on,” she told Gotham Gazette, and ended up leaving Rikers with certificates in food handling, culinary arts, building maintenance, and job safety.</p> <p>Upon her release, Osborne’s housing staff helped her secure a home, and its employment team reviewed her resume, coached her on interview skills, organized her paperwork, and placed her in an apprenticeship in a kitchen. When the apprenticeship ended, Osborne helped Judith find permanent employment and supported her emotionally as she progressed professionally.</p> <p>“They kept encouraging me that it’d be okay, that I need to keep pushing forward. It wouldn’t have happened without them,” she said.</p> <p>The Osborne Association is one of several organizations in New York City providing services to those incarcerated in city jails, both during their confinement and after their release. Most have been operating for decades — Osborne was founded in 1933, and its peer group, <a href="https://fortunesociety.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">the Fortune Society</a>, has operated since 1967 — and receive city funding. But it’s only been within the past year that the city government has mobilized the Osborne Association, the Fortune Society, and six other incarceration-services organizations — Samaritan Daytop Village, Fedcap, Housing Works, Friends of Island Academy, the Women’s Prison Association, and the Prisoner Reentry Institute at John Jay College — to provide short-term transitional employment to every individual leaving a city jail after serving a sentence.</p> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that lofty goal, which he promised to actualize through the new “Jails to Jobs Initiative,” in March 2017. Jails to Jobs is now a component of the mayor’s ten-year plan to shutter the city jails on Rikers Island by reducing the jail population, combating recidivism, and opening or expanding modern borough-based facilities. The mayor’s <a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/187-17/mayor-de-blasio-re-entry-services-everyone-city-jails-end-this-year#/0" target="_blank" rel="noopener">announcement</a> was scant on details on the program, simply promising that “everyone leaving city jails after serving a sentence will be offered paid, short-term transitional employment to help with securing a long-term job.”</p> <p>Employment after incarceration has been shown to <a href="https://www.mdrc.org/sites/default/files/full_451.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">reduce recidivism by 22%</a>, and de Blasio <a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/196-17/transcript-mayor-de-blasio-speaker-mark-viverito-10-year-plan-close-rikers-island" target="_blank" rel="noopener">says</a> that the city needs to reduce its jail population to 5,000 — almost a 50% drop from figures at the time of his announcement — in order to make feasible the closure of Rikers. In 2017, the <a href="http://www.criminaljustice.ny.gov/crimnet/ojsa/jail_pop_y.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">average total population</a> of those incarcerated on Rikers or the city’s other jail facilities stood at 9,148. On Monday, July 2, the total city jail population was 8,208, including 6,138 on Rikers, down from 9,206 one year prior.</p> <p>Roughly 8,500 people leave city jails each year after serving a sentence (many more are incarcerated after an arrest but do not necessarily serve a sentence in a city or any jail or prison). It is not clear what capacity the city needs to ensure through provider agencies to make sure that each of those individuals has access to a “paid, short-term” job. The program is in its infancy. There is no set duration for “short-term,” a mayor’s office spokesperson said, indicating that it depends on the needs of the client and the service-provider.</p> <p>Employment is, by most empirical measures, both crucial to successful post-incarceration reentry and disproportionately difficult to attain for the formerly incarcerated. In 2017, 80% of those who served a sentence in a New York City jail had been unemployed at the time of their arraignment, and <a href="https://www.nij.gov/topics/corrections/reentry/pages/employment.aspx#note2" target="_blank" rel="noopener">the National Institute of Justice</a> estimates that between 60 and 75 percent of formerly-incarcerated individuals are jobless up to a year after their release.</p> <p>This joblessness does not seem to be for lack of effort. A <a href="https://www.urban.org/sites/default/files/publication/32106/411778-Employment-after-Prison-A-Longitudinal-Study-of-Releasees-in-Three-States.PDF" target="_blank" rel="noopener">survey</a> conducted by the Urban Institute reported that 79% of formerly-incarcerated individuals sought employment once out of jail, but data show that justice-involved individuals consistently face legal, perceptive, and racialized barriers to employment. More than 80% of employers in the United States perform criminal background checks on potential employees, and a <a href="https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/228584.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">government-published study</a> conducted in New York City found that a criminal record reduces the likelihood of a job callback by almost 50%.</p> <p>Still, white justice-involved applicants were twice as likely to hear back from a potential employer than black justice-involved applicants were. In a city that jails black and Latino people <a href="https://ibo.nyc.ny.us/cgi-park2/2013/08/nycs-jail-population-whos-there-and-why/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">almost exclusively</a>, this racial disparity has far-reaching effects.</p> <p>Guaranteed employment for the formerly-incarcerated, then, would radically alter the conditions of thousands of New Yorkers leaving a city jail, and Jails to Jobs seems to be the first initiative of its kind in the United States. It may prove to be a massively complex undertaking.</p> <p>The Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice (MOCJ) is spearheading the initiative in collaboration with eight criminal justice nonprofits. “The bulk of the initiative,” said Patrick Gallahue, MOCJ’s senior press director, “includes paid transitional employment and supportive services in the community.”</p> <p>The city works with groups that provide an array of services. For instance, the Friends of Island Academy holistically focuses on the needs of formerly-incarcerated youths while the Women’s Prison Association offers gender-specific services, and Housing Works helps the formerly-incarcerated secure stable housing, <a href="https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2015/02/28/another-barrier-prison-finding-home/24193381/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a well-documented struggle</a> for justice-involved individuals.</p> <p>Several leaders of the city’s partner organizations spoke to Gotham Gazette of Jails to Jobs’ collaborative nature, whereby affiliated groups freely refer individuals to other organizations that may be better suited to their needs. For instance, if a Brooklyn resident sought assistance from the Fortune Society, based in Long Island City, Queens, staff there said they might refer them to the Osborne Association, which runs a center in Brooklyn Heights.</p> <p>The Jails to Jobs initiative officially commenced on January 1 of this year, but most organizations began providing services under the program’s auspices in the spring, meaning the program has only recently launched in earnest.</p> <p>The network of groups finding employment for formerly-incarcerated people is labyrinthine, and Jails to Jobs runs slightly differently between organizations. When MOCJ solicited programming proposals for Jails to Jobs, it wrote that the city would “strongly favor proposals that demonstrate partnerships through subcontracting or formal cost-sharing arrangements.” As a result, most Jails to Jobs participants are placed into internships through subsidiary organizations.</p> <p>As of mid-June, the Osborne Association had employed 30 formerly-incarcerated individuals via three different, smaller groups — the Center for Employment Opportunity, Exponent, and the Hope Program — though it hopes to reach 150 people by the end of this year and 200 by the next.</p> <p>The Center for Employment Opportunity primarily provides day labor cleanup crews and employs Jails to Jobs participants for four to five hours a day at $13 an hour. Exponent, a substance-use program, provides services and certifies in counseling. Programs have not yet begun at the Hope Program.</p> <p>The Fortune Society, for its part, hopes to place 300 individuals in employment by the end of the year, and had enrolled 128 as of mid-June, 2018. That enrollment figure, as with all similar statistics from service providers, includes more than just the individuals who are currently employed in a paid, temporary internship — Jails to Jobs also funds hard skills training, including culinary, construction, and CDL driving certification.</p> <p>“It’s going to look different for each person,” said Katharine Samberg, the Fortune Society’s Manager of Trainings and Transitional Programs. “Some don’t have job experience, and the transitional work program is for people who need to get a footing and realize they can be a beneficial employee.”</p> <p>Experiences vary along lines of gender, as well. In 2015, <a href="http://trends.vera.org/rates/new-york-city-ny?incarcerationData=all&amp;incarcerationSource=female,male&amp;incarceration=count" target="_blank" rel="noopener">women comprised roughly 6%</a> of the city jail population, and their experiences before, during, and after incarceration differ from those of men, said Nyasha Rivera, who oversees the Jails to Jobs program at the Women’s Prison Association.</p> <p>“We are not using tools that were created for men or are gender-neutral,” Rivera told Gotham Gazette. Since they are often the primary caregivers of children, meaning they must live in bigger homes, be nearer to sources of support, and are often more undesirable to landlords, women typically face less housing stability post-release than men do, which depresses their ability to find employment. And gender-specific “trauma that women experience prior to incarceration, during incarceration, and in the reentry process...serves as a barrier,” Rivera said.</p> <p>The Women’s Prison Association offers, through various partnerships, employment tracks in culinary arts, building maintenance, and front-of-house restaurant work. As part of Jails to Jobs, the Association offers eight paid weeks of job training followed by a two-week paid internship, a different program than those run by other service providers.</p> <p>Still, explained Jim Hollywood of Daytop Samaritan Village, “all Jails to Jobs contracts across the city have a similar construction to the programs.” Job training services begun during incarceration place individuals in contact with service providers, who continue employment support after release, which comes, in part, in the form of a city-subsidized temporary internship.</p> <p>MOCJ allocated almost $9 million -- $8,885,492 -- to the Jails to Jobs program in its first year, which it’s spent mainly in the form of grants to service providers. That money pays for the minimum wage salaries of program participants for up to 21 hours a week, assuaging, the hope is, any sense among employers that to employ a formerly-incarcerated person is to undertake a risk.</p> <p>Employers can choose to supplement the schedules and salaries of their formerly-incarcerated employees beyond what the city guarantees. Such is the case of Alexandra, who spent 18 months on Rikers Island and a little over a year in state prisons. She connected with the Fortune Society while on Rikers through taking its anger management, family safety, and job training workshops. Upon release, Alexandra entered into an internship at a home health services facility that employs her for over 40 hours a week, paying the half of her full-time salary that the city, through the Fortune Society, does not cover.</p> <p>Like Judith, Alexandra (Gotham Gazette agreed to withhold last names) credits her connection with an incarceration-services group for her stable re-entry process. Immediately following her release from the Taconic State Prison, where she was sent after time on Rikers, staff at the Fortune Society helped Alexandra open a Medicaid account, apply for food stamps, and begin learning skills necessary for re-integration. She called it a “one-stop shop” in an interview with Gotham Gazette, and is now poised to be hired full-time as a coordinator at the home health services facility once her internship ends this month.</p> <p>It is difficult to ascertain whether the successes of Judith and Alexandra are representative of most participants’ experiences with Jails to Jobs; most organizations only began running the program two or three months ago. But each service provider, as per the terms of MOCJ’s solicitation for proposals, already has extensive experience in reentry programming in New York City.</p> <p>Data points for the program are tricky to come by. For example, Gallahue, the MOCJ press director, told Gotham Gazette that the city does “not have a precise number” regarding the expected demand for jobs among recently-released individuals. Though at this time it is known that approximately <a href="https://nypost.com/2017/03/29/de-blasio-wants-to-employ-every-inmate-who-served-time-in-jail/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">8,500 people</a> leave city jails after serving a sentence each year, MOCJ could not say how many individuals who had served a sentence could be expected to be looking for a job at any given time.</p> <p>No organization told Gotham Gazette of having to turn away an individual for lack of space in an employment program; if anything, most are eager to grow. But, in the words of City Council Member Rory Lancman, who chairs the Committee on the Justice System, without a figure from the city, it is nearly impossible to assure that “every person serving a city sentence would have access to this job training, job placement program...it’s incumbent on the city to explain how it’s going to meet its commitment of serving every person serving a city sentence.”</p> <p>Anecdotally, a minority of those released from city jails, even those who’d been involved with a service provider while incarcerated, seek post-release services. Judith said that she is the only one of her roughly 20 peers who’d been enrolled in Osborne’s classes on Rikers to seek out the organization’s help once off the island.</p> <p>Her two closest friends from Rosie “have every excuse [to not go to Osborne]...For one, it’s easier for her to sell drugs on the street, and, for the other one, it’s her boyfriend.”</p> <p>Improved outreach would help, she said — for some, organizations should “take them by the hand.”</p> <p>The employment services Jails to Jobs has added resources to have changed Judith’s life, she said.</p> <p>“I’m so grateful to that program. They did a wonder job on me. A wonder job.”</p> <p>

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by Daniel Yadin for Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/33958745514_911123a5ff_z.jpg" alt="Rikers jails to jobs" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>On Rikers Island (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Judith is a newly-minted head chef. She had previously been a line cook, and was nervous about interviewing for a job running her own kitchen, but decided to take the plunge after some convincing. When it came time to speak to the hiring manager, Judith, in her own self-assessment, “killed it.”</p> <p>Before Judith was head chef, before she was a line cook, before she knew kitchen skills, she was incarcerated. But it was her time in “Rosie,” the Rose M. Singer women’s jail on Rikers Island, that placed her on her trajectory to becoming a chef.</p> <p>In April 2017, four months before her release from Rikers, Judith began participating in the workforce development programming offered onsite by the <a href="http://www.osborneny.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Osborne Association</a>, a New York-based nonprofit that provides social services for the currently and formerly incarcerated. Osborne offers a number of professional education workshops and certification programs on Rikers, and Judith began training intensely with the group.</p> <p>“I took advantage of...everything I could get my hands on,” she told Gotham Gazette, and ended up leaving Rikers with certificates in food handling, culinary arts, building maintenance, and job safety.</p> <p>Upon her release, Osborne’s housing staff helped her secure a home, and its employment team reviewed her resume, coached her on interview skills, organized her paperwork, and placed her in an apprenticeship in a kitchen. When the apprenticeship ended, Osborne helped Judith find permanent employment and supported her emotionally as she progressed professionally.</p> <p>“They kept encouraging me that it’d be okay, that I need to keep pushing forward. It wouldn’t have happened without them,” she said.</p> <p>The Osborne Association is one of several organizations in New York City providing services to those incarcerated in city jails, both during their confinement and after their release. Most have been operating for decades — Osborne was founded in 1933, and its peer group, <a href="https://fortunesociety.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">the Fortune Society</a>, has operated since 1967 — and receive city funding. But it’s only been within the past year that the city government has mobilized the Osborne Association, the Fortune Society, and six other incarceration-services organizations — Samaritan Daytop Village, Fedcap, Housing Works, Friends of Island Academy, the Women’s Prison Association, and the Prisoner Reentry Institute at John Jay College — to provide short-term transitional employment to every individual leaving a city jail after serving a sentence.</p> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that lofty goal, which he promised to actualize through the new “Jails to Jobs Initiative,” in March 2017. Jails to Jobs is now a component of the mayor’s ten-year plan to shutter the city jails on Rikers Island by reducing the jail population, combating recidivism, and opening or expanding modern borough-based facilities. The mayor’s <a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/187-17/mayor-de-blasio-re-entry-services-everyone-city-jails-end-this-year#/0" target="_blank" rel="noopener">announcement</a> was scant on details on the program, simply promising that “everyone leaving city jails after serving a sentence will be offered paid, short-term transitional employment to help with securing a long-term job.”</p> <p>Employment after incarceration has been shown to <a href="https://www.mdrc.org/sites/default/files/full_451.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">reduce recidivism by 22%</a>, and de Blasio <a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/196-17/transcript-mayor-de-blasio-speaker-mark-viverito-10-year-plan-close-rikers-island" target="_blank" rel="noopener">says</a> that the city needs to reduce its jail population to 5,000 — almost a 50% drop from figures at the time of his announcement — in order to make feasible the closure of Rikers. In 2017, the <a href="http://www.criminaljustice.ny.gov/crimnet/ojsa/jail_pop_y.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">average total population</a> of those incarcerated on Rikers or the city’s other jail facilities stood at 9,148. On Monday, July 2, the total city jail population was 8,208, including 6,138 on Rikers, down from 9,206 one year prior.</p> <p>Roughly 8,500 people leave city jails each year after serving a sentence (many more are incarcerated after an arrest but do not necessarily serve a sentence in a city or any jail or prison). It is not clear what capacity the city needs to ensure through provider agencies to make sure that each of those individuals has access to a “paid, short-term” job. The program is in its infancy. There is no set duration for “short-term,” a mayor’s office spokesperson said, indicating that it depends on the needs of the client and the service-provider.</p> <p>Employment is, by most empirical measures, both crucial to successful post-incarceration reentry and disproportionately difficult to attain for the formerly incarcerated. In 2017, 80% of those who served a sentence in a New York City jail had been unemployed at the time of their arraignment, and <a href="https://www.nij.gov/topics/corrections/reentry/pages/employment.aspx#note2" target="_blank" rel="noopener">the National Institute of Justice</a> estimates that between 60 and 75 percent of formerly-incarcerated individuals are jobless up to a year after their release.</p> <p>This joblessness does not seem to be for lack of effort. A <a href="https://www.urban.org/sites/default/files/publication/32106/411778-Employment-after-Prison-A-Longitudinal-Study-of-Releasees-in-Three-States.PDF" target="_blank" rel="noopener">survey</a> conducted by the Urban Institute reported that 79% of formerly-incarcerated individuals sought employment once out of jail, but data show that justice-involved individuals consistently face legal, perceptive, and racialized barriers to employment. More than 80% of employers in the United States perform criminal background checks on potential employees, and a <a href="https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/228584.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">government-published study</a> conducted in New York City found that a criminal record reduces the likelihood of a job callback by almost 50%.</p> <p>Still, white justice-involved applicants were twice as likely to hear back from a potential employer than black justice-involved applicants were. In a city that jails black and Latino people <a href="https://ibo.nyc.ny.us/cgi-park2/2013/08/nycs-jail-population-whos-there-and-why/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">almost exclusively</a>, this racial disparity has far-reaching effects.</p> <p>Guaranteed employment for the formerly-incarcerated, then, would radically alter the conditions of thousands of New Yorkers leaving a city jail, and Jails to Jobs seems to be the first initiative of its kind in the United States. It may prove to be a massively complex undertaking.</p> <p>The Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice (MOCJ) is spearheading the initiative in collaboration with eight criminal justice nonprofits. “The bulk of the initiative,” said Patrick Gallahue, MOCJ’s senior press director, “includes paid transitional employment and supportive services in the community.”</p> <p>The city works with groups that provide an array of services. For instance, the Friends of Island Academy holistically focuses on the needs of formerly-incarcerated youths while the Women’s Prison Association offers gender-specific services, and Housing Works helps the formerly-incarcerated secure stable housing, <a href="https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2015/02/28/another-barrier-prison-finding-home/24193381/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a well-documented struggle</a> for justice-involved individuals.</p> <p>Several leaders of the city’s partner organizations spoke to Gotham Gazette of Jails to Jobs’ collaborative nature, whereby affiliated groups freely refer individuals to other organizations that may be better suited to their needs. For instance, if a Brooklyn resident sought assistance from the Fortune Society, based in Long Island City, Queens, staff there said they might refer them to the Osborne Association, which runs a center in Brooklyn Heights.</p> <p>The Jails to Jobs initiative officially commenced on January 1 of this year, but most organizations began providing services under the program’s auspices in the spring, meaning the program has only recently launched in earnest.</p> <p>The network of groups finding employment for formerly-incarcerated people is labyrinthine, and Jails to Jobs runs slightly differently between organizations. When MOCJ solicited programming proposals for Jails to Jobs, it wrote that the city would “strongly favor proposals that demonstrate partnerships through subcontracting or formal cost-sharing arrangements.” As a result, most Jails to Jobs participants are placed into internships through subsidiary organizations.</p> <p>As of mid-June, the Osborne Association had employed 30 formerly-incarcerated individuals via three different, smaller groups — the Center for Employment Opportunity, Exponent, and the Hope Program — though it hopes to reach 150 people by the end of this year and 200 by the next.</p> <p>The Center for Employment Opportunity primarily provides day labor cleanup crews and employs Jails to Jobs participants for four to five hours a day at $13 an hour. Exponent, a substance-use program, provides services and certifies in counseling. Programs have not yet begun at the Hope Program.</p> <p>The Fortune Society, for its part, hopes to place 300 individuals in employment by the end of the year, and had enrolled 128 as of mid-June, 2018. That enrollment figure, as with all similar statistics from service providers, includes more than just the individuals who are currently employed in a paid, temporary internship — Jails to Jobs also funds hard skills training, including culinary, construction, and CDL driving certification.</p> <p>“It’s going to look different for each person,” said Katharine Samberg, the Fortune Society’s Manager of Trainings and Transitional Programs. “Some don’t have job experience, and the transitional work program is for people who need to get a footing and realize they can be a beneficial employee.”</p> <p>Experiences vary along lines of gender, as well. In 2015, <a href="http://trends.vera.org/rates/new-york-city-ny?incarcerationData=all&amp;incarcerationSource=female,male&amp;incarceration=count" target="_blank" rel="noopener">women comprised roughly 6%</a> of the city jail population, and their experiences before, during, and after incarceration differ from those of men, said Nyasha Rivera, who oversees the Jails to Jobs program at the Women’s Prison Association.</p> <p>“We are not using tools that were created for men or are gender-neutral,” Rivera told Gotham Gazette. Since they are often the primary caregivers of children, meaning they must live in bigger homes, be nearer to sources of support, and are often more undesirable to landlords, women typically face less housing stability post-release than men do, which depresses their ability to find employment. And gender-specific “trauma that women experience prior to incarceration, during incarceration, and in the reentry process...serves as a barrier,” Rivera said.</p> <p>The Women’s Prison Association offers, through various partnerships, employment tracks in culinary arts, building maintenance, and front-of-house restaurant work. As part of Jails to Jobs, the Association offers eight paid weeks of job training followed by a two-week paid internship, a different program than those run by other service providers.</p> <p>Still, explained Jim Hollywood of Daytop Samaritan Village, “all Jails to Jobs contracts across the city have a similar construction to the programs.” Job training services begun during incarceration place individuals in contact with service providers, who continue employment support after release, which comes, in part, in the form of a city-subsidized temporary internship.</p> <p>MOCJ allocated almost $9 million -- $8,885,492 -- to the Jails to Jobs program in its first year, which it’s spent mainly in the form of grants to service providers. That money pays for the minimum wage salaries of program participants for up to 21 hours a week, assuaging, the hope is, any sense among employers that to employ a formerly-incarcerated person is to undertake a risk.</p> <p>Employers can choose to supplement the schedules and salaries of their formerly-incarcerated employees beyond what the city guarantees. Such is the case of Alexandra, who spent 18 months on Rikers Island and a little over a year in state prisons. She connected with the Fortune Society while on Rikers through taking its anger management, family safety, and job training workshops. Upon release, Alexandra entered into an internship at a home health services facility that employs her for over 40 hours a week, paying the half of her full-time salary that the city, through the Fortune Society, does not cover.</p> <p>Like Judith, Alexandra (Gotham Gazette agreed to withhold last names) credits her connection with an incarceration-services group for her stable re-entry process. Immediately following her release from the Taconic State Prison, where she was sent after time on Rikers, staff at the Fortune Society helped Alexandra open a Medicaid account, apply for food stamps, and begin learning skills necessary for re-integration. She called it a “one-stop shop” in an interview with Gotham Gazette, and is now poised to be hired full-time as a coordinator at the home health services facility once her internship ends this month.</p> <p>It is difficult to ascertain whether the successes of Judith and Alexandra are representative of most participants’ experiences with Jails to Jobs; most organizations only began running the program two or three months ago. But each service provider, as per the terms of MOCJ’s solicitation for proposals, already has extensive experience in reentry programming in New York City.</p> <p>Data points for the program are tricky to come by. For example, Gallahue, the MOCJ press director, told Gotham Gazette that the city does “not have a precise number” regarding the expected demand for jobs among recently-released individuals. Though at this time it is known that approximately <a href="https://nypost.com/2017/03/29/de-blasio-wants-to-employ-every-inmate-who-served-time-in-jail/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">8,500 people</a> leave city jails after serving a sentence each year, MOCJ could not say how many individuals who had served a sentence could be expected to be looking for a job at any given time.</p> <p>No organization told Gotham Gazette of having to turn away an individual for lack of space in an employment program; if anything, most are eager to grow. But, in the words of City Council Member Rory Lancman, who chairs the Committee on the Justice System, without a figure from the city, it is nearly impossible to assure that “every person serving a city sentence would have access to this job training, job placement program...it’s incumbent on the city to explain how it’s going to meet its commitment of serving every person serving a city sentence.”</p> <p>Anecdotally, a minority of those released from city jails, even those who’d been involved with a service provider while incarcerated, seek post-release services. Judith said that she is the only one of her roughly 20 peers who’d been enrolled in Osborne’s classes on Rikers to seek out the organization’s help once off the island.</p> <p>Her two closest friends from Rosie “have every excuse [to not go to Osborne]...For one, it’s easier for her to sell drugs on the street, and, for the other one, it’s her boyfriend.”</p> <p>Improved outreach would help, she said — for some, organizations should “take them by the hand.”</p> <p>The employment services Jails to Jobs has added resources to have changed Judith’s life, she said.</p> <p>“I’m so grateful to that program. They did a wonder job on me. A wonder job.”</p> <p>

***
by Daniel Yadin for Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

</p>
For Justice and Decarceration, Enact Second-Look Sentencing 2018-06-25T04:00:00+00:00 2018-06-25T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7766:for-justice-and-decarceration-enact-second-look-sentencing Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/gov-cuomo-tours-greene-correctional-fac.jpg" alt="gov cuomo tours greene correctional fac" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>(photo via the Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Regardless what one thinks of presidential pardons, we should reflect upon a simple truth – convictions and sentences meted out at one point might not be appropriate decades later. That is especially true for many people currently serving life or massive prison sentences.</p> <p>Many have argued for sentence commutations for specific classifications of people. In recent years, the Supreme Court has recognized that judges sentencing young people, even for violent crimes, must consider lack of maturity, impulsivity, and the inherent potential for change, and so reformers are asking courts to resentence those serving long prison terms for crimes committed when they were young. Many people advocate for medical parole or compassionate release for the elderly and infirm. Others focus on people deemed to be low-level, non-violent drug offenders.</p> <p>At the heart of the problem, however, are all the people serving draconian sentences for crimes committed when they were adults and who are not, at least not yet, suffering from any debilitating illness or in any other “special” category. In fact, it is the “normalcy” of so many cases that highlights the issue we must confront. &nbsp;</p> <p>Consider Jawad Musa. He is 53. He has been incarcerated for 27 years. A confidential informant and an undercover orchestrated what is known as a reverse sting. Mr. Musa and several others received a phone call saying there was heroin for sale if they could muster $20,000. They cobbled together the money, drove to New York, met the undercover, showed the cash, and were arrested – no drugs were ever exchanged. &nbsp;</p> <p>Mr. Musa was convicted at trial. The judge who sentenced him expressed frustration with the mandatory sentence he had to impose and wrote that “the length of [Mr. Musa’s] sentence and time served thereon makes him an appropriate applicant for executive clemency.” The trial prosecutor who went on to serve in high level positions in the Justice Department, as well as being named Assistant Attorney General for National Security, wrote that “justice has been done for Mr. Musa’s drug crime in 1991” and “mercy and fairness now dictate that he be given the opportunity to rejoin society and enjoy the balance of his life as a free man.” The Captain at his federal penitentiary wrote that Musa is a “positive force, mentoring younger prisoners” and “I am confident that if granted clemency Jawad would quickly become a productive member of society. He has served a sufficiently long sentence and deserves the chance to re-unite with his family.”</p> <p>And yet Jawad Musa remains in prison – for life. &nbsp;</p> <p>Consider Roy Bolus. He is 48. He has been incarcerated 30 years. Unlike Musa, Roy participated in a violent and horrific crime. But unlike Jawad, Roy was only a teenager – he was 18 years old and had never been convicted of any crime. Roy and five other men, including two other teenagers, went to Albany, New York to steal a safe from a rival drug dealer. Once they got inside, one of Roy’s co-defendants shot and killed two people. Roy was in another room at the time of the shooting, did not have a weapon, never fired any shots, but was convicted of felony murder. &nbsp;</p> <p>Roy’s extraordinary achievements while incarcerated for the past three decades are matched only by the outpouring of support he has garnered for clemency. He has attained Associates, Bachelors, and Masters Degrees and is pursuing a Doctorate. He has taught more than 5,000 hours of classes on HIV prevention, self-improvement, and a variety of academic subjects. He has been the Chair or President of several organizations and helped build an educational program inside the prison. He has numerous letters from family and friends who offer housing, employment, love, and support. Several men write compellingly of the impact Roy had on their determination to persevere while in prison and to thrive if they ever made it to the outside.</p> <p>And yet it really doesn’t matter. Roy was sentenced to 80 years to life in prison. He is scheduled to see the Parole Board in 2067. He would be 98 years old. &nbsp;</p> <p>There are countless other similar stories that are part and parcel of the epidemic of mass incarceration – people who have committed crimes, including brutally serious ones, but after decades in prison have grown into remarkably different people. &nbsp;</p> <p>Last year, the venerable American Law Institute, a non-governmental organization of judges, lawyers and academics, approved the first-ever revisions to the historic Model Penal Code. The MPC, taught in virtually every law school, was developed in 1962 to introduce uniformity and coherence to the myriad criminal codes in the 50 states, and serves as a model across the country. The update to the Code took more than 15 years to complete and yielded a comprehensive 700-page report. &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>The ALI focused specifically on sentencing in order to address the decades of punitiveness that led to the current state of mass incarceration, made all the more shameful by the significant racial disparities in American jails and prisons.</p> <p>One recommendation in particular addresses the epidemic of 2.2 million people behind bars. &nbsp;The Code now calls for state legislatures to enact a “second look” provision; to create a mechanism to reexamine a person’s sentence after 15 years no matter the crime of conviction or how long the original sentence. If the original sentence remains unchanged, it would be revisited every ten years thereafter.</p> <p>While many will sound the alarm for “truth-in-sentencing” or the need for finality, the second-look provision asks a very basic question -- are the purposes of sentencing better served by a sentence modification or by adhering to the original sentence imposed many years earlier? &nbsp;</p> <p>The commentary to the Code cites a host of utilitarian reasons why long sentences should not be frozen in time, suggesting that “governments should be especially cautious” and act with “a profound sense of humility” when depriving people of their freedom for most of their adult lives. &nbsp;</p> <p>The commentary notes further that new developments might show that old sentences are no longer empirically valid, as current risk assessment methods claim to be better at predicting risk of recidivism than those previously used. Similarly, new rehabilitative approaches might be discovered for people who at the time of their sentencing were thought resistant to change. &nbsp;</p> <p>The second-look provision is bold and unprecedented – to actually redress the past 50 years of mass incarceration requires nothing less, as most proposed criminal justice solutions and reforms are prospective and have no impact on those people currently in prison. Further, executive clemency in the form of sentence commutation has also proven to be of limited utility as Presidents and Governors are loath to exercise this power to any serious and meaningful degree.</p> <p>Second-look allows for mid-course correction if warranted by some measure of changed circumstances -- major changes in the offender, his family situation, the crime victim, or the community -- that merit a different sentence. It is consistent with the growth of restorative justice that seeks to move away from the punishment paradigm of the last several decades. Second-look also allows the sentencing determination to be made in a calmer atmosphere than existed at the time of the original sentencing, so that any notoriety, outside pressure, or inflamed passions may have abated.</p> <p>Bills have been introduced in the New York State Legislature regarding parole eligibility for people who are least 55 years old and have served at least 15 years of their sentence, and while the devil may be in the details, they are not insurmountable. There will be costs associated with establishing second-look processes but money will ultimately be saved as more people are sent home. Releasing people from prison is often controversial and even one crime committed by a releasee can threaten to shut down any second-look process, so there must be carefully constructed guidelines, created by myriad stakeholders, to ensure the independence of the decision-makers, and that all decisions are consistent, defensible, and transparent.</p> <p>Mass incarceration is not just about unnecessarily incarcerating masses of people. It is about unnecessarily keeping masses of people in prison for decades. A sentence once imposed is not thereby automatically rendered, just, fair and appropriate in perpetuity. Ultimately, second-look mechanisms are meant to recognize and value the possibility of change and transformation, and to intervene when drastically long sentences are indefensible.</p> <p>***<br /> Steven Zeidman is a professor of law at CUNY School of Law. He is on Twitter&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/SteveZeidman" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@SteveZeidman</a>. (For related bills in the New York State Legislature see S.8581/A.6354A; S.8346/A.7546.)</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/2018/gov-cuomo-tours-greene-correctional-fac.jpg" alt="gov cuomo tours greene correctional fac" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>(photo via the Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Regardless what one thinks of presidential pardons, we should reflect upon a simple truth – convictions and sentences meted out at one point might not be appropriate decades later. That is especially true for many people currently serving life or massive prison sentences.</p> <p>Many have argued for sentence commutations for specific classifications of people. In recent years, the Supreme Court has recognized that judges sentencing young people, even for violent crimes, must consider lack of maturity, impulsivity, and the inherent potential for change, and so reformers are asking courts to resentence those serving long prison terms for crimes committed when they were young. Many people advocate for medical parole or compassionate release for the elderly and infirm. Others focus on people deemed to be low-level, non-violent drug offenders.</p> <p>At the heart of the problem, however, are all the people serving draconian sentences for crimes committed when they were adults and who are not, at least not yet, suffering from any debilitating illness or in any other “special” category. In fact, it is the “normalcy” of so many cases that highlights the issue we must confront. &nbsp;</p> <p>Consider Jawad Musa. He is 53. He has been incarcerated for 27 years. A confidential informant and an undercover orchestrated what is known as a reverse sting. Mr. Musa and several others received a phone call saying there was heroin for sale if they could muster $20,000. They cobbled together the money, drove to New York, met the undercover, showed the cash, and were arrested – no drugs were ever exchanged. &nbsp;</p> <p>Mr. Musa was convicted at trial. The judge who sentenced him expressed frustration with the mandatory sentence he had to impose and wrote that “the length of [Mr. Musa’s] sentence and time served thereon makes him an appropriate applicant for executive clemency.” The trial prosecutor who went on to serve in high level positions in the Justice Department, as well as being named Assistant Attorney General for National Security, wrote that “justice has been done for Mr. Musa’s drug crime in 1991” and “mercy and fairness now dictate that he be given the opportunity to rejoin society and enjoy the balance of his life as a free man.” The Captain at his federal penitentiary wrote that Musa is a “positive force, mentoring younger prisoners” and “I am confident that if granted clemency Jawad would quickly become a productive member of society. He has served a sufficiently long sentence and deserves the chance to re-unite with his family.”</p> <p>And yet Jawad Musa remains in prison – for life. &nbsp;</p> <p>Consider Roy Bolus. He is 48. He has been incarcerated 30 years. Unlike Musa, Roy participated in a violent and horrific crime. But unlike Jawad, Roy was only a teenager – he was 18 years old and had never been convicted of any crime. Roy and five other men, including two other teenagers, went to Albany, New York to steal a safe from a rival drug dealer. Once they got inside, one of Roy’s co-defendants shot and killed two people. Roy was in another room at the time of the shooting, did not have a weapon, never fired any shots, but was convicted of felony murder. &nbsp;</p> <p>Roy’s extraordinary achievements while incarcerated for the past three decades are matched only by the outpouring of support he has garnered for clemency. He has attained Associates, Bachelors, and Masters Degrees and is pursuing a Doctorate. He has taught more than 5,000 hours of classes on HIV prevention, self-improvement, and a variety of academic subjects. He has been the Chair or President of several organizations and helped build an educational program inside the prison. He has numerous letters from family and friends who offer housing, employment, love, and support. Several men write compellingly of the impact Roy had on their determination to persevere while in prison and to thrive if they ever made it to the outside.</p> <p>And yet it really doesn’t matter. Roy was sentenced to 80 years to life in prison. He is scheduled to see the Parole Board in 2067. He would be 98 years old. &nbsp;</p> <p>There are countless other similar stories that are part and parcel of the epidemic of mass incarceration – people who have committed crimes, including brutally serious ones, but after decades in prison have grown into remarkably different people. &nbsp;</p> <p>Last year, the venerable American Law Institute, a non-governmental organization of judges, lawyers and academics, approved the first-ever revisions to the historic Model Penal Code. The MPC, taught in virtually every law school, was developed in 1962 to introduce uniformity and coherence to the myriad criminal codes in the 50 states, and serves as a model across the country. The update to the Code took more than 15 years to complete and yielded a comprehensive 700-page report. &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>The ALI focused specifically on sentencing in order to address the decades of punitiveness that led to the current state of mass incarceration, made all the more shameful by the significant racial disparities in American jails and prisons.</p> <p>One recommendation in particular addresses the epidemic of 2.2 million people behind bars. &nbsp;The Code now calls for state legislatures to enact a “second look” provision; to create a mechanism to reexamine a person’s sentence after 15 years no matter the crime of conviction or how long the original sentence. If the original sentence remains unchanged, it would be revisited every ten years thereafter.</p> <p>While many will sound the alarm for “truth-in-sentencing” or the need for finality, the second-look provision asks a very basic question -- are the purposes of sentencing better served by a sentence modification or by adhering to the original sentence imposed many years earlier? &nbsp;</p> <p>The commentary to the Code cites a host of utilitarian reasons why long sentences should not be frozen in time, suggesting that “governments should be especially cautious” and act with “a profound sense of humility” when depriving people of their freedom for most of their adult lives. &nbsp;</p> <p>The commentary notes further that new developments might show that old sentences are no longer empirically valid, as current risk assessment methods claim to be better at predicting risk of recidivism than those previously used. Similarly, new rehabilitative approaches might be discovered for people who at the time of their sentencing were thought resistant to change. &nbsp;</p> <p>The second-look provision is bold and unprecedented – to actually redress the past 50 years of mass incarceration requires nothing less, as most proposed criminal justice solutions and reforms are prospective and have no impact on those people currently in prison. Further, executive clemency in the form of sentence commutation has also proven to be of limited utility as Presidents and Governors are loath to exercise this power to any serious and meaningful degree.</p> <p>Second-look allows for mid-course correction if warranted by some measure of changed circumstances -- major changes in the offender, his family situation, the crime victim, or the community -- that merit a different sentence. It is consistent with the growth of restorative justice that seeks to move away from the punishment paradigm of the last several decades. Second-look also allows the sentencing determination to be made in a calmer atmosphere than existed at the time of the original sentencing, so that any notoriety, outside pressure, or inflamed passions may have abated.</p> <p>Bills have been introduced in the New York State Legislature regarding parole eligibility for people who are least 55 years old and have served at least 15 years of their sentence, and while the devil may be in the details, they are not insurmountable. There will be costs associated with establishing second-look processes but money will ultimately be saved as more people are sent home. Releasing people from prison is often controversial and even one crime committed by a releasee can threaten to shut down any second-look process, so there must be carefully constructed guidelines, created by myriad stakeholders, to ensure the independence of the decision-makers, and that all decisions are consistent, defensible, and transparent.</p> <p>Mass incarceration is not just about unnecessarily incarcerating masses of people. It is about unnecessarily keeping masses of people in prison for decades. A sentence once imposed is not thereby automatically rendered, just, fair and appropriate in perpetuity. Ultimately, second-look mechanisms are meant to recognize and value the possibility of change and transformation, and to intervene when drastically long sentences are indefensible.</p> <p>***<br /> Steven Zeidman is a professor of law at CUNY School of Law. He is on Twitter&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/SteveZeidman" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@SteveZeidman</a>. (For related bills in the New York State Legislature see S.8581/A.6354A; S.8346/A.7546.)</p> <p>

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

</p>
Max & Murphy Podcast: Criminal Justice Reform in New York 2018-06-05T04:00:00+00:00 2018-06-05T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7712:max-murphy-podcast-criminal-justice-reform-in-new-york 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>Jarrett Murphy, left, of City Limits, and Ben Max, right, of Gotham Gazette</p> <hr /> <p><strong>June 5, 2018 - Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: Criminal Justice Reform in New York<br /></strong></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/fortune-society-reps-for-277.jpg" alt="fortune society reps for 277" width="277" height="143" style="margin: 10px; float: left;" /></p> <p>The Fortune Society is on the front lines in the fight to keep people out of jail, help those leaving jail successfully reenter larger society, advocate for criminal justice reforms, and make sure that housing, jobs, and social services are available to all. JoAnne Page, president and CEO of the Fortune Society, and Stanley Richards, Fortune's executive vice president and a formerly incarcerated person, joined the podcast to discuss a wide range of topics related to the work they do, criminal justice policy, and next steps in New York for a fairer justice system.</p> <p>Listen to the full 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 episode through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts.</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/454244847&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
     

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>Jarrett Murphy, left, of City Limits, and Ben Max, right, of Gotham Gazette</p> <hr /> <p><strong>June 5, 2018 - Max &amp; Murphy Podcast: Criminal Justice Reform in New York<br /></strong></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/podcast18/fortune-society-reps-for-277.jpg" alt="fortune society reps for 277" width="277" height="143" style="margin: 10px; float: left;" /></p> <p>The Fortune Society is on the front lines in the fight to keep people out of jail, help those leaving jail successfully reenter larger society, advocate for criminal justice reforms, and make sure that housing, jobs, and social services are available to all. JoAnne Page, president and CEO of the Fortune Society, and Stanley Richards, Fortune's executive vice president and a formerly incarcerated person, joined the podcast to discuss a wide range of topics related to the work they do, criminal justice policy, and next steps in New York for a fairer justice system.</p> <p>Listen to the full 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 episode through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts.</p> <p><iframe src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/454244847&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>

***
by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
City Must Stop Using Incarcerated People as Revenue Source 2018-04-22T04:00:00+00:00 2018-04-22T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7628:city-must-stop-using-incarcerated-people-as-revenue-source Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/mayor-depart-cc-ponte-rikers-island.jpg" alt="mayor depart cc ponte rikers island" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>(Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p>The City of New York, like many cities and states across the country, profits from people experiencing poverty who come into contact with the criminal justice system. New York imposes a plethora of fees on persons charged with and/or convicted of a crime or minor infraction, ranging from a fee to support the DNA Bank, to an incarceration fee, to a fee for parole or probation.</p> <p>Among the most egregious of these fees involve phone calls in New York City jails. New York City reaps millions of dollars in profits from people who are in city jails and simply want to make a phone call.</p> <p>Many of these people have not been convicted of a crime. Nearly 75% of people in New York City jails are held pretrial, many because they were arrested and cannot afford to make bail. Some are in jail serving short sentences for minor misdemeanor offenses. All just want to talk with family, friends, or their attorney.</p> <p>On Monday, the City Council will take the next step in exploring the opportunity to end this predatory practice when it debates a bill, <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=3466474&amp;GUID=5FF0CADF-72F8-464F-A240-08A015650E7A&amp;Options=&amp;Search=" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Intro. 0741</a>, introduced by Speaker Corey Johnson. The bill would put a stop to the City’s practice of using the jail phone as a revenue center. Passing it would be a first and important step toward ending what is truly a tax on justice.</p> <p>Over the last 30 years, as rates of arrest and incarceration skyrocketed across the country, jurisdictions struggled to pay for the bloated justice system. Cities, counties, and states increasingly tried to generate revenue by imposing fees on people, including children, arrested for and convicted of crimes. In California, the state adds $390 in fees to the $100 fine imposed for running a red light. In Washington State, courts impose an average of $1,347 on every criminal conviction. In New York, people convicted of felonies face mandatory fees of $300; for misdemeanor convictions, the fee is $175. &nbsp;</p> <p>Although the criminal justice system is a vital government service meant to protect everyone’s public safety, more and more jurisdictions turned toward a “user-funded” system, unfairly demanding that some of the poorest Americans shoulder the burden.</p> <p>Justice system fees disproportionately harm low-income people and their families who cannot afford to pay them. Communities of color are particularly devastated because they experience higher rates of poverty and over-policing in their communities. It is a burden that is often too heavy to bear. For the millions of people who cannot afford to pay them, outstanding fees trap them in the justice system for prolonged periods, entrenching poverty, exacerbating racial and ethnic disparities, and diminishing trust in government. And, because so many people cannot afford to pay them, criminal justice fees often generate less revenue than expected.</p> <p>Some local and state governments have gone beyond simply trying to recoup costs through justice system fees and are trying to generate profits by imposing fees on people who are incarcerated, regardless of whether they have been convicted of any crime. In jurisdictions across the country, fees for “services” in jails and prisons (including exorbitant mark-ups on items for sale in the commissary) as well as fees for mail and “video” visitation are routinely imposed. New York City’s phone fee is a prime example of this unjust, discriminatory, and misguided policy.</p> <p>Like all justice system fees, the phone fee particularly harms the city’s most vulnerable communities. It may also diminish public safety. When people in jail can’t afford to pay for phone calls, they can be cut off from contact with their families. Research shows that regular communication between incarcerated people and their loved ones correlates with lower recidivism and higher opportunity for successful re-entry to society.</p> <p>We know the phone fee disproportionately harms people experiencing poverty and communities of color and may lead to higher recidivism rates. Yet, New York City government plans to extract millions of dollars next year from families who wish to stay in contact with their loved ones in City jails. Indeed, the mayor’s proposed budget anticipates that the Department of Corrections will collect nearly $6 million in profits from phone calls made by people incarcerated in city jails. But, budget negotiations between the de Blasio administration and the City Council have until the end of June to get it right.</p> <p>The Council Speaker’s bill would stop the City from profiting from people who have already been targeted and trapped by a system that takes away freedom, dignity, and hope. It would help ensure that people who are incarcerated maintain critical community ties while they are in jail, increasing their opportunity for successful re-entry when they are released. It should be adopted by the Council and signed by the mayor.</p> <p>***<br /> Joanna Weiss is the Co-Director of the Fines and Fees Justice Center. Brandon J. Holmes is the #CLOSErikers Campaign Coordinator for JustLeadershipUSA. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/joannagweiss" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@joannagweiss</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/BJHolmes_NYC" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@BJHolmes_NYC</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/2018/mayor-depart-cc-ponte-rikers-island.jpg" alt="mayor depart cc ponte rikers island" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>(Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)</p> <hr /> <p>The City of New York, like many cities and states across the country, profits from people experiencing poverty who come into contact with the criminal justice system. New York imposes a plethora of fees on persons charged with and/or convicted of a crime or minor infraction, ranging from a fee to support the DNA Bank, to an incarceration fee, to a fee for parole or probation.</p> <p>Among the most egregious of these fees involve phone calls in New York City jails. New York City reaps millions of dollars in profits from people who are in city jails and simply want to make a phone call.</p> <p>Many of these people have not been convicted of a crime. Nearly 75% of people in New York City jails are held pretrial, many because they were arrested and cannot afford to make bail. Some are in jail serving short sentences for minor misdemeanor offenses. All just want to talk with family, friends, or their attorney.</p> <p>On Monday, the City Council will take the next step in exploring the opportunity to end this predatory practice when it debates a bill, <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=3466474&amp;GUID=5FF0CADF-72F8-464F-A240-08A015650E7A&amp;Options=&amp;Search=" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Intro. 0741</a>, introduced by Speaker Corey Johnson. The bill would put a stop to the City’s practice of using the jail phone as a revenue center. Passing it would be a first and important step toward ending what is truly a tax on justice.</p> <p>Over the last 30 years, as rates of arrest and incarceration skyrocketed across the country, jurisdictions struggled to pay for the bloated justice system. Cities, counties, and states increasingly tried to generate revenue by imposing fees on people, including children, arrested for and convicted of crimes. In California, the state adds $390 in fees to the $100 fine imposed for running a red light. In Washington State, courts impose an average of $1,347 on every criminal conviction. In New York, people convicted of felonies face mandatory fees of $300; for misdemeanor convictions, the fee is $175. &nbsp;</p> <p>Although the criminal justice system is a vital government service meant to protect everyone’s public safety, more and more jurisdictions turned toward a “user-funded” system, unfairly demanding that some of the poorest Americans shoulder the burden.</p> <p>Justice system fees disproportionately harm low-income people and their families who cannot afford to pay them. Communities of color are particularly devastated because they experience higher rates of poverty and over-policing in their communities. It is a burden that is often too heavy to bear. For the millions of people who cannot afford to pay them, outstanding fees trap them in the justice system for prolonged periods, entrenching poverty, exacerbating racial and ethnic disparities, and diminishing trust in government. And, because so many people cannot afford to pay them, criminal justice fees often generate less revenue than expected.</p> <p>Some local and state governments have gone beyond simply trying to recoup costs through justice system fees and are trying to generate profits by imposing fees on people who are incarcerated, regardless of whether they have been convicted of any crime. In jurisdictions across the country, fees for “services” in jails and prisons (including exorbitant mark-ups on items for sale in the commissary) as well as fees for mail and “video” visitation are routinely imposed. New York City’s phone fee is a prime example of this unjust, discriminatory, and misguided policy.</p> <p>Like all justice system fees, the phone fee particularly harms the city’s most vulnerable communities. It may also diminish public safety. When people in jail can’t afford to pay for phone calls, they can be cut off from contact with their families. Research shows that regular communication between incarcerated people and their loved ones correlates with lower recidivism and higher opportunity for successful re-entry to society.</p> <p>We know the phone fee disproportionately harms people experiencing poverty and communities of color and may lead to higher recidivism rates. Yet, New York City government plans to extract millions of dollars next year from families who wish to stay in contact with their loved ones in City jails. Indeed, the mayor’s proposed budget anticipates that the Department of Corrections will collect nearly $6 million in profits from phone calls made by people incarcerated in city jails. But, budget negotiations between the de Blasio administration and the City Council have until the end of June to get it right.</p> <p>The Council Speaker’s bill would stop the City from profiting from people who have already been targeted and trapped by a system that takes away freedom, dignity, and hope. It would help ensure that people who are incarcerated maintain critical community ties while they are in jail, increasing their opportunity for successful re-entry when they are released. It should be adopted by the Council and signed by the mayor.</p> <p>***<br /> Joanna Weiss is the Co-Director of the Fines and Fees Justice Center. Brandon J. Holmes is the #CLOSErikers Campaign Coordinator for JustLeadershipUSA. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/joannagweiss" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@joannagweiss</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/BJHolmes_NYC" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@BJHolmes_NYC</a>.</p> <p>

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

</p>
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/?id=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>

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

</p>
<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>

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

</p>
Shut Down Rikers Island, and Don’t Replace It 2017-11-30T05:00:00+00:00 2017-11-30T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7342:shut-down-rikers-island-and-don-t-replace-it Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/reset_1/29104861780_6cb6772e58_z_1.jpg" alt="de Blasio Rikers jail" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>Rikers Island (photo:&nbsp;Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Due to the work many have done to illuminate the dehumanization and torture rampant on Rikers Island, city officials are finally proposing tangible steps to shut it down. This Monday, December 4, the New York City Council will hear testimony on progress being made toward closing the Rikers Island jails. Much of the discussion around closing Rikers jails, sure to continue Monday, centers on reducing the overall jail population in the city, but also on replacing available jail space.</p> <p>As politicians and city agencies share plans to shut down the island’s ten-jail complex, it is imperative that the people of New York recognize the impact of these proposals: the modernization and adaptation of New York City’s jails will ultimately expand the scope of surveillance and imprisonment in the city and state.</p> <p>The challenge going forward is to resist the prevailing attitude that the horror of jail is unique to Rikers Island and not inherent to the institution of jail itself, and to prevent the expansion of the jail system under the guise of reforms, improvements, and repairs. Critical Resistance NYC and the imprisoned organizers with whom we work recognize that jail systems cannot be converted into something humane and that the solution to the violence of Rikers cannot be a new kind of imprisonment.</p> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan calls for a ten-year process of depopulation, renovation, and new construction that will eventually result in the closure of Rikers, but we call out these strategies, outlined in his Smaller, Safer, Fairer “roadmap” for closing Rikers, as simply an extension to the life of the system. Closing Rikers only to replace it with new “state-of-the-art” jails and an expanded network of technologically-driven monitoring does nothing to alleviate the material consequences of detention and imprisonment or to curtail the reach of the prison industrial complex in New York. Instead, the city must implement tangible policies that bring us closer to ending the use of pre-trial detention altogether.</p> <p>With millions of dollars allocated for repairs and technological upgrades to existing facilities on Rikers, the Department of Correction’s budget does not reflect the claim that we are on a path to divesting from the very system that produced the horrific conditions that now warrant the closure of Rikers. Repairs to facilities marked as problematic and slated for demolition squander funds that could otherwise be spent on life-sustaining services that address social and economic needs and on community-led initiatives for addressing harm and accountability in non-punitive ways.</p> <p>The Mayor’s plan to shrink the jail population without more significantly shrinking the number of people who are policed, criminalized, and arrested in the first place is not an effective path to decarceration. Reductions that aim to stop the flow of people into the city’s jail system could start immediately – in particular, by putting an end to broken windows and community policing, which only increase police presence in our neighborhoods and broaden their jurisdiction over virtually every aspect of our lives, especially in communities of color. New York City must refuse imprisonment and mandated monitoring as sustainable solutions. Instead, we must build a city-wide system that guarantees transformative, voluntary social services as well as resources that support people released from jail in order to facilitate the immediate jail depopulation that will actually move us closer to closing Rikers while making any new jails obsolete.</p> <p>The city’s decision-makers must abandon any process to close Rikers that feeds, expands, and further calcifies the city’s jail system. We cannot truly overcome the violent reality of Rikers if our solution to its abuses depends on deepening wasteful spending in other jails and new forms of surveillance and monitoring in our communities. We must work to shift priorities from imprisonment and control to supporting and amplifying true community-led solutions to conflict, harm, and violence that strengthen community stability and meet people’s needs.</p> <p>***<br />Kate Hudson and Marlene Nava Ramos are members of the New York City chapter of Critical Resistance, a national, member-led organization that seeks to create genuinely healthy and stable communities that respond to harm without relying on imprisonment, policing, and punishment.</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/reset_1/29104861780_6cb6772e58_z_1.jpg" alt="de Blasio Rikers jail" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>Rikers Island (photo:&nbsp;Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Due to the work many have done to illuminate the dehumanization and torture rampant on Rikers Island, city officials are finally proposing tangible steps to shut it down. This Monday, December 4, the New York City Council will hear testimony on progress being made toward closing the Rikers Island jails. Much of the discussion around closing Rikers jails, sure to continue Monday, centers on reducing the overall jail population in the city, but also on replacing available jail space.</p> <p>As politicians and city agencies share plans to shut down the island’s ten-jail complex, it is imperative that the people of New York recognize the impact of these proposals: the modernization and adaptation of New York City’s jails will ultimately expand the scope of surveillance and imprisonment in the city and state.</p> <p>The challenge going forward is to resist the prevailing attitude that the horror of jail is unique to Rikers Island and not inherent to the institution of jail itself, and to prevent the expansion of the jail system under the guise of reforms, improvements, and repairs. Critical Resistance NYC and the imprisoned organizers with whom we work recognize that jail systems cannot be converted into something humane and that the solution to the violence of Rikers cannot be a new kind of imprisonment.</p> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan calls for a ten-year process of depopulation, renovation, and new construction that will eventually result in the closure of Rikers, but we call out these strategies, outlined in his Smaller, Safer, Fairer “roadmap” for closing Rikers, as simply an extension to the life of the system. Closing Rikers only to replace it with new “state-of-the-art” jails and an expanded network of technologically-driven monitoring does nothing to alleviate the material consequences of detention and imprisonment or to curtail the reach of the prison industrial complex in New York. Instead, the city must implement tangible policies that bring us closer to ending the use of pre-trial detention altogether.</p> <p>With millions of dollars allocated for repairs and technological upgrades to existing facilities on Rikers, the Department of Correction’s budget does not reflect the claim that we are on a path to divesting from the very system that produced the horrific conditions that now warrant the closure of Rikers. Repairs to facilities marked as problematic and slated for demolition squander funds that could otherwise be spent on life-sustaining services that address social and economic needs and on community-led initiatives for addressing harm and accountability in non-punitive ways.</p> <p>The Mayor’s plan to shrink the jail population without more significantly shrinking the number of people who are policed, criminalized, and arrested in the first place is not an effective path to decarceration. Reductions that aim to stop the flow of people into the city’s jail system could start immediately – in particular, by putting an end to broken windows and community policing, which only increase police presence in our neighborhoods and broaden their jurisdiction over virtually every aspect of our lives, especially in communities of color. New York City must refuse imprisonment and mandated monitoring as sustainable solutions. Instead, we must build a city-wide system that guarantees transformative, voluntary social services as well as resources that support people released from jail in order to facilitate the immediate jail depopulation that will actually move us closer to closing Rikers while making any new jails obsolete.</p> <p>The city’s decision-makers must abandon any process to close Rikers that feeds, expands, and further calcifies the city’s jail system. We cannot truly overcome the violent reality of Rikers if our solution to its abuses depends on deepening wasteful spending in other jails and new forms of surveillance and monitoring in our communities. We must work to shift priorities from imprisonment and control to supporting and amplifying true community-led solutions to conflict, harm, and violence that strengthen community stability and meet people’s needs.</p> <p>***<br />Kate Hudson and Marlene Nava Ramos are members of the New York City chapter of Critical Resistance, a national, member-led organization that seeks to create genuinely healthy and stable communities that respond to harm without relying on imprisonment, policing, and punishment.</p> <p>

***
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</p>
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/?id=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>

***
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</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>

***
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</p>
State Electeds Insult City Criminal Justice While Reform in Albany is Minimal at Best 2017-03-28T04:00:00+00:00 2017-03-28T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6837:state-electeds-insult-city-criminal-justice-while-reform-in-albany-is-minimal-at-best Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/18510331656_3d976ced4b_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo prison break" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p dir="ltr">Gov. Cuomo at Dannemora correctional facility (photo: Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p dir="ltr">Last week, State Senator Jesse Hamilton mailed <a href="https://twitter.com/stschrader1/status/845778659206205444" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a flier</a> to his constituents strongly denouncing broken windows policing. The senator, who represents Crown Heights and surrounding neighborhoods in Brooklyn, called on the city to end arrests for minor quality-of-life offenses that “are often used to police black and brown bodies.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The week before, during <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/cuomo-knocks-de-blasio-rikers-island-staying-open-article-1.2997154" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a speech</a> in Manhattan, Governor Cuomo disparaged Mayor de Blasio for failing to close the notorious Rikers Island jail, accusing the mayor of “impotence.”</p> <p dir="ltr">These criticisms of the city come as the state government, led by Cuomo, struggles to make its own reforms to New York’s criminal justice system. Current state budget negotiations include a push to “raise the age” of criminal responsibility so that 16- and 17-year-olds are largely prosecuted as juveniles, not adults. But the measure, which is seeing new daylight this year, has <a href="http://www.poughkeepsiejournal.com/story/news/local/new-york/2017/03/24/raise-age-central-ny-budget-talks/99600318/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">faced strong opposition</a> from Senate Republicans for years, despite the fact that New York is now one of just two states that tries 16- and 17-year-olds as adults.</p> <p dir="ltr">Senate Republicans want teenagers charged with violent crimes to be tried as adults and they want all 16- and 17-year-olds tried in criminal, not family, court. &nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr">The Republican Conference holds a plurality in the Senate—and the power that comes with it—in part because Senator Hamilton and the seven other members of the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) do not caucus with the Democrats. Nominal “Democrat” Senator Simcha Felder caucuses with Republicans, giving the GOP a 32-seat bare majority in the 63-seat chamber.</p> <p dir="ltr">But Senator Hamilton says that far from diluting the “raise the age” effort, his position in the IDC empowers progressive reform like it. “I, along with my colleagues in the IDC, have pushed Raise the Age further than ever before in the New York State Senate,” he said. “My advocacy around broken windows policing is motivated by my support for Raise the Age.”</p> <p dir="ltr">For their part, city officials are defending their approach and pointing the finger back at the state. At a recent press conference, Mayor de Blasio was asked about Cuomo’s Rikers comments, and said, “Our job is to address this crisis [on Rikers Island]. We’ve been doing it for three straight years…The state’s job is to take care of the state prison system."</p> <p dir="ltr">City Council Member Carlos Menchaca exchanged sharp words with Senator Hamilton <a href="https://twitter.com/SenatorHamilton/status/830561071593377792" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">on Twitter</a>, asking him, “What law are you advancing at the state level to curb the impact of Broken Windows policing?”</p> <p dir="ltr">Since that exchange, Senator Hamilton has introduced a bill to make turnstile jumping -- perhaps the prototypical broken windows offense -- a violation instead of a misdemeanor. Evading the subway fare is a charge the NYPD disproportionately brings against young black and Latino New Yorkers. Since city police enforce state laws, that is one avenue state legislators could use to influence city criminal justice.</p> <p dir="ltr">Senator Hamilton, who is black, spoke of his son as a motivation for opposing broken windows policing and for supporting raising the age. “He’s at an age where ‘the talk’—about young black men, safety, and interactions with police—is not an abstraction.”</p> <p dir="ltr">If the state raises the age of criminal responsibility, it will be the first major criminal justice reform legislation since the law ending the shackling of pregnant inmates in 2015. Executive action on prison reform has also slowed recently. After closing 13 prisons in his first term, Governor Cuomo has not closed any since 2013, even while the state prison population has <a href="http://www.scoc.ny.gov/pop.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">continued to decline</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">Last year, the governor also vetoed a bipartisan bill that would have increased funding to public defenders in the state. Cuomo insists he’s open to similar legislation but that it must be done through the budget.</p> <p dir="ltr">And <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/04/nyregion/new-york-prisons-inmates-parole-race.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a New York Times report</a> about rampant racial bias in New York State’s parole system led Cuomo to launch an investigation, but no findings have been made public and the parole system is unchanged.</p> <p dir="ltr">Parole reform is on <a href="http://www.caami.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Platform-for-Challenging-Incarceration-in-NY.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the list of criminal justice changes</a> that advocates have long hoped New York State would take up. The list also includes reform to the bail system, ending the use of solitary confinement, and a bill to accelerate trials. Republican control of the Senate, aided by the IDC, makes further reforms less likely.</p> <p dir="ltr">“The speedy trial bill, Kalief’s Law, should be a no-brainer,” said gabriel sayegh*, the Co-Executive Director of Katal, an organization fighting mass incarceration. “It would reduce pre-trial detention in jails.” The bill passed the Assembly unanimously, but has stalled in the Senate. “Even common sense bills that have bi-partisan support don’t get done,” sayegh said.</p> <p dir="ltr">“I don’t think it’s a problem when state folks speak out on city issues, or vice versa,” continued sayegh. “We are eager to have the governor support the speedy trial bill, which would help us close Rikers. We want to see Senator Hamilton follow through by advancing legislation at the state level that addresses disparities in policing practices and arrests. They should connect their comments to action.”</p> <p dir="ltr">***<br />Brenden Beck is a PhD candidate in sociology at the CUNY Graduate Center researching police, suburbs, inequality, and housing. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/BrendenBeck" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@BrendenBeck</a>.</p> <p>

***
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</p> <p>*sayegh spells his name with all lowercase letters</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/18510331656_3d976ced4b_z.jpg" alt="Cuomo prison break" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p dir="ltr">Gov. Cuomo at Dannemora correctional facility (photo: Governor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p dir="ltr">Last week, State Senator Jesse Hamilton mailed <a href="https://twitter.com/stschrader1/status/845778659206205444" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a flier</a> to his constituents strongly denouncing broken windows policing. The senator, who represents Crown Heights and surrounding neighborhoods in Brooklyn, called on the city to end arrests for minor quality-of-life offenses that “are often used to police black and brown bodies.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The week before, during <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/cuomo-knocks-de-blasio-rikers-island-staying-open-article-1.2997154" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a speech</a> in Manhattan, Governor Cuomo disparaged Mayor de Blasio for failing to close the notorious Rikers Island jail, accusing the mayor of “impotence.”</p> <p dir="ltr">These criticisms of the city come as the state government, led by Cuomo, struggles to make its own reforms to New York’s criminal justice system. Current state budget negotiations include a push to “raise the age” of criminal responsibility so that 16- and 17-year-olds are largely prosecuted as juveniles, not adults. But the measure, which is seeing new daylight this year, has <a href="http://www.poughkeepsiejournal.com/story/news/local/new-york/2017/03/24/raise-age-central-ny-budget-talks/99600318/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">faced strong opposition</a> from Senate Republicans for years, despite the fact that New York is now one of just two states that tries 16- and 17-year-olds as adults.</p> <p dir="ltr">Senate Republicans want teenagers charged with violent crimes to be tried as adults and they want all 16- and 17-year-olds tried in criminal, not family, court. &nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr">The Republican Conference holds a plurality in the Senate—and the power that comes with it—in part because Senator Hamilton and the seven other members of the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) do not caucus with the Democrats. Nominal “Democrat” Senator Simcha Felder caucuses with Republicans, giving the GOP a 32-seat bare majority in the 63-seat chamber.</p> <p dir="ltr">But Senator Hamilton says that far from diluting the “raise the age” effort, his position in the IDC empowers progressive reform like it. “I, along with my colleagues in the IDC, have pushed Raise the Age further than ever before in the New York State Senate,” he said. “My advocacy around broken windows policing is motivated by my support for Raise the Age.”</p> <p dir="ltr">For their part, city officials are defending their approach and pointing the finger back at the state. At a recent press conference, Mayor de Blasio was asked about Cuomo’s Rikers comments, and said, “Our job is to address this crisis [on Rikers Island]. We’ve been doing it for three straight years…The state’s job is to take care of the state prison system."</p> <p dir="ltr">City Council Member Carlos Menchaca exchanged sharp words with Senator Hamilton <a href="https://twitter.com/SenatorHamilton/status/830561071593377792" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">on Twitter</a>, asking him, “What law are you advancing at the state level to curb the impact of Broken Windows policing?”</p> <p dir="ltr">Since that exchange, Senator Hamilton has introduced a bill to make turnstile jumping -- perhaps the prototypical broken windows offense -- a violation instead of a misdemeanor. Evading the subway fare is a charge the NYPD disproportionately brings against young black and Latino New Yorkers. Since city police enforce state laws, that is one avenue state legislators could use to influence city criminal justice.</p> <p dir="ltr">Senator Hamilton, who is black, spoke of his son as a motivation for opposing broken windows policing and for supporting raising the age. “He’s at an age where ‘the talk’—about young black men, safety, and interactions with police—is not an abstraction.”</p> <p dir="ltr">If the state raises the age of criminal responsibility, it will be the first major criminal justice reform legislation since the law ending the shackling of pregnant inmates in 2015. Executive action on prison reform has also slowed recently. After closing 13 prisons in his first term, Governor Cuomo has not closed any since 2013, even while the state prison population has <a href="http://www.scoc.ny.gov/pop.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">continued to decline</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">Last year, the governor also vetoed a bipartisan bill that would have increased funding to public defenders in the state. Cuomo insists he’s open to similar legislation but that it must be done through the budget.</p> <p dir="ltr">And <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/04/nyregion/new-york-prisons-inmates-parole-race.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a New York Times report</a> about rampant racial bias in New York State’s parole system led Cuomo to launch an investigation, but no findings have been made public and the parole system is unchanged.</p> <p dir="ltr">Parole reform is on <a href="http://www.caami.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Platform-for-Challenging-Incarceration-in-NY.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the list of criminal justice changes</a> that advocates have long hoped New York State would take up. The list also includes reform to the bail system, ending the use of solitary confinement, and a bill to accelerate trials. Republican control of the Senate, aided by the IDC, makes further reforms less likely.</p> <p dir="ltr">“The speedy trial bill, Kalief’s Law, should be a no-brainer,” said gabriel sayegh*, the Co-Executive Director of Katal, an organization fighting mass incarceration. “It would reduce pre-trial detention in jails.” The bill passed the Assembly unanimously, but has stalled in the Senate. “Even common sense bills that have bi-partisan support don’t get done,” sayegh said.</p> <p dir="ltr">“I don’t think it’s a problem when state folks speak out on city issues, or vice versa,” continued sayegh. “We are eager to have the governor support the speedy trial bill, which would help us close Rikers. We want to see Senator Hamilton follow through by advancing legislation at the state level that addresses disparities in policing practices and arrests. They should connect their comments to action.”</p> <p dir="ltr">***<br />Brenden Beck is a PhD candidate in sociology at the CUNY Graduate Center researching police, suburbs, inequality, and housing. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/BrendenBeck" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@BrendenBeck</a>.</p> <p>

***
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</p> <p>*sayegh spells his name with all lowercase letters</p>
Bias in New York Prisons Requires a Blue Ribbon Commission Investigation 2016-12-15T05:00:00+00:00 2016-12-15T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6674:bias-in-new-york-prisons-requires-a-blue-ribbon-commission-investigation Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/18016769610_a4aa81ddb0_z.jpg" alt="cuomo prison" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo on a prison tour (photo via Governor's Office on flickr)</p> <hr /> <p>According to The Sentencing Project, New York State has led the nation by reducing its prison population by 26 percent between 1999 and 2012, while the nationwide state prison population increased by 10 percent. During these years of decarceration, violent crime rates fell at a greater rate in New York than national averages.</p> <p>Yet, despite New York’s lead in simultaneously decarcerating its prison system and reducing crime, racial disparities throughout New York’s criminal justice system remain unchanged.</p> <p>Recent <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/03/nyregion/new-york-state-prisons-inmates-racial-bias.html" target="_blank">investigative reports by The New York Times</a> show how racial bias is infecting New York State prisons. The paper’s investigation found that black people in prison are punished at significantly higher rates than whites, sent to solitary confinement more often, and detained longer.</p> <p>In response, Governor Andrew Cuomo directed the state inspector general to investigate these “allegations” and recommend appropriate reforms for immediate implementation.</p> <p>This is not enough.</p> <p>Governor Cuomo must use his executive power to create a diverse, non-partisan Blue Ribbon Commission to investigate the widespread racial bias throughout New York State’s criminal justice system.</p> <p>The commission’s independent investigation should go well beyond rooting out structurally racist practices in our prison and parole systems. It should undertake a comprehensive review of the state’s entire criminal justice system, from arrest to reentry, within a definitive timeline.</p> <p>JustLeadershipUSA believes that those closest to the problem are also closest to the solution, but furthest from the resources and power. To that end, the governor must ensure that the commission includes formerly incarcerated leaders. The commission also should represent the interests of the gamut of other people and groups that interact with the criminal justice system— prosecutors, judges, police and correction officers, people in prison, defense attorneys, advocacy groups, think tanks, victims’ rights organizations, and academics.</p> <p>After convening, reviewing practices and policies, listening to stakeholders, hearing from experts, and problem-solving for 12 months, this commission should then make recommendations for criminal justice reform to the governor and state Legislature, and disseminate its findings to the public.</p> <p>In addition to appointing a Blue Ribbon Commission, the governor should use his executive power immediately to address the issues of parole and solitary confinement. With regard to parole, Governor Cuomo should:</p> <ul> <li>Nominate more professionally, racially, and geographically diverse parole board candidates who more accurately represent the New York communities most impacted by crime and incarceration.</li> <li>Increase transparency by publicly releasing data annually to provide clarity into parole decision-making.</li> <li>Increase bandwidth of parole board members to ensure that cases are reviewed in person and with the thoughtfulness they deserve.</li> </ul> <p>To truly address the issue of solitary confinement, Governor Cuomo should create a timeline for discontinuing the use of all solitary confinement and punitive segregation throughout the state prison system. He should also direct the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (NYSDOCCS) to immediately ensure that far fewer people are placed in solitary confinement.</p> <p>And if people are sent to solitary, at the very least conditions and health care should be improved, time spent in solitary should be reduced, and detainees should receive a clear path, based on achievable goals, to earn their way out of solitary.</p> <p>We will not dismantle hundreds of years of racial bias and discrimination in our criminal justice system in a vacuum. Instead, we must collaborate and engage with impacted people from varying walks of life.</p> <p>If Governor Cuomo is truly committed to creating systemic change, the creation of a nonpartisan Blue Ribbon Commission is critical to uncovering the disparities in our prisons and our broader criminal justice system and identifying and implementing solutions. Together, we can work toward restoring a historically broken and racially inequitable system.</p> <p>***<br />Glenn E. Martin is the founder and president of JustLeadershipUSA (JLUSA), a national organization dedicated to cutting the U.S. correctional population in half by 2030. JLUSA empowers people most affected by incarceration to drive policy reform. Martin is a national leader and criminal justice reform advocate who spent six years in New York prisons. He is the recipient of the 2016 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/glennEmartin" target="_blank">@GlennEMartin</a>.</p> <p>

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/18016769610_a4aa81ddb0_z.jpg" alt="cuomo prison" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Gov. Cuomo on a prison tour (photo via Governor's Office on flickr)</p> <hr /> <p>According to The Sentencing Project, New York State has led the nation by reducing its prison population by 26 percent between 1999 and 2012, while the nationwide state prison population increased by 10 percent. During these years of decarceration, violent crime rates fell at a greater rate in New York than national averages.</p> <p>Yet, despite New York’s lead in simultaneously decarcerating its prison system and reducing crime, racial disparities throughout New York’s criminal justice system remain unchanged.</p> <p>Recent <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/03/nyregion/new-york-state-prisons-inmates-racial-bias.html" target="_blank">investigative reports by The New York Times</a> show how racial bias is infecting New York State prisons. The paper’s investigation found that black people in prison are punished at significantly higher rates than whites, sent to solitary confinement more often, and detained longer.</p> <p>In response, Governor Andrew Cuomo directed the state inspector general to investigate these “allegations” and recommend appropriate reforms for immediate implementation.</p> <p>This is not enough.</p> <p>Governor Cuomo must use his executive power to create a diverse, non-partisan Blue Ribbon Commission to investigate the widespread racial bias throughout New York State’s criminal justice system.</p> <p>The commission’s independent investigation should go well beyond rooting out structurally racist practices in our prison and parole systems. It should undertake a comprehensive review of the state’s entire criminal justice system, from arrest to reentry, within a definitive timeline.</p> <p>JustLeadershipUSA believes that those closest to the problem are also closest to the solution, but furthest from the resources and power. To that end, the governor must ensure that the commission includes formerly incarcerated leaders. The commission also should represent the interests of the gamut of other people and groups that interact with the criminal justice system— prosecutors, judges, police and correction officers, people in prison, defense attorneys, advocacy groups, think tanks, victims’ rights organizations, and academics.</p> <p>After convening, reviewing practices and policies, listening to stakeholders, hearing from experts, and problem-solving for 12 months, this commission should then make recommendations for criminal justice reform to the governor and state Legislature, and disseminate its findings to the public.</p> <p>In addition to appointing a Blue Ribbon Commission, the governor should use his executive power immediately to address the issues of parole and solitary confinement. With regard to parole, Governor Cuomo should:</p> <ul> <li>Nominate more professionally, racially, and geographically diverse parole board candidates who more accurately represent the New York communities most impacted by crime and incarceration.</li> <li>Increase transparency by publicly releasing data annually to provide clarity into parole decision-making.</li> <li>Increase bandwidth of parole board members to ensure that cases are reviewed in person and with the thoughtfulness they deserve.</li> </ul> <p>To truly address the issue of solitary confinement, Governor Cuomo should create a timeline for discontinuing the use of all solitary confinement and punitive segregation throughout the state prison system. He should also direct the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (NYSDOCCS) to immediately ensure that far fewer people are placed in solitary confinement.</p> <p>And if people are sent to solitary, at the very least conditions and health care should be improved, time spent in solitary should be reduced, and detainees should receive a clear path, based on achievable goals, to earn their way out of solitary.</p> <p>We will not dismantle hundreds of years of racial bias and discrimination in our criminal justice system in a vacuum. Instead, we must collaborate and engage with impacted people from varying walks of life.</p> <p>If Governor Cuomo is truly committed to creating systemic change, the creation of a nonpartisan Blue Ribbon Commission is critical to uncovering the disparities in our prisons and our broader criminal justice system and identifying and implementing solutions. Together, we can work toward restoring a historically broken and racially inequitable system.</p> <p>***<br />Glenn E. Martin is the founder and president of JustLeadershipUSA (JLUSA), a national organization dedicated to cutting the U.S. correctional population in half by 2030. JLUSA empowers people most affected by incarceration to drive policy reform. Martin is a national leader and criminal justice reform advocate who spent six years in New York prisons. He is the recipient of the 2016 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/glennEmartin" target="_blank">@GlennEMartin</a>.</p> <p>

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

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