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/rikers-island 2017-10-24T03:55:16+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com 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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Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

</p>
Rikers May Close. So Should Attica. 2017-07-18T21:17:32+00:00 2017-07-18T21:17:32+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=7070:rikers-may-close Samar Khurshid <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/18348845950_7d8fe238e6_z.jpg" alt="18348845950 7d8fe238e6 z" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>Governor Cuomo at Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora (photo: Governor's Office Flickr)</p> <hr /> <p>In much the same way that the movement to end stop-and-frisk policing eventually became a rallying cry for political hopefuls, so, too, has the appeal to close the Rikers Island jail complex now become de rigueur among New York City elected officials. Where though is the corresponding clarion call to close Attica, Sing Sing, or any number of New York State’s brutal and obsolete prisons?</p> <p>The <a href="http://www.closerikers.org" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">#CLOSErikers campaign</a> highlighted some ugly and undeniable truths about Rikers Island: intractable violence and corruption, heavy financial cost to the taxpayer, an antiquated and dangerous physical plant, and an overwhelming and disproportionate percentage of black and brown prisoners. The movement also emphasized the impact of money; nearly three-quarters of Rikers inmates are there because they can’t afford bail, often in amounts of $2,000 or less. All told, the 2017 New York City Department of Corrections budget was $1.4 billion.<br /> <br />Most of those same truths apply with even greater force to New York’s patchwork of state prisons that hold five times the number of people at Rikers.</p> <p>There is abundant evidence of violence and corruption in New York’s prisons. In just the past few years, there has been documented abuse, including homicides at the hands of prison guards, at numerous prisons across the state. The prevalence of brutality compelled the United States Attorney’s office <a href="http://www.npr.org/2016/10/20/498688702/reports-of-prison-guard-brutality-in-new-york-draw-a-harsh-spotlight." target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">last year</a> to charge five former corrections officers with federal civil rights violations, with then US Attorney Preet Bharara stating that “[E]xcessive use of force in prisons . . . has reached crisis proportions in New York State.”</p> <p>The state prison budget is astronomical. From 1999-2015, the budget expanded to almost $3 billion even as the number of incarcerated people dropped. For fiscal year 2017-18, the Department of Corrections budget request was $3,276,000,000, a figure that does not include the nearly $10 million in settlements doled out by the state for excessive force and abuse lawsuits in the past few years.</p> <p>And while Rikers Island is an aging facility, it is almost luxurious in comparison to some New York state prisons that date back to the 19th century. These archaic institutions struggle to provide adequate heat in the winter and to cool down in the summer. One can only guess about the layers of asbestos and other environmental hazards that afflict prisoners, guards and civilian employees alike.</p> <p>The racial disparities so evident at Rikers Island are reflected as well in the state prisons as blacks and Latinos make up 73 percent of the prison population, nearly double their numbers in the state general population. And with 84 percent of the guards being white and from upstate communities, state prisons readily conjure up images of the plantation with white overseers. In contrast, blacks and Latinos comprise 84 percent of the uniformed corrections officers at Rikers Island.</p> <p>Visits to Rikers Island in the East River across from LaGuardia airport are notoriously hard, time-consuming and humiliating, but visits to state prisons add another layer of torment -- New York’s state prisons house about 52,000 people in a labyrinth of 54 prisons ensconced primarily in remote corners of the state. The majority of state prisoners are New York City residents and yet they are scattered in prisons as far away as the Canadian border. The impact on the individual prisoner is devastating as visits are almost necessarily infrequent and families and communities are destroyed in the process.</p> <p>Unlike so many at Rikers, state prisoners are not incarcerated because they are too poor to post bail. Nevertheless, a countless number also need not be incarcerated. Although the prison population has decreased from 72,000 almost twenty years ago to 52,000 today, the question still remains whether all those many people should be behind bars. It certainly bears noting that New York State, with such progressive social policies in many areas, remains out of step with regard to national trends in incarceration. According to <a href="http://www.sentencingproject.org/publications/still-life-americas-increasing-use-life-long-term-sentences/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">The Sentencing Project</a>, New York is one of only eight states where the proportion of prisoners serving life or “virtual life” (fifty years or more) sentences is at least one in five. Almost 10,000 people in New York prisons are serving life sentences or its functional equivalent, a number topped only in Texas, Louisiana, Florida and California. This vast number of potential death-in-prison sentences is astonishing, unjustifiable and unnecessary.</p> <p>Thousands of New York prisoners have served their time, often several decades, remarkably. Many are elderly and in failing health. There are countless stories of transformation, redemption, and profound change. Yet these men and women languish in prison for no reason other than to satisfy a seemingly unquenchable thirst for interminable punishment.</p> <p>New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio maintains that the population at Rikers must be reduced before it can be closed within ten years. Should New York Governor Andrew Cuomo feel a corresponding need to shrink the prison population before shuttering some of New York’s most notorious penitentiaries, he already has at his disposal the means to do so – reform the parole process and meaningfully administer clemency.</p> <p>Last December, the <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/04/nyregion/new-york-prisons-inmates-parole-race.html?mcubz=2&amp;_r=0" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">New York Times</a> exposed a dysfunctional and punitive New York State Parole Board: “Commissioners — as board members are called — often read through files to prepare for the next interview as the inmate speaks. The whole process is run like an assembly line. They hear cases just two days a week and see as many as 80 inmates in that time.” Governor Cuomo recently appointed six new commissioners to the Board but vacancies remain. The governor should fill those seats expeditiously with people who more closely reflect the identities and experiences of those in prison and who bring diverse professional backgrounds to bear. These new board members can transform the board by taking a forward looking approach that examines evidence-based risk assessment scores and the individual’s institutional record, as opposed to looking backward and focusing exclusively on the crime of conviction, the one factor the individual can never change.</p> <p>The discretionary power of the executive to grant clemency is longstanding and deep-rooted. The Constitution expressly vests the President with the “power to grant reprieves and pardons” and most states grant similar power to the governor. In October 2015, Governor Cuomo <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-grants-clemency-four-individuals-and-launches-pro-bono-clemency-program" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">announced</a> a bold and unprecedented pro bono clemency project in an apparent response to criticism about the few clemency applications he had granted in all his years in office. While the creation of the project is laudable, to date, the number of people granted clemency remains infinitesimal even as there are many prime candidates by every measure.</p> <p>The <a href="http://www.morejustnyc.com/about-us/#about-us/the-commission" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform</a> referred to Rikers Island as a “stain on our great city.” Attica, Southport, Mid-State, Clinton, Fishkill and other state prisons are similar blights on New York State. Perhaps former Governor Mario Cuomo’s ugliest legacy is the growth of New York’s prison industrial complex, as more prisons were built during his tenure than that of all other New York governors combined. His son, Andrew, pledged to church congregants in Harlem to “go down in the history books as the Governor who closed the most prisons in the history of the State of New York.” Godspeed.</p> <p><span style="font-weight: 500;">***<br /> </span><span>Steven Zeidman is a professor of law at CUNY School of Law. He is on Twitter&nbsp;</span><a href="https://twitter.com/SteveZeidman">@SteveZeidman</a><span>.</span></p> <p>

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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/18348845950_7d8fe238e6_z.jpg" alt="18348845950 7d8fe238e6 z" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>Governor Cuomo at Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora (photo: Governor's Office Flickr)</p> <hr /> <p>In much the same way that the movement to end stop-and-frisk policing eventually became a rallying cry for political hopefuls, so, too, has the appeal to close the Rikers Island jail complex now become de rigueur among New York City elected officials. Where though is the corresponding clarion call to close Attica, Sing Sing, or any number of New York State’s brutal and obsolete prisons?</p> <p>The <a href="http://www.closerikers.org" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">#CLOSErikers campaign</a> highlighted some ugly and undeniable truths about Rikers Island: intractable violence and corruption, heavy financial cost to the taxpayer, an antiquated and dangerous physical plant, and an overwhelming and disproportionate percentage of black and brown prisoners. The movement also emphasized the impact of money; nearly three-quarters of Rikers inmates are there because they can’t afford bail, often in amounts of $2,000 or less. All told, the 2017 New York City Department of Corrections budget was $1.4 billion.<br /> <br />Most of those same truths apply with even greater force to New York’s patchwork of state prisons that hold five times the number of people at Rikers.</p> <p>There is abundant evidence of violence and corruption in New York’s prisons. In just the past few years, there has been documented abuse, including homicides at the hands of prison guards, at numerous prisons across the state. The prevalence of brutality compelled the United States Attorney’s office <a href="http://www.npr.org/2016/10/20/498688702/reports-of-prison-guard-brutality-in-new-york-draw-a-harsh-spotlight." target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">last year</a> to charge five former corrections officers with federal civil rights violations, with then US Attorney Preet Bharara stating that “[E]xcessive use of force in prisons . . . has reached crisis proportions in New York State.”</p> <p>The state prison budget is astronomical. From 1999-2015, the budget expanded to almost $3 billion even as the number of incarcerated people dropped. For fiscal year 2017-18, the Department of Corrections budget request was $3,276,000,000, a figure that does not include the nearly $10 million in settlements doled out by the state for excessive force and abuse lawsuits in the past few years.</p> <p>And while Rikers Island is an aging facility, it is almost luxurious in comparison to some New York state prisons that date back to the 19th century. These archaic institutions struggle to provide adequate heat in the winter and to cool down in the summer. One can only guess about the layers of asbestos and other environmental hazards that afflict prisoners, guards and civilian employees alike.</p> <p>The racial disparities so evident at Rikers Island are reflected as well in the state prisons as blacks and Latinos make up 73 percent of the prison population, nearly double their numbers in the state general population. And with 84 percent of the guards being white and from upstate communities, state prisons readily conjure up images of the plantation with white overseers. In contrast, blacks and Latinos comprise 84 percent of the uniformed corrections officers at Rikers Island.</p> <p>Visits to Rikers Island in the East River across from LaGuardia airport are notoriously hard, time-consuming and humiliating, but visits to state prisons add another layer of torment -- New York’s state prisons house about 52,000 people in a labyrinth of 54 prisons ensconced primarily in remote corners of the state. The majority of state prisoners are New York City residents and yet they are scattered in prisons as far away as the Canadian border. The impact on the individual prisoner is devastating as visits are almost necessarily infrequent and families and communities are destroyed in the process.</p> <p>Unlike so many at Rikers, state prisoners are not incarcerated because they are too poor to post bail. Nevertheless, a countless number also need not be incarcerated. Although the prison population has decreased from 72,000 almost twenty years ago to 52,000 today, the question still remains whether all those many people should be behind bars. It certainly bears noting that New York State, with such progressive social policies in many areas, remains out of step with regard to national trends in incarceration. According to <a href="http://www.sentencingproject.org/publications/still-life-americas-increasing-use-life-long-term-sentences/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">The Sentencing Project</a>, New York is one of only eight states where the proportion of prisoners serving life or “virtual life” (fifty years or more) sentences is at least one in five. Almost 10,000 people in New York prisons are serving life sentences or its functional equivalent, a number topped only in Texas, Louisiana, Florida and California. This vast number of potential death-in-prison sentences is astonishing, unjustifiable and unnecessary.</p> <p>Thousands of New York prisoners have served their time, often several decades, remarkably. Many are elderly and in failing health. There are countless stories of transformation, redemption, and profound change. Yet these men and women languish in prison for no reason other than to satisfy a seemingly unquenchable thirst for interminable punishment.</p> <p>New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio maintains that the population at Rikers must be reduced before it can be closed within ten years. Should New York Governor Andrew Cuomo feel a corresponding need to shrink the prison population before shuttering some of New York’s most notorious penitentiaries, he already has at his disposal the means to do so – reform the parole process and meaningfully administer clemency.</p> <p>Last December, the <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/04/nyregion/new-york-prisons-inmates-parole-race.html?mcubz=2&amp;_r=0" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">New York Times</a> exposed a dysfunctional and punitive New York State Parole Board: “Commissioners — as board members are called — often read through files to prepare for the next interview as the inmate speaks. The whole process is run like an assembly line. They hear cases just two days a week and see as many as 80 inmates in that time.” Governor Cuomo recently appointed six new commissioners to the Board but vacancies remain. The governor should fill those seats expeditiously with people who more closely reflect the identities and experiences of those in prison and who bring diverse professional backgrounds to bear. These new board members can transform the board by taking a forward looking approach that examines evidence-based risk assessment scores and the individual’s institutional record, as opposed to looking backward and focusing exclusively on the crime of conviction, the one factor the individual can never change.</p> <p>The discretionary power of the executive to grant clemency is longstanding and deep-rooted. The Constitution expressly vests the President with the “power to grant reprieves and pardons” and most states grant similar power to the governor. In October 2015, Governor Cuomo <a href="https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-grants-clemency-four-individuals-and-launches-pro-bono-clemency-program" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">announced</a> a bold and unprecedented pro bono clemency project in an apparent response to criticism about the few clemency applications he had granted in all his years in office. While the creation of the project is laudable, to date, the number of people granted clemency remains infinitesimal even as there are many prime candidates by every measure.</p> <p>The <a href="http://www.morejustnyc.com/about-us/#about-us/the-commission" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform</a> referred to Rikers Island as a “stain on our great city.” Attica, Southport, Mid-State, Clinton, Fishkill and other state prisons are similar blights on New York State. Perhaps former Governor Mario Cuomo’s ugliest legacy is the growth of New York’s prison industrial complex, as more prisons were built during his tenure than that of all other New York governors combined. His son, Andrew, pledged to church congregants in Harlem to “go down in the history books as the Governor who closed the most prisons in the history of the State of New York.” Godspeed.</p> <p><span style="font-weight: 500;">***<br /> </span><span>Steven Zeidman is a professor of law at CUNY School of Law. He is on Twitter&nbsp;</span><a href="https://twitter.com/SteveZeidman">@SteveZeidman</a><span>.</span></p> <p>

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Closing Rikers: Good Politics, Bad Policy 2017-04-06T04:00:00+00:00 2017-04-06T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6857:closing-rikers-good-politics-bad-policy Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/de_blasio_rikers_ponte_officer.jpg" alt="de blasio rikers ponte officer" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio on Rikers Island (photo: Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Mayor de Blasio's announcement that the city intends to close Rikers Island jails in 10 years has met a mainly celebratory response, even from seasoned criminal justice reformers. We advise that they, after years of good work in exposing the debilitating and sometimes brutal conditions in the Rikers jails, take a deep breath and apply a critical eye.</p> <p>The mayor's broad plan seems at least in part based on the recommendations of a blue-ribbon commission chaired by former New York State Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, and will include replacing the facilities on Rikers with small jails built in different parts of the city. The Lippman Commission pegged the estimated cost at $10.6 billion, with annual cost savings then to follow. De Blasio, who has strayed away from details so far, is simply promising the outcome of closed jail complexes on Rikers and at least a couple of new jails elsewhere.</p> <p>While de Blasio may see this move as good politics in an election year when he wants to shore up his liberal base, it is bad policy. Here's why:</p> <p>*The 10-year goal -- far off in any context, but in politics, a lifetime -- is hardly a serious aspirational target, especially when de Blasio, even if he wins re-election, will have been out of office for years by the time Rikers would be slated for closure. The next mayor will face the large bulk of the untoward financial or bureaucratic or political consequences of the proposal.</p> <p>*Any plan to close Rikers that includes the construction of new jails is a substantive mistake. Based on the recent history of municipal capital projects here in New York, we can expect that it will take longer to construct the new jails than currently thought and that it will cost even more than than the $10.6 billion projected.</p> <p>*There's no reason even to be certain that conditions of confinement will improve significantly since the new facilities will operate with the same correction officers and jail culture that, in effect, contribute directly to the deplorable environment on Rikers today. Akeem Browder, the brother of Kalief Browder, whose suicide after being locked up on Rikers for three years without a trial helped spur the movement to shutter the the jails there, said: "It wasn't the walls or the conditions at Rikers that killed Kalief. It was the human beings behind the walls that abused and ultimately drove him to commit suicide."</p> <p>*If city leaders choose to, they could take meaningful steps to reduce our incarcerated population even more significantly than planned, close Rikers without building new jails and house the remaining incarcerated population in the city's other existing jails.</p> <p>*The most direct way of reducing the incarcerated population is by addressing the front end of the problem, namely by cutting down the number of people the city locks up in the first place for no good public safety or justice purpose. But that would mean directing the NYPD to abandon "broken windows" policing, which is the single most significant public practice factor driving the unnecessary confinement of people on Rikers, people who are not dangerous or predatory or even criminal. We know, however, that the mayor -- and his political allies -- have embraced such tactics, so there's no possibility that he'll take this critical step.</p> <p>Replacing Rikers with new jails sited in different neighborhoods around the city will do next to nothing to end the abusive and discriminatory practices of our criminal justice system. The NYPD will continue to arrest and district attorneys will continue to prosecute the same people, mainly low-income New Yorkers of color, and, in effect, continue to lock up the most politically vulnerable people in our city even when all they have done is engage in innocuous activities that have been virtually decriminalized in well-off white neighborhoods.</p> <p>De Blasio pulled off a similar policy flim-flam when he, along with former Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, oversaw a dramatic drop in the NYPD's use of the discredited stop-and-frisk tactic. Problem is that, under the leadership of these two men, the NYPD did not change its fundamental approach to law enforcement, namely abusive and discriminatory "broken windows" policing.</p> <p>Moreover, the city could make much better use of $10.6 billion than to construct more jails. For example, research, to say nothing of common sense, tells us that small class size improves the academic outcomes for all students across racial and class lines, yet the city has no plans to promote smaller classes in our public schools, probably because of funding and space considerations.</p> <p>Policymakers could also allocate the funds toward one of the Big Apple's most urgent needs, building and providing new housing that is truly affordable for our city's most low-income households. Unlike new jails, such measures would make significant progress toward improving the lives and well-being of the New Yorkers residing in the communities most often targeted by the city's policing and incarceration policies.</p> <p>***<br />Robert Gangi is the Director of the Police Reform Organizing Project, or PROP, and a Democratic candidate for Mayor. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/PROPNYC" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@PROPNYC</a>.</p> <p>

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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/de_blasio_rikers_ponte_officer.jpg" alt="de blasio rikers ponte officer" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Mayor de Blasio on Rikers Island (photo: Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Mayor de Blasio's announcement that the city intends to close Rikers Island jails in 10 years has met a mainly celebratory response, even from seasoned criminal justice reformers. We advise that they, after years of good work in exposing the debilitating and sometimes brutal conditions in the Rikers jails, take a deep breath and apply a critical eye.</p> <p>The mayor's broad plan seems at least in part based on the recommendations of a blue-ribbon commission chaired by former New York State Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, and will include replacing the facilities on Rikers with small jails built in different parts of the city. The Lippman Commission pegged the estimated cost at $10.6 billion, with annual cost savings then to follow. De Blasio, who has strayed away from details so far, is simply promising the outcome of closed jail complexes on Rikers and at least a couple of new jails elsewhere.</p> <p>While de Blasio may see this move as good politics in an election year when he wants to shore up his liberal base, it is bad policy. Here's why:</p> <p>*The 10-year goal -- far off in any context, but in politics, a lifetime -- is hardly a serious aspirational target, especially when de Blasio, even if he wins re-election, will have been out of office for years by the time Rikers would be slated for closure. The next mayor will face the large bulk of the untoward financial or bureaucratic or political consequences of the proposal.</p> <p>*Any plan to close Rikers that includes the construction of new jails is a substantive mistake. Based on the recent history of municipal capital projects here in New York, we can expect that it will take longer to construct the new jails than currently thought and that it will cost even more than than the $10.6 billion projected.</p> <p>*There's no reason even to be certain that conditions of confinement will improve significantly since the new facilities will operate with the same correction officers and jail culture that, in effect, contribute directly to the deplorable environment on Rikers today. Akeem Browder, the brother of Kalief Browder, whose suicide after being locked up on Rikers for three years without a trial helped spur the movement to shutter the the jails there, said: "It wasn't the walls or the conditions at Rikers that killed Kalief. It was the human beings behind the walls that abused and ultimately drove him to commit suicide."</p> <p>*If city leaders choose to, they could take meaningful steps to reduce our incarcerated population even more significantly than planned, close Rikers without building new jails and house the remaining incarcerated population in the city's other existing jails.</p> <p>*The most direct way of reducing the incarcerated population is by addressing the front end of the problem, namely by cutting down the number of people the city locks up in the first place for no good public safety or justice purpose. But that would mean directing the NYPD to abandon "broken windows" policing, which is the single most significant public practice factor driving the unnecessary confinement of people on Rikers, people who are not dangerous or predatory or even criminal. We know, however, that the mayor -- and his political allies -- have embraced such tactics, so there's no possibility that he'll take this critical step.</p> <p>Replacing Rikers with new jails sited in different neighborhoods around the city will do next to nothing to end the abusive and discriminatory practices of our criminal justice system. The NYPD will continue to arrest and district attorneys will continue to prosecute the same people, mainly low-income New Yorkers of color, and, in effect, continue to lock up the most politically vulnerable people in our city even when all they have done is engage in innocuous activities that have been virtually decriminalized in well-off white neighborhoods.</p> <p>De Blasio pulled off a similar policy flim-flam when he, along with former Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, oversaw a dramatic drop in the NYPD's use of the discredited stop-and-frisk tactic. Problem is that, under the leadership of these two men, the NYPD did not change its fundamental approach to law enforcement, namely abusive and discriminatory "broken windows" policing.</p> <p>Moreover, the city could make much better use of $10.6 billion than to construct more jails. For example, research, to say nothing of common sense, tells us that small class size improves the academic outcomes for all students across racial and class lines, yet the city has no plans to promote smaller classes in our public schools, probably because of funding and space considerations.</p> <p>Policymakers could also allocate the funds toward one of the Big Apple's most urgent needs, building and providing new housing that is truly affordable for our city's most low-income households. Unlike new jails, such measures would make significant progress toward improving the lives and well-being of the New Yorkers residing in the communities most often targeted by the city's policing and incarceration policies.</p> <p>***<br />Robert Gangi is the Director of the Police Reform Organizing Project, or PROP, and a Democratic candidate for Mayor. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/PROPNYC" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">@PROPNYC</a>.</p> <p>

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

</p>
De Blasio Pulled to Rikers Closure by Mark-Viverito, Activists 2017-03-31T04:00:00+00:00 2017-03-31T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6846:de-blasio-pulled-to-rikers-closure-by-mark-viverito-activists Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/16796625845_570564e71e_z.jpg" alt="de Blasio Rikers" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>De Blasio at Rikers (photo: Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Friday that he is putting into motion a planning process to close the jails on Rikers Island. The mayor, a first-term Democrat up for re-election this fall, was pulled somewhat begrudgingly to the politically- and fiscally-tenuous position by City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who called for Rikers to be closed in her 2016 State of the City speech and formed a commission to create a plan to do so. That commission, led by former Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, is set to release its recommendations at a news conference on Sunday.</p> <p>"New York City will close the Rikers Island jail complex," de Blasio said Friday at the outset of a press conference at City Hall, which he held with Mark-Viverito and his criminal justice coordinator, Liz Glazer, and Correction Commissioner Joe Ponte.</p> <p>After news reports about the Lippman Commission plan and support for it surfaced Thursday evening in <a href="http://nypost.com/2017/03/30/plan-to-shut-down-rikers-island-revealed/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">The New York Post</a> and <a href="http://www.politico.com/states/new-york/city-hall/story/2017/03/city-to-announce-10-year-plan-to-shutter-rikers-110898" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Politico New York</a>, the mayor decided to hold the Friday press conference. De Blasio and Mark-Viverito both said they had not yet seen the Lippman report, though a reporter from The New York Times was shown a copy, indicating that the&nbsp;mayor and speaker will explore the broad contours of <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/31/nyregion/mayor-de-blasio-is-said-to-back-plan-to-close-jails-on-rikers-island.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a 10-year, $10-plus billion plan</a>. As de Blasio said Friday, the city will consider the Lippman Commission plan, but then formulate its own, which will involve continuing efforts to reduce the city’s jails population, which has been decreasing over decades and is currently about 9,300 (three-quarters, or 7,500, of whom are on Rikers) and expanding and creating local jails. The latter is likely to cause a good deal of political turmoil in the city.</p> <p>The mayor and speaker have not decided how many facilities they will seek to open, or what they will do with the city's jails that are not on Rikers, which are home to about 2,400 beds. The mayor said that for the plan to come to fruition over ten years, the total city jail population will need to be around 5,000 and at least two local communities will have to be open to new facilities.</p> <p>De Blasio, who originally called closing down Rikers jails a “noble idea” but virtually implausible, was privately frustrated by the speaker forcing the issue onto his agenda last year. He came around as the plan was being finalized by the commission, and also after a loud, persistent, and well-organized “Close Rikers” coalition had been protesting outside his re-election fundraisers, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/130-opinion/6543-why-we-re-marching-to-close-rikers" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">publishing op-eds</a>, and accruing support.</p> <p>On Friday, de Blasio indicated that not only had he needed time to see more of where crime and the jail population in the city were heading during his ongoing tenure, but that Mark-Viverito had been especially persistent.&nbsp;"The Speaker did something extraordinarily important here by looking constantly for a new solution and pushing hard for a path that would get us to this day. And I will be clear, there were many times I could not see that path – and many attempts we made to find a path off of Rikers Island that we did not find effective – but the Speaker kept not only pushing, but offering more and more ideas and more alternatives to help us get there. Her work has been crucial in bringing us to this day."</p> <p>"[T]he Speaker raised this issue with me – and I have to say – dozens of times over the last few years," de Blasio said during a question-and-answer session with reporters. "We had to do a lot of work to figure out a path that actually could achieve this goal. And my feeling in the beginning was – if I didn’t believe it could be done, I wasn’t going to say it could be done."</p> <p>The mayor’s decision to back a Rikers closure plan also comes after many years of terrible conditions at the jails on the island, recently cemented in the public discourse throughout 2014, including from the tragic <a href="http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/10/06/before-the-law" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">story of Kalief Browder</a>, who was tormented during his jail stay and <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/09/nyregion/kalief-browder-held-at-rikers-island-for-3-years-without-trial-commits-suicide.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">later killed himself</a>, while no charges were ever brought against him.</p> <p>There were also in-depth investigative reports of horrific conditions on the island, particularly <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/14/nyregion/rikers-study-finds-prisoners-injured-by-employees.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">by The New York Times</a>, including details of violence in all directions involving guards and inmates, and a lawsuit <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/19/nyregion/us-plans-to-sue-new-york-over-rikers-island-conditions.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">brought against</a> the city by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York over civil rights violations. De Blasio has indicated that before becoming mayor he did not have a full grasp on how bad things were on Rikers and he has moved a number of reforms on the island, which he has also was long-ignored by his predecessors.</p> <p>There have been calls to shut down the Rikers facilities for years, including by Neil Barsky, who, in <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/19/opinion/shut-down-rikers-island.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a 2015 New York Times op-ed</a>, argued that “the only way to transform Rikers is to destroy it; it needs to be permanently closed. The buildings are crumbling. The guard culture of prisoner abuse and the gang culture of violence are ingrained. The complex is New York’s Guantánamo Bay: a secluded island, beyond the gaze of watchdogs, where the Constitution is no guide. It is a place that has outlived its usefulness.”</p> <p>Over time, elected officials like <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/government/5998-stringer-joins-calls-to-shut-down-rikers" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Comptroller Scott Stringer</a>, in late 2015,&nbsp;and City Council Member Dan Garodnick, last week, joined calls for Rikers closure; even Governor Andrew Cuomo began to voice the opinion in recent weeks. The "Close Rikers" campaign, which has many coalition members, has been gaining steam in part based on the strategy and force of the activists involved, led by JustLeadershipUSA's Glenn Martin, who was incarcerated at Rikers and has become a leading national voice on criminal justice reform. He has led protests outside de Blasio fundraising events, which have gotten the mayor's attention.</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/mmv_bdb_rikers.jpg" alt="mmv bdb rikers" width="300" height="200" style="margin-right: 10px; float: left;" />For weeks de Blasio has been saying that he would have more to announce about the future of the city’s jails around the time of his executive budget plan, which is due in May. But, the timeline was sped up.</p> <p>In her 2016 State of the City speech, Mark-Viverito <a href="http://council.nyc.gov/press/2016/02/11/46/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">said</a>, “Our current Rikers-centric system has been plagued by a culture of violence requiring federal oversight. It is also wildly inefficient.” In announcing the Lippman commission, she concluded, “We must explore how we can get the population of Rikers to be so small that the dream of shutting it down becomes a reality.”</p> <p>De Blasio’s initial public reaction was tepid. On WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show just after Mark-Viverito’s speech, de Blasio called Rikers closure is “a noble idea” and said, “we’re going to work with Judge Lippman...to see what’s possible.” While stressing that no matter what the city must continue improving conditions at Rikers in the short-term, de Blasio said of closure, “any proposal like that would take many years to be achieved.” He promised to “look at every alternative going forward. I have to remind people, it could well cost many billions of dollars and we have to prove that we have the money but we’ll certainly work with the Speaker and Judge Lippman.”</p> <p>Earlier this week, de Blasio announced a new set of education and job-training programs to help those detained at the city’s jails, including a guaranteed temporary job for everyone who has completed a sentence at a city jail. Most of the population at Rikers are pretrial detainees, often those who cannot afford bail, which was the case for Browder. De Blasio and others have been <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6658-much-agreement-on-need-for-bail-reform-but-little-movement" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">working on bail reform</a>, as well as other efforts to reduce the jail population, which includes a City Council-led effort to move enforcement of many low-level, nonviolent offenses from criminal to civil proceedings.</p> <p>When making his reentry program announcement on Wednesday, de Blasio highlighted that the city’s jail population is down 18% since he took office, bolstered by a 23% drop on Rikers Island. Still, the complex has been plagued by violence and is notoriously dangerous, expensive, and antiquated.</p> <p>De Blasio repeatedly stressed on Friday that it will be a long-term plan that could be adjusted. He said a lot will ride on the City Council and the land use process in which individual Council members hold a lot of sway over whether a new facility comes to their district. Mark-Viverito, who is term-limited out of office at the end of this year, promised to fight for the plan into the future. A lot will ride on her successor as Council Speaker, as well as individual members being willing to explore siting a jail facility in their neighborhoods.</p> <p>“Shuttering Rikers would be an audacious move for Mr. de Blasio,” Barsky wrote in 2015, “who would have to find alternatives for the island’s roughly 10,000 overwhelmingly male, African-American and Latino inmates. This may not be as hard as it might seem, though it would probably involve some new or expanded detention facilities in the boroughs, risking not-in-my-backyard blowback.”</p> <p>

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note: this article has been updated in several places to include information from Friday's press conference and clarify several points.</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/16796625845_570564e71e_z.jpg" alt="de Blasio Rikers" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>De Blasio at Rikers (photo: Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Friday that he is putting into motion a planning process to close the jails on Rikers Island. The mayor, a first-term Democrat up for re-election this fall, was pulled somewhat begrudgingly to the politically- and fiscally-tenuous position by City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who called for Rikers to be closed in her 2016 State of the City speech and formed a commission to create a plan to do so. That commission, led by former Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, is set to release its recommendations at a news conference on Sunday.</p> <p>"New York City will close the Rikers Island jail complex," de Blasio said Friday at the outset of a press conference at City Hall, which he held with Mark-Viverito and his criminal justice coordinator, Liz Glazer, and Correction Commissioner Joe Ponte.</p> <p>After news reports about the Lippman Commission plan and support for it surfaced Thursday evening in <a href="http://nypost.com/2017/03/30/plan-to-shut-down-rikers-island-revealed/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">The New York Post</a> and <a href="http://www.politico.com/states/new-york/city-hall/story/2017/03/city-to-announce-10-year-plan-to-shutter-rikers-110898" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Politico New York</a>, the mayor decided to hold the Friday press conference. De Blasio and Mark-Viverito both said they had not yet seen the Lippman report, though a reporter from The New York Times was shown a copy, indicating that the&nbsp;mayor and speaker will explore the broad contours of <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/31/nyregion/mayor-de-blasio-is-said-to-back-plan-to-close-jails-on-rikers-island.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a 10-year, $10-plus billion plan</a>. As de Blasio said Friday, the city will consider the Lippman Commission plan, but then formulate its own, which will involve continuing efforts to reduce the city’s jails population, which has been decreasing over decades and is currently about 9,300 (three-quarters, or 7,500, of whom are on Rikers) and expanding and creating local jails. The latter is likely to cause a good deal of political turmoil in the city.</p> <p>The mayor and speaker have not decided how many facilities they will seek to open, or what they will do with the city's jails that are not on Rikers, which are home to about 2,400 beds. The mayor said that for the plan to come to fruition over ten years, the total city jail population will need to be around 5,000 and at least two local communities will have to be open to new facilities.</p> <p>De Blasio, who originally called closing down Rikers jails a “noble idea” but virtually implausible, was privately frustrated by the speaker forcing the issue onto his agenda last year. He came around as the plan was being finalized by the commission, and also after a loud, persistent, and well-organized “Close Rikers” coalition had been protesting outside his re-election fundraisers, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/city/130-opinion/6543-why-we-re-marching-to-close-rikers" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">publishing op-eds</a>, and accruing support.</p> <p>On Friday, de Blasio indicated that not only had he needed time to see more of where crime and the jail population in the city were heading during his ongoing tenure, but that Mark-Viverito had been especially persistent.&nbsp;"The Speaker did something extraordinarily important here by looking constantly for a new solution and pushing hard for a path that would get us to this day. And I will be clear, there were many times I could not see that path – and many attempts we made to find a path off of Rikers Island that we did not find effective – but the Speaker kept not only pushing, but offering more and more ideas and more alternatives to help us get there. Her work has been crucial in bringing us to this day."</p> <p>"[T]he Speaker raised this issue with me – and I have to say – dozens of times over the last few years," de Blasio said during a question-and-answer session with reporters. "We had to do a lot of work to figure out a path that actually could achieve this goal. And my feeling in the beginning was – if I didn’t believe it could be done, I wasn’t going to say it could be done."</p> <p>The mayor’s decision to back a Rikers closure plan also comes after many years of terrible conditions at the jails on the island, recently cemented in the public discourse throughout 2014, including from the tragic <a href="http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/10/06/before-the-law" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">story of Kalief Browder</a>, who was tormented during his jail stay and <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/09/nyregion/kalief-browder-held-at-rikers-island-for-3-years-without-trial-commits-suicide.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">later killed himself</a>, while no charges were ever brought against him.</p> <p>There were also in-depth investigative reports of horrific conditions on the island, particularly <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/14/nyregion/rikers-study-finds-prisoners-injured-by-employees.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">by The New York Times</a>, including details of violence in all directions involving guards and inmates, and a lawsuit <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/19/nyregion/us-plans-to-sue-new-york-over-rikers-island-conditions.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">brought against</a> the city by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York over civil rights violations. De Blasio has indicated that before becoming mayor he did not have a full grasp on how bad things were on Rikers and he has moved a number of reforms on the island, which he has also was long-ignored by his predecessors.</p> <p>There have been calls to shut down the Rikers facilities for years, including by Neil Barsky, who, in <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/19/opinion/shut-down-rikers-island.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a 2015 New York Times op-ed</a>, argued that “the only way to transform Rikers is to destroy it; it needs to be permanently closed. The buildings are crumbling. The guard culture of prisoner abuse and the gang culture of violence are ingrained. The complex is New York’s Guantánamo Bay: a secluded island, beyond the gaze of watchdogs, where the Constitution is no guide. It is a place that has outlived its usefulness.”</p> <p>Over time, elected officials like <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/government/5998-stringer-joins-calls-to-shut-down-rikers" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Comptroller Scott Stringer</a>, in late 2015,&nbsp;and City Council Member Dan Garodnick, last week, joined calls for Rikers closure; even Governor Andrew Cuomo began to voice the opinion in recent weeks. The "Close Rikers" campaign, which has many coalition members, has been gaining steam in part based on the strategy and force of the activists involved, led by JustLeadershipUSA's Glenn Martin, who was incarcerated at Rikers and has become a leading national voice on criminal justice reform. He has led protests outside de Blasio fundraising events, which have gotten the mayor's attention.</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/mmv_bdb_rikers.jpg" alt="mmv bdb rikers" width="300" height="200" style="margin-right: 10px; float: left;" />For weeks de Blasio has been saying that he would have more to announce about the future of the city’s jails around the time of his executive budget plan, which is due in May. But, the timeline was sped up.</p> <p>In her 2016 State of the City speech, Mark-Viverito <a href="http://council.nyc.gov/press/2016/02/11/46/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">said</a>, “Our current Rikers-centric system has been plagued by a culture of violence requiring federal oversight. It is also wildly inefficient.” In announcing the Lippman commission, she concluded, “We must explore how we can get the population of Rikers to be so small that the dream of shutting it down becomes a reality.”</p> <p>De Blasio’s initial public reaction was tepid. On WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show just after Mark-Viverito’s speech, de Blasio called Rikers closure is “a noble idea” and said, “we’re going to work with Judge Lippman...to see what’s possible.” While stressing that no matter what the city must continue improving conditions at Rikers in the short-term, de Blasio said of closure, “any proposal like that would take many years to be achieved.” He promised to “look at every alternative going forward. I have to remind people, it could well cost many billions of dollars and we have to prove that we have the money but we’ll certainly work with the Speaker and Judge Lippman.”</p> <p>Earlier this week, de Blasio announced a new set of education and job-training programs to help those detained at the city’s jails, including a guaranteed temporary job for everyone who has completed a sentence at a city jail. Most of the population at Rikers are pretrial detainees, often those who cannot afford bail, which was the case for Browder. De Blasio and others have been <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6658-much-agreement-on-need-for-bail-reform-but-little-movement" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">working on bail reform</a>, as well as other efforts to reduce the jail population, which includes a City Council-led effort to move enforcement of many low-level, nonviolent offenses from criminal to civil proceedings.</p> <p>When making his reentry program announcement on Wednesday, de Blasio highlighted that the city’s jail population is down 18% since he took office, bolstered by a 23% drop on Rikers Island. Still, the complex has been plagued by violence and is notoriously dangerous, expensive, and antiquated.</p> <p>De Blasio repeatedly stressed on Friday that it will be a long-term plan that could be adjusted. He said a lot will ride on the City Council and the land use process in which individual Council members hold a lot of sway over whether a new facility comes to their district. Mark-Viverito, who is term-limited out of office at the end of this year, promised to fight for the plan into the future. A lot will ride on her successor as Council Speaker, as well as individual members being willing to explore siting a jail facility in their neighborhoods.</p> <p>“Shuttering Rikers would be an audacious move for Mr. de Blasio,” Barsky wrote in 2015, “who would have to find alternatives for the island’s roughly 10,000 overwhelmingly male, African-American and Latino inmates. This may not be as hard as it might seem, though it would probably involve some new or expanded detention facilities in the boroughs, risking not-in-my-backyard blowback.”</p> <p>

***
by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note: this article has been updated in several places to include information from Friday's press conference and clarify several points.</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>

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

</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>

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

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

***
by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

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

***
by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Leading the Way on Ending Punitive Segregation 2016-10-11T04:00:00+00:00 2016-10-11T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6566:leading-the-way-on-ending-punitive-segregation Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2016/29104859470_e77b7342a2_z.jpg" alt="Ponte Rikers de Blasio" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>Commissioner Ponte, the author, &amp; Mayor de Blasio (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Today, the New York City Department of Correction formally ended the practice of punitive segregation for young adults ages 19 through 21 years old, resulting in the complete elimination of punitive segregation, which some call solitary confinement, for inmates ages 16 through 21 in our custody. This is an unprecedented milestone in New York State correctional history and, even more important, across the nation. To date, no other city or state has accomplished comparable punitive-segregation reforms for the 19-21 year-old age group.</p> <p>As Commissioner of the NYC Department of Correction, I understand this has not been easy, and something that has required us to methodically implement, test, and refine options that ensure the safety of our staff and inmates. However, I am extremely proud of what our uniform and non-uniform staff have accomplished by reforming our punitive-segregation practices and policies.</p> <p>When I became Commissioner in April 2014, there were almost 600 people in punitive segregation and a backlog of over 1,700 people. And violence in our jails was on the rise. On October 6, we had 124 inmates in all forms of punitive housing -- a reduction of nearly 80% over two years. We accomplished this by creating non-punitive, incentive-based alternatives to safely manage inmate behavior.</p> <p>And we have done all this while still reducing violence in our jails.</p> <p>We started our reforms even before the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District, Preet Bharara, issued a report in August 2014 that concluded that &ldquo;DOC relies far too heavily on punitive segregation as a disciplinary measure&rdquo; and before we negotiated the agreement in the federal lawsuit Nunez v. City of New York, which was approved by a judge in October 2015.</p> <p>Through a raft of initiatives, we fundamentally transformed the use of punitive segregation for all age groups.</p> <p>When we ended punitive segregation for adolescent inmates aged 16-17 in December 2014, and later, for 18-year-old inmates in June 2016, we created therapeutic alternatives to help them manage their behavior.</p> <p>For the adolescents, these comprise Second Chance Housing and Transitional Restorative Units (TRU), which feature higher staffing levels &ndash; one officer to five inmates in Second Chance and one to two or even one to one in TRU. The officers in these units receive training on youth brain development, crisis prevention and management, and trauma-informed care practices for adolescents.</p> <p>Inmates in these programs are afforded enhanced programming and counseling to better their life skills and job prospects and a behaviorally based incentive system enables them to earn privileges and commissary points.</p> <p>For young adults aged 18-21, we have also created Second Chance and TRU units, but we have added two levels of management.</p> <p>&ldquo;Secure Housing&rdquo; is designed to safely house young adults who are engaging in serious violence and assaultive behavior -- closely supervising them while providing individualized therapeutic programming for their behavioral needs.</p> <p>For persistently violent young adult offenders, such as those who have seriously assaulted staff or stabbed or slashed other inmates, we have created special young adult units of Enhanced Supervision Housing, where inmates spend seven structured hours daily out of cell. Similar to adolescents, they are provided a behaviorally based incentive system that enables them to earn more privileges and eventually move back into the general population.</p> <p>Using punitive segregation less means using it as a more targeted and meaningful tool.<br />Through rule-making with our partners at the Board of Correction, our oversight body, we have made punitive segregation more effective and fair.</p> <p>Inmates no longer serve any time that was accrued during a previous incarceration. A tiered system ensures that only serious, violent infractions earn full punitive-segregation time.<br />With few exceptions, we have capped the maximum sentence to 30 days and have limited the number of days one can spend in segregation to 60 days in any single six-month period.</p> <p>It&rsquo;s a significant accomplishment to have done this while continuing to push a downward trend in violence throughout the Department through comprehensive reform.</p> <p>In the first eight months of the year, from January to August, the most serious assaults on staff have dropped 40% compared to the same period last year. Overall assaults on staff dropped 17% in that period. Even one assault on our staff is one too many, so we have a lot of work to do, but the trend is moving in the right direction.</p> <p>These reforms also increase inmate safety. Uses of force by officers on inmates that result in serious injury dropped by 40% in the first eight months of the year, largely because of our de-escalation training.</p> <p>The bottom line is that, contrary to the assertions of some, you don&rsquo;t need overwhelming numbers of inmates in punitive segregation to make jails safer. Heavy use of segregation does not prevent violence or deter it, particularly in the younger age groups. In fact, it may make matters worse. The latest research on brain development shows that punitive segregation is inappropriate for individuals aged 21 and under.</p> <p>In New York, we are proud to have made history by ending punitive segregation for our youngest offenders and curtailing its overuse for all others &ndash; all while providing safer alternatives that support both staff and inmates.</p> <p>***<br />Joseph Ponte is New York City Correction Commissioner. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/CorrectionNYC" target="_blank">@CorrectionNYC</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/2016/29104859470_e77b7342a2_z.jpg" alt="Ponte Rikers de Blasio" width="600" height="399" /></p> <p>Commissioner Ponte, the author, &amp; Mayor de Blasio (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)</p> <hr /> <p>Today, the New York City Department of Correction formally ended the practice of punitive segregation for young adults ages 19 through 21 years old, resulting in the complete elimination of punitive segregation, which some call solitary confinement, for inmates ages 16 through 21 in our custody. This is an unprecedented milestone in New York State correctional history and, even more important, across the nation. To date, no other city or state has accomplished comparable punitive-segregation reforms for the 19-21 year-old age group.</p> <p>As Commissioner of the NYC Department of Correction, I understand this has not been easy, and something that has required us to methodically implement, test, and refine options that ensure the safety of our staff and inmates. However, I am extremely proud of what our uniform and non-uniform staff have accomplished by reforming our punitive-segregation practices and policies.</p> <p>When I became Commissioner in April 2014, there were almost 600 people in punitive segregation and a backlog of over 1,700 people. And violence in our jails was on the rise. On October 6, we had 124 inmates in all forms of punitive housing -- a reduction of nearly 80% over two years. We accomplished this by creating non-punitive, incentive-based alternatives to safely manage inmate behavior.</p> <p>And we have done all this while still reducing violence in our jails.</p> <p>We started our reforms even before the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District, Preet Bharara, issued a report in August 2014 that concluded that &ldquo;DOC relies far too heavily on punitive segregation as a disciplinary measure&rdquo; and before we negotiated the agreement in the federal lawsuit Nunez v. City of New York, which was approved by a judge in October 2015.</p> <p>Through a raft of initiatives, we fundamentally transformed the use of punitive segregation for all age groups.</p> <p>When we ended punitive segregation for adolescent inmates aged 16-17 in December 2014, and later, for 18-year-old inmates in June 2016, we created therapeutic alternatives to help them manage their behavior.</p> <p>For the adolescents, these comprise Second Chance Housing and Transitional Restorative Units (TRU), which feature higher staffing levels &ndash; one officer to five inmates in Second Chance and one to two or even one to one in TRU. The officers in these units receive training on youth brain development, crisis prevention and management, and trauma-informed care practices for adolescents.</p> <p>Inmates in these programs are afforded enhanced programming and counseling to better their life skills and job prospects and a behaviorally based incentive system enables them to earn privileges and commissary points.</p> <p>For young adults aged 18-21, we have also created Second Chance and TRU units, but we have added two levels of management.</p> <p>&ldquo;Secure Housing&rdquo; is designed to safely house young adults who are engaging in serious violence and assaultive behavior -- closely supervising them while providing individualized therapeutic programming for their behavioral needs.</p> <p>For persistently violent young adult offenders, such as those who have seriously assaulted staff or stabbed or slashed other inmates, we have created special young adult units of Enhanced Supervision Housing, where inmates spend seven structured hours daily out of cell. Similar to adolescents, they are provided a behaviorally based incentive system that enables them to earn more privileges and eventually move back into the general population.</p> <p>Using punitive segregation less means using it as a more targeted and meaningful tool.<br />Through rule-making with our partners at the Board of Correction, our oversight body, we have made punitive segregation more effective and fair.</p> <p>Inmates no longer serve any time that was accrued during a previous incarceration. A tiered system ensures that only serious, violent infractions earn full punitive-segregation time.<br />With few exceptions, we have capped the maximum sentence to 30 days and have limited the number of days one can spend in segregation to 60 days in any single six-month period.</p> <p>It&rsquo;s a significant accomplishment to have done this while continuing to push a downward trend in violence throughout the Department through comprehensive reform.</p> <p>In the first eight months of the year, from January to August, the most serious assaults on staff have dropped 40% compared to the same period last year. Overall assaults on staff dropped 17% in that period. Even one assault on our staff is one too many, so we have a lot of work to do, but the trend is moving in the right direction.</p> <p>These reforms also increase inmate safety. Uses of force by officers on inmates that result in serious injury dropped by 40% in the first eight months of the year, largely because of our de-escalation training.</p> <p>The bottom line is that, contrary to the assertions of some, you don&rsquo;t need overwhelming numbers of inmates in punitive segregation to make jails safer. Heavy use of segregation does not prevent violence or deter it, particularly in the younger age groups. In fact, it may make matters worse. The latest research on brain development shows that punitive segregation is inappropriate for individuals aged 21 and under.</p> <p>In New York, we are proud to have made history by ending punitive segregation for our youngest offenders and curtailing its overuse for all others &ndash; all while providing safer alternatives that support both staff and inmates.</p> <p>***<br />Joseph Ponte is New York City Correction Commissioner. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/CorrectionNYC" target="_blank">@CorrectionNYC</a>.</p> <p>

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

</p>
Why We’re Marching to Close Rikers 2016-09-22T04:00:00+00:00 2016-09-22T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6543:why-we-re-marching-to-close-rikers Ben Max <p dir="ltr"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/IMG_7419_1.jpg" alt="Martin Close Rikers" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Glenn Martin &amp; others rally to #CLOSErikers (via JustLeadershipUSA)</p> <hr /> <p dir="ltr">For years, New Yorkers have been barraged by stories of violence and corruption on Rikers Island. On Saturday, September 24, hundreds of New Yorkers -- including people who have spent time on Rikers Island and their families; criminal justice reform activists; faith leaders; and elected officials -- will march together and demand that Mayor de Blasio <a href="https://twitter.com/search?q=%23CLOSErikers&amp;src=tyah">#CLOSErikers</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">Led by JustLeadershipUSA, in partnership with the Katal Center for Health, Equity, and Justice, the <a href="http://www.closerikers.org/info/">growing campaign</a> has been endorsed by nearly 100 organizations representing a broad swath of New Yorkers. Saturday&rsquo;s march and rally mark a turning point in the effort to shut down what City Comptroller Scott Stringer has called &ldquo;an urban shame.&rdquo; This is a movement with momentum that cannot be ignored.</p> <p dir="ltr">By now, the reasons to shutter this jail once and for all are painfully obvious. The &ldquo;systematic culture of violence&rdquo; identified by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in his scathing 2014 <a href="https://www.justice.gov/sites/default/files/usao-sdny/legacy/2015/03/25/SDNY%20Rikers%20Report.pdf">report</a> continues unabated, contrary to the Mayor&rsquo;s blandishments that conditions are improving.</p> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/exclusive-rikers-island-bosses-cover-violence-stats-article-1.2768232">On Aug. 28</a>, the Daily News reported that its review of internal documents showed that Rikers Island higher-ups were routinely &ldquo;purging&rdquo; unfavorable violence statistics to create an &ldquo;illusion of reform.&rdquo; Every week the media reports new atrocities: rapes, beatings, knifings, suicides. This cannot go on. Rikers Island is a human grist mill and an ugly stain on our city&rsquo;s reputation for being progressive and compassionate. Rikers cannot be fixed; violence and corruption are embedded in its DNA.</p> <p dir="ltr">With all of these problems, who can oppose closing Rikers? Mayor de Blasio has contended that closing the facility is &ldquo;unrealistic&rdquo; and too costly. On Saturday speakers will point out that our current system is too costly: We are spending $208,500 a year to detain one person on Rikers Island. That is money that can be better spent on programs to help individuals and communities. Furthermore, 80 percent of the people detained on Rikers are pre-trial, and should be waiting at home until they have their day in court.</p> <p dir="ltr">Equally essential to closing Rikers is our demand to build communities. For decades, Rikers Island has meant tremendous suffering to our city&rsquo;s most vulnerable communities. Most detainees come from the city&rsquo;s poorest neighborhoods and 89 percent are black or Latino. More than 40 percent of the detainees have a diagnosed mental illness. Many others suffer from drug addiction. Confinement at Rikers only exacerbates these conditions. Spending months and even years in detention before trial because of the inability to raise bail money leads to the further impoverishment of families, including children. Claiming that ending a human rights disaster in our midst is &ldquo;unrealistic&rdquo; dishonors this great city.</p> <p dir="ltr">The only thing preventing us from figuring out how to do the right thing is a lack of political will. And the right thing includes investing in those neighborhoods that have been most seriously damaged.</p> <p dir="ltr">There have been efforts to close Rikers in the past &ndash; once during the Koch administration in the late 1970s and again under Mayor Bloomberg. Both efforts suffered from a lack of community involvement and support. Today, the #CLOSErikers campaign is building momentum with community support from across our city.</p> <p dir="ltr">For many of the people who are part of this campaign, who will be on the streets Saturday, this issue is deeply personal. We&rsquo;ve both been directly affected by experiencing the terrors of Rikers -- Glenn spent time on Rikers twice during the 1990s; Anna&rsquo;s son Jairo recently spent more than five years there waiting for trial. Most striking is that the horrors of Rikers Glenn experienced in the 1990s remain largely unchanged today.</p> <p dir="ltr">We are marching because we have had enough of the human carnage and want to spare future generations of New Yorkers from it. It is time to close Rikers and build communities.</p> <p dir="ltr">The <a href="https://www.facebook.com/events/1676807979310690/">march</a> will begin in Astoria at Steinway Street and 30th Avenue at 1 p.m. on Saturday, September 24. &nbsp;New Yorkers will march to a rally at the foot of the Rikers Island bridge at 19th Avenue and Hazen Street, where we&rsquo;ll call on Mayor de Blasio to take action and close Rikers. Speakers include Emily Althaus, actress in Orange Is The New Black, elected officials from the City Council and the state Legislature, and numerous community leaders who have been impacted by Rikers. <a href="http://www.closerikers.org/info">Join us</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">***<br />Glenn E. Martin is the Founder of <a href="https://www.justleadershipusa.org/">JustLeadershipUSA</a> (JLUSA), an organization dedicated to cutting the US correctional population in half by 2030, and a national criminal justice reform advocate who spent six years in New York prisons. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/glennEmartin">@glennEmartin</a>.</p> <p>Anna Pastoressa&rsquo;s son Jairo spent nearly six years at Rikers awaiting trial, suffering physical and emotional torment. She endured the indignities of visitation and the outrageous delays in the criminal justice system and is now a prison reform advocate.</p> <p>

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

</p>
<p dir="ltr"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/IMG_7419_1.jpg" alt="Martin Close Rikers" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Glenn Martin &amp; others rally to #CLOSErikers (via JustLeadershipUSA)</p> <hr /> <p dir="ltr">For years, New Yorkers have been barraged by stories of violence and corruption on Rikers Island. On Saturday, September 24, hundreds of New Yorkers -- including people who have spent time on Rikers Island and their families; criminal justice reform activists; faith leaders; and elected officials -- will march together and demand that Mayor de Blasio <a href="https://twitter.com/search?q=%23CLOSErikers&amp;src=tyah">#CLOSErikers</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">Led by JustLeadershipUSA, in partnership with the Katal Center for Health, Equity, and Justice, the <a href="http://www.closerikers.org/info/">growing campaign</a> has been endorsed by nearly 100 organizations representing a broad swath of New Yorkers. Saturday&rsquo;s march and rally mark a turning point in the effort to shut down what City Comptroller Scott Stringer has called &ldquo;an urban shame.&rdquo; This is a movement with momentum that cannot be ignored.</p> <p dir="ltr">By now, the reasons to shutter this jail once and for all are painfully obvious. The &ldquo;systematic culture of violence&rdquo; identified by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in his scathing 2014 <a href="https://www.justice.gov/sites/default/files/usao-sdny/legacy/2015/03/25/SDNY%20Rikers%20Report.pdf">report</a> continues unabated, contrary to the Mayor&rsquo;s blandishments that conditions are improving.</p> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/exclusive-rikers-island-bosses-cover-violence-stats-article-1.2768232">On Aug. 28</a>, the Daily News reported that its review of internal documents showed that Rikers Island higher-ups were routinely &ldquo;purging&rdquo; unfavorable violence statistics to create an &ldquo;illusion of reform.&rdquo; Every week the media reports new atrocities: rapes, beatings, knifings, suicides. This cannot go on. Rikers Island is a human grist mill and an ugly stain on our city&rsquo;s reputation for being progressive and compassionate. Rikers cannot be fixed; violence and corruption are embedded in its DNA.</p> <p dir="ltr">With all of these problems, who can oppose closing Rikers? Mayor de Blasio has contended that closing the facility is &ldquo;unrealistic&rdquo; and too costly. On Saturday speakers will point out that our current system is too costly: We are spending $208,500 a year to detain one person on Rikers Island. That is money that can be better spent on programs to help individuals and communities. Furthermore, 80 percent of the people detained on Rikers are pre-trial, and should be waiting at home until they have their day in court.</p> <p dir="ltr">Equally essential to closing Rikers is our demand to build communities. For decades, Rikers Island has meant tremendous suffering to our city&rsquo;s most vulnerable communities. Most detainees come from the city&rsquo;s poorest neighborhoods and 89 percent are black or Latino. More than 40 percent of the detainees have a diagnosed mental illness. Many others suffer from drug addiction. Confinement at Rikers only exacerbates these conditions. Spending months and even years in detention before trial because of the inability to raise bail money leads to the further impoverishment of families, including children. Claiming that ending a human rights disaster in our midst is &ldquo;unrealistic&rdquo; dishonors this great city.</p> <p dir="ltr">The only thing preventing us from figuring out how to do the right thing is a lack of political will. And the right thing includes investing in those neighborhoods that have been most seriously damaged.</p> <p dir="ltr">There have been efforts to close Rikers in the past &ndash; once during the Koch administration in the late 1970s and again under Mayor Bloomberg. Both efforts suffered from a lack of community involvement and support. Today, the #CLOSErikers campaign is building momentum with community support from across our city.</p> <p dir="ltr">For many of the people who are part of this campaign, who will be on the streets Saturday, this issue is deeply personal. We&rsquo;ve both been directly affected by experiencing the terrors of Rikers -- Glenn spent time on Rikers twice during the 1990s; Anna&rsquo;s son Jairo recently spent more than five years there waiting for trial. Most striking is that the horrors of Rikers Glenn experienced in the 1990s remain largely unchanged today.</p> <p dir="ltr">We are marching because we have had enough of the human carnage and want to spare future generations of New Yorkers from it. It is time to close Rikers and build communities.</p> <p dir="ltr">The <a href="https://www.facebook.com/events/1676807979310690/">march</a> will begin in Astoria at Steinway Street and 30th Avenue at 1 p.m. on Saturday, September 24. &nbsp;New Yorkers will march to a rally at the foot of the Rikers Island bridge at 19th Avenue and Hazen Street, where we&rsquo;ll call on Mayor de Blasio to take action and close Rikers. Speakers include Emily Althaus, actress in Orange Is The New Black, elected officials from the City Council and the state Legislature, and numerous community leaders who have been impacted by Rikers. <a href="http://www.closerikers.org/info">Join us</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">***<br />Glenn E. Martin is the Founder of <a href="https://www.justleadershipusa.org/">JustLeadershipUSA</a> (JLUSA), an organization dedicated to cutting the US correctional population in half by 2030, and a national criminal justice reform advocate who spent six years in New York prisons. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/glennEmartin">@glennEmartin</a>.</p> <p>Anna Pastoressa&rsquo;s son Jairo spent nearly six years at Rikers awaiting trial, suffering physical and emotional torment. She endured the indignities of visitation and the outrageous delays in the criminal justice system and is now a prison reform advocate.</p> <p>

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

</p>
Key to Vision of Closing Rikers, City Council Bail Fund Moves Through State Process 2016-03-03T21:28:32+00:00 2016-03-03T21:28:32+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6206:key-to-vision-of-closing-rikers-city-council-bail-fund-moves-through-state-process kfan <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2016/24339210493_21fa58928c_z.jpg" alt="MMV SOTC bail fund story" height="393" width="600" /></p> <p>Mark-Viverito delivers her State of the City (photo: William Alatriste)</p> <hr /> <p>Last year, New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito unveiled <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5588-bronx-program-serves-as-inspiration-for-mark-viveritos-city-wide-bail-fund-proposal" target="_blank">her plan</a> for a fund that would cover bail for poor individuals charged with low-level criminal offenses who would otherwise be forced to wait in a city jail for their court date. The Council dedicated $1.4 million of budget funds to back the project, which is nearing launch.</p> <p>The program, if successful, could not only keep hundreds of individuals from staying in jail because they can't afford bail, but also lead to the expansion of state law that oversees and licenses bail funds, allowing for more criminal charges to be covered and higher bails paid.</p> <p>The Council bail fund is going through a fairly lengthy process to get up and running, with no clear start date more than a year after the initiative was announced. Mark-Viverito recently said she expects it to be functional in the coming months, but that the bureaucratic process of getting licensed by state overseers takes time. The fund has just been approved as a not-for-profit charity by the state attorney general's office, the second in four key steps. A heightened sense of urgency around the bail plan has emerged after Mark-Viverito <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6164-mark-viverito-doubles-down-on-criminal-justice-reform-in-state-of-the-city" target="_blank">announced this year</a> that she hopes it will be a key element of actualizing "the dream" of closing Rikers Island jails.&nbsp;</p> <p>About 10,000 people are currently held in Rikers Island and other city jails, most awaiting a court appearance after being arrested for a low-level, non-violent offense. Some have been in jail for weeks or months because they can't afford bail and the criminal justice system moves at a snail's pace. It is a situation that many, including Mark-Viverito, have decried with increasing intensity over the past two years.</p> <p>"We need to take a comprehensive approach to criminal justice reform that ensures a fairer system, improves police community relations, and addresses the fact that far too many of our young people – mostly low-income black and Latino males – are locked up at Rikers," Mark-Viverito said during her 2015 State of the City address.</p> <p>She continued: "For instance, if you are accused of jumping a turnstile or committing other minor offenses in New York City, you may be locked up. And if you can't afford bail you will spend on average 15 days in jail. The results are predictable: people lose their jobs, or their housing, and cannot take care of their children while they are in custody. These are people who are accused of minor offenses and are still considered innocent in the eyes of the law. This is not justice."</p> <p>During this year's State of the City address, on Feb. 11, the speaker said that she wants to see "the population of Rikers to be so small that the dream of shutting it down becomes a reality." She announced a new criminal justice commission, led by former Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, that will make recommendations for how to improve the criminal justice system.</p> <p>Last week while discussing her belief that Rikers Island should eventually be closed, Mark-Viverito cited her bail fund as something that will reduce the population over time. Asked when she expected the bail fund to start, Mark-Viverito said she is waiting to be licensed by the state.</p> <p>"We're waiting for the state, unfortunately, there's some state authorizations you need...some sort of licensure is needed," Mark-Viverito told reporters. "We needed, initially, a federal authorization, we've received that, we're waiting for the state, once that's done, we're ready to roll out. It's just we can't...without that authorization. So hopefully within the next months. It's just a normal process, obviously we are on top of it, but it's a normal process, it's bureaucratic."</p> <p>In follow-up conversation with Gotham Gazette, representatives of Mark-Viverito's office stressed the process is going well, is not an undue burden, and that the hope is to launch the program in a few months. The office said the process to incorporate the program began officially in July 2015. The first step involved registering as a non-profit on the federal level; the second, attorney general approval as a charity. With that second step complete, the application will go to the state Department of Financial Services, which licenses charitable bail funds.</p> <p>As approved by the AG, the fund shows "Initial directors" George McDonald, of The Doe Fund and David Howard, and Alphonso Wyatt, who were previously associated with the the fund. According to its bylaws, "The sole member of the Corporation shall be The Doe&nbsp;Fund, Inc., a New York not-for-profit corporation." McDonald is the founder and CEO of <a href="http://www.doe.org/" target="_blank">The Doe Fund</a>, which has worked for decades to employ, house, and train homeless New Yorkers to help them stabilize their lives.</p> <p>According to the filing, "the purpose" of the new organization will be "to assist indigent defendents charged with low-level crimes avoid the experience, complications and related hardships of pretrial detention caused by their inability to afford bail." Once it becomes a bail fund, it will "provide bail assistance" and "research, analyze and document the effectiveness and social impact of" its activities.</p> <p>Before 2012 Mark-Viverito's bail fund wouldn't have needed state approval because charitable bail funds operated in a legal gray area. That year, Bronx state Senator Gustavo Rivera successfully advocated for a state law to oversee bail funds after a judge ordered an organization in his district to stop covering bail.</p> <p>Now, as bail funds grow in popularity, Rivera said he is working with the state Department of Financial Services to smooth the application process and guide smaller groups that are interested in opening funds. Rivera said that as the evidence of the efficacy of such programs grows he hopes to expand the law that now only covers misdemeanor offenses and has a cap of $2,000 bail.</p> <p>Rivera was approached by the Bronx Defenders (a nonprofit legal defense group) in 2010 shortly after he defeated disgraced then-Sen. Pedro Espada for his seat. When the bill passed in 2012, the Bronx Freedom Fund became the state's first licensed charitable bail fund.</p> <p>Since then the group has shown promising results, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5588-bronx-program-serves-as-inspiration-for-mark-viveritos-city-wide-bail-fund-proposal" target="_blank">which Mark-Viverito and others have noticed</a>. It released a study last year showing that 97 percent of its clients returned to all their court appearances - some to more than 15 dates in a row. The group says that 27 times its bail money was returned even before the conclusion of a case. Out of 188 cases, 62 percent ended in a dismissal of all charges, 22 percent in a violation that carries no record, and 12 percent with a misdemeanor plea and no jail time.</p> <p>The fund has $100,000 to pay bail and it is periodically replenished when their clients fulfill their court obligations. Individuals are interviewed by the fund to determine their eligibility. Alyssa Work, former director of the Freedom Fund, told Gotham Gazette last year that the application process involved a defendant filling out a form, and her checking to see if they have family and community ties or steady employment. She also would evaluate their criminal record.</p> <p>Rivera has held a two roundtables on bail funds and has heard some concerns from interested groups. "We've been tweaking the paperwork you have to go through to get people licensed as bondsmen," said Rivera. "We've been discussing having the application fee waived for certain smaller organizations that aren't flush with cash, some folks have found it difficult to find someone at [Department of Financial Services] to answer questions. But the most important thing is that we've been working with DFS on this all along and they've been very helpful."</p> <p>Organizations wishing to start a bail fund have to complete four major steps: register as a non-profit under federal tax laws; register as a charity under New York State law through the AG's office; obtain a charitable bail license from the state DFS; and, finally, obtain an individual bail bond license from DFS.</p> <p>Mark-Viverito's office is now on to the third step.</p> <p>Obtaining a charitable bail organization license from DFS requires a detailed <a href="http://www.dfs.ny.gov/insurance/licensing/applications/cb_org.pdf" target="_blank">application</a>, a fee of $1,000, and the fingerprinting of all officers, directors, trustees, and executive personnel.</p> <p>Rivera said that while he intends to keep working with DFS on the application process, he does "hope to eventually introduce legislation that expands the legal parameters of bail funds." Rivera continued, "Right now the cap on bail is $2,000, we might want to move that. There is a small list of offenses currently covered and we may want to expand that list. We know we are helping people whose only crime is being poor, who can't afford bail, allowing them to be able to fight for their freedom, when they otherwise might be sitting in Rikers or somewhere else."</p> <p>In a statement to Gotham Gazette, Mark-Viverito said, "New York City is proud to lead the way in reforming a broken bail system that unjustly subjected our young people of color to senseless violence and abuse. By approaching this issue thoughtfully and deliberatively, we hope that our proposal for a citywide bail fund can serve as a model for other cities and municipalities seeking to change the way poverty and the criminal justice system intersect."</p> <p>Like Mark-Viverito, Sen. Rivera supports closing Rikers. Mayor Bill de Blasio called the idea&nbsp;"noble," but has said he doubts it is achievable. "My job is to level with the people of New York City," de Blasio recently told reporters. "This would cost billions and billions of dollars, be logistically very difficult, and we don't have the space right now."</p> <p>De Blasio has, however, also focused on bail reform, calling the current system unfair, with a burden that keeps the poor in jail for crimes they haven't been tried for, much less convicted of.</p> <p>De Blasio has a supervised release program scheduled to begin March 1. Funded by asset forfeiture funds from the Manhattan District Attorney's Office and the City Tax Levy, the program will provide judges with the option of sending those charged with misdemeanors or nonviolent felonies to supervised release programs overseen by agencies run in each of the five boroughs, rather than setting bail. The plan is expected to eventually serve 3,000 defendants.</p> <p>"There is a very real human cost to how our criminal justice system treats people while they wait for trial," de Blasio said <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/471-15/mayor-de-blasio-17-8-million-reduce-unnecessary-jail-time-people-waiting-trial" target="_blank">in a July statement</a> announcing the program. "Money bail is a problem because – as the system currently operates in New York – some people are being detained based on the size of their bank account, not the risk they pose. This is unacceptable. If people can be safely supervised in the community, they should be allowed to remain there regardless of their ability to pay."</p> <p>

***
by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2016/24339210493_21fa58928c_z.jpg" alt="MMV SOTC bail fund story" height="393" width="600" /></p> <p>Mark-Viverito delivers her State of the City (photo: William Alatriste)</p> <hr /> <p>Last year, New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito unveiled <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5588-bronx-program-serves-as-inspiration-for-mark-viveritos-city-wide-bail-fund-proposal" target="_blank">her plan</a> for a fund that would cover bail for poor individuals charged with low-level criminal offenses who would otherwise be forced to wait in a city jail for their court date. The Council dedicated $1.4 million of budget funds to back the project, which is nearing launch.</p> <p>The program, if successful, could not only keep hundreds of individuals from staying in jail because they can't afford bail, but also lead to the expansion of state law that oversees and licenses bail funds, allowing for more criminal charges to be covered and higher bails paid.</p> <p>The Council bail fund is going through a fairly lengthy process to get up and running, with no clear start date more than a year after the initiative was announced. Mark-Viverito recently said she expects it to be functional in the coming months, but that the bureaucratic process of getting licensed by state overseers takes time. The fund has just been approved as a not-for-profit charity by the state attorney general's office, the second in four key steps. A heightened sense of urgency around the bail plan has emerged after Mark-Viverito <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6164-mark-viverito-doubles-down-on-criminal-justice-reform-in-state-of-the-city" target="_blank">announced this year</a> that she hopes it will be a key element of actualizing "the dream" of closing Rikers Island jails.&nbsp;</p> <p>About 10,000 people are currently held in Rikers Island and other city jails, most awaiting a court appearance after being arrested for a low-level, non-violent offense. Some have been in jail for weeks or months because they can't afford bail and the criminal justice system moves at a snail's pace. It is a situation that many, including Mark-Viverito, have decried with increasing intensity over the past two years.</p> <p>"We need to take a comprehensive approach to criminal justice reform that ensures a fairer system, improves police community relations, and addresses the fact that far too many of our young people – mostly low-income black and Latino males – are locked up at Rikers," Mark-Viverito said during her 2015 State of the City address.</p> <p>She continued: "For instance, if you are accused of jumping a turnstile or committing other minor offenses in New York City, you may be locked up. And if you can't afford bail you will spend on average 15 days in jail. The results are predictable: people lose their jobs, or their housing, and cannot take care of their children while they are in custody. These are people who are accused of minor offenses and are still considered innocent in the eyes of the law. This is not justice."</p> <p>During this year's State of the City address, on Feb. 11, the speaker said that she wants to see "the population of Rikers to be so small that the dream of shutting it down becomes a reality." She announced a new criminal justice commission, led by former Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, that will make recommendations for how to improve the criminal justice system.</p> <p>Last week while discussing her belief that Rikers Island should eventually be closed, Mark-Viverito cited her bail fund as something that will reduce the population over time. Asked when she expected the bail fund to start, Mark-Viverito said she is waiting to be licensed by the state.</p> <p>"We're waiting for the state, unfortunately, there's some state authorizations you need...some sort of licensure is needed," Mark-Viverito told reporters. "We needed, initially, a federal authorization, we've received that, we're waiting for the state, once that's done, we're ready to roll out. It's just we can't...without that authorization. So hopefully within the next months. It's just a normal process, obviously we are on top of it, but it's a normal process, it's bureaucratic."</p> <p>In follow-up conversation with Gotham Gazette, representatives of Mark-Viverito's office stressed the process is going well, is not an undue burden, and that the hope is to launch the program in a few months. The office said the process to incorporate the program began officially in July 2015. The first step involved registering as a non-profit on the federal level; the second, attorney general approval as a charity. With that second step complete, the application will go to the state Department of Financial Services, which licenses charitable bail funds.</p> <p>As approved by the AG, the fund shows "Initial directors" George McDonald, of The Doe Fund and David Howard, and Alphonso Wyatt, who were previously associated with the the fund. According to its bylaws, "The sole member of the Corporation shall be The Doe&nbsp;Fund, Inc., a New York not-for-profit corporation." McDonald is the founder and CEO of <a href="http://www.doe.org/" target="_blank">The Doe Fund</a>, which has worked for decades to employ, house, and train homeless New Yorkers to help them stabilize their lives.</p> <p>According to the filing, "the purpose" of the new organization will be "to assist indigent defendents charged with low-level crimes avoid the experience, complications and related hardships of pretrial detention caused by their inability to afford bail." Once it becomes a bail fund, it will "provide bail assistance" and "research, analyze and document the effectiveness and social impact of" its activities.</p> <p>Before 2012 Mark-Viverito's bail fund wouldn't have needed state approval because charitable bail funds operated in a legal gray area. That year, Bronx state Senator Gustavo Rivera successfully advocated for a state law to oversee bail funds after a judge ordered an organization in his district to stop covering bail.</p> <p>Now, as bail funds grow in popularity, Rivera said he is working with the state Department of Financial Services to smooth the application process and guide smaller groups that are interested in opening funds. Rivera said that as the evidence of the efficacy of such programs grows he hopes to expand the law that now only covers misdemeanor offenses and has a cap of $2,000 bail.</p> <p>Rivera was approached by the Bronx Defenders (a nonprofit legal defense group) in 2010 shortly after he defeated disgraced then-Sen. Pedro Espada for his seat. When the bill passed in 2012, the Bronx Freedom Fund became the state's first licensed charitable bail fund.</p> <p>Since then the group has shown promising results, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5588-bronx-program-serves-as-inspiration-for-mark-viveritos-city-wide-bail-fund-proposal" target="_blank">which Mark-Viverito and others have noticed</a>. It released a study last year showing that 97 percent of its clients returned to all their court appearances - some to more than 15 dates in a row. The group says that 27 times its bail money was returned even before the conclusion of a case. Out of 188 cases, 62 percent ended in a dismissal of all charges, 22 percent in a violation that carries no record, and 12 percent with a misdemeanor plea and no jail time.</p> <p>The fund has $100,000 to pay bail and it is periodically replenished when their clients fulfill their court obligations. Individuals are interviewed by the fund to determine their eligibility. Alyssa Work, former director of the Freedom Fund, told Gotham Gazette last year that the application process involved a defendant filling out a form, and her checking to see if they have family and community ties or steady employment. She also would evaluate their criminal record.</p> <p>Rivera has held a two roundtables on bail funds and has heard some concerns from interested groups. "We've been tweaking the paperwork you have to go through to get people licensed as bondsmen," said Rivera. "We've been discussing having the application fee waived for certain smaller organizations that aren't flush with cash, some folks have found it difficult to find someone at [Department of Financial Services] to answer questions. But the most important thing is that we've been working with DFS on this all along and they've been very helpful."</p> <p>Organizations wishing to start a bail fund have to complete four major steps: register as a non-profit under federal tax laws; register as a charity under New York State law through the AG's office; obtain a charitable bail license from the state DFS; and, finally, obtain an individual bail bond license from DFS.</p> <p>Mark-Viverito's office is now on to the third step.</p> <p>Obtaining a charitable bail organization license from DFS requires a detailed <a href="http://www.dfs.ny.gov/insurance/licensing/applications/cb_org.pdf" target="_blank">application</a>, a fee of $1,000, and the fingerprinting of all officers, directors, trustees, and executive personnel.</p> <p>Rivera said that while he intends to keep working with DFS on the application process, he does "hope to eventually introduce legislation that expands the legal parameters of bail funds." Rivera continued, "Right now the cap on bail is $2,000, we might want to move that. There is a small list of offenses currently covered and we may want to expand that list. We know we are helping people whose only crime is being poor, who can't afford bail, allowing them to be able to fight for their freedom, when they otherwise might be sitting in Rikers or somewhere else."</p> <p>In a statement to Gotham Gazette, Mark-Viverito said, "New York City is proud to lead the way in reforming a broken bail system that unjustly subjected our young people of color to senseless violence and abuse. By approaching this issue thoughtfully and deliberatively, we hope that our proposal for a citywide bail fund can serve as a model for other cities and municipalities seeking to change the way poverty and the criminal justice system intersect."</p> <p>Like Mark-Viverito, Sen. Rivera supports closing Rikers. Mayor Bill de Blasio called the idea&nbsp;"noble," but has said he doubts it is achievable. "My job is to level with the people of New York City," de Blasio recently told reporters. "This would cost billions and billions of dollars, be logistically very difficult, and we don't have the space right now."</p> <p>De Blasio has, however, also focused on bail reform, calling the current system unfair, with a burden that keeps the poor in jail for crimes they haven't been tried for, much less convicted of.</p> <p>De Blasio has a supervised release program scheduled to begin March 1. Funded by asset forfeiture funds from the Manhattan District Attorney's Office and the City Tax Levy, the program will provide judges with the option of sending those charged with misdemeanors or nonviolent felonies to supervised release programs overseen by agencies run in each of the five boroughs, rather than setting bail. The plan is expected to eventually serve 3,000 defendants.</p> <p>"There is a very real human cost to how our criminal justice system treats people while they wait for trial," de Blasio said <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/471-15/mayor-de-blasio-17-8-million-reduce-unnecessary-jail-time-people-waiting-trial" target="_blank">in a July statement</a> announcing the program. "Money bail is a problem because – as the system currently operates in New York – some people are being detained based on the size of their bank account, not the risk they pose. This is unacceptable. If people can be safely supervised in the community, they should be allowed to remain there regardless of their ability to pay."</p> <p>

***
by David King, Albany editor, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
The Week That Was in New York Politics, Feb. 29-March 4 2016-03-04T18:16:48+00:00 2016-03-04T18:16:48+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6207:the-week-that-was-in-new-york-politics-feb-29-march-4 Carmen Russo <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/week_in_review_bus_readers.jpg" alt="week in review bus readers" height="409" width="600" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;"><a href="http://blog.mcny.org/2012/04/24/a-ride-on-the-subway-in-1946-with-stanley-kubrick/" target="_blank">photo</a>: Stanley Kubrick via Museum of the City of New York</span></p> <hr /> <p>Gotham Gazette's Week in Review, Friday March 4, 2016</p> <p><strong>PHOTO OF THE WEEK:&nbsp;</strong>Mayor de Blasio and City Council Member Robert Cornegy Jr. visit Bed-Stuy businesses, <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/nyccouncil/25284947026/in/dateposted/" target="_blank">via William Alatriste</a>;</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/25284947026_3c5d88fe44_z.jpg" alt="bdb cornegy bed stuy" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" height="267" width="400" /></p> <p><strong>TOP FIVE STORIES OF THE WEEK:<br /></strong><strong>1. Budget Talks Begin:</strong> On Tuesday, the City Council held the <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6202-at-first-council-budget-hearing-concerns-over-city-savings-and-state-cuts">first</a> of many preliminary budget hearings. Two issues that came up time and again were concerns about cuts to city funding in Gov. <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6203-several-significant-questions-about-the-governors-budget">Cuomo’s budget proposal</a>, and whether the city is adequately <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6198-city-council-to-begin-public-examination-of-mayors-budget">saving for an economic downturn</a>. As hearings proceed this month, Council committees will hear from agency commissioners, leading to the Council’s official preliminary budget response, due by March 30. [Read: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6198-city-council-to-begin-public-examination-of-mayors-budget">City Council to Begin Public Examination of Mayor's Budget</a> &amp; <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6202-at-first-council-budget-hearing-concerns-over-city-savings-and-state-cuts">At First Council Budget Hearing, Concerns Over City Savings and State Cuts</a>]</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>2. Summons Shift:</strong> On Tuesday, Mayor de Blasio, NYPD Commissioner Bratton, and Manhattan District Attorney Vance <a href="http://manhattanda.org/node/5847/print">announced</a> a policing shift under which NYPD in Manhattan will issue summonses to individuals who commit low-level offenses like public consumption of alcohol, public urination, and various subway offenses, instead of arresting them. City officials hope the change will free up resources to prosecute more serious crimes and reduce the backlog of cases in Criminal Court. De Blasio said he expects to expand the effort to all five boroughs while some wondered why the move was being taken while the City Council considers legislation in a similar vein.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>3. Housing, Cuomo Criticism:</strong> During a City Council budget hearing on Thursday, city housing commissioner Vicki Been sharply criticized a proposal in Gov. Cuomo’s budget that would change how the state allocates housing bonds, calling it a “<a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/housing-commissioner-cuomo-budget-poison-pill-article-1.2552290">poison pill</a>” for affordable housing. Been added that 1,200 below-market-rate units in the city were <a href="http://politi.co/1TWt8o9">held up by Cuomo</a> at the end of last year. Been, budget watchdogs, the real estate industry, and contractors have <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6203-several-significant-questions-about-the-governors-budget">come out against</a> Cuomo’s proposal, warning that it could drive away funding and create gridlock. [Listen: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6183-max-a-murphy-on-housing">Max and Murphy on Housing</a>]</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>4. More on Rikers:</strong> <a href="http://cityandstateny.com/articles/politics/new-york-city/closing-rikers-won%E2%80%99t-solve-underlying-problems,-doi-commissioner-says.html">Discussions</a> about the feasibility of closing the city’s notorious jail complex, Rikers Island, <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/03/nyregion/closing-rikers-island-despite-rhetoric-intractable-obstacles-remain.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fnyregion&amp;action=click&amp;contentCollection=nyregion&amp;region=rank&amp;module=package&amp;version=highlights&amp;contentPlacement=6&amp;pgtype=sectionfront">continued this week</a>, with Comptroller Scott Stringer <a href="http://observer.com/2016/03/comptroller-claims-filed-against-city-at-rikers-island-up-27-percent/">calling</a> the 27 percent increase in the number of personal injury claims filed against the city for mistreatment in the city’s correctional facilities a “humanitarian crisis.” Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, meanwhile, hopes that her plan to <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6206-key-to-vision-of-closing-rikers-city-council-bail-fund-moves-through-state-process">reform the bail system</a> in the city, which is in the process of being implemented, will make it possible to close Rikers. [Read: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6206-key-to-vision-of-closing-rikers-city-council-bail-fund-moves-through-state-process">Key to Vision of Closing Rikers, City Council Bail Fund Moves Through State Process</a>]</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>5. State Budget Woes:</strong> Several <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6203-several-significant-questions-about-the-governors-budget">significant questions</a> about the governor’s budget proposal remain less than a month before the plan is set to be finalized, including around how major capital projects will be paid for, how the state will fund the MTA, and whether Cuomo will keep his pledge that his plan to shift millions in costs for CUNY and Medicaid “won’t cost New York City a penny.” [Read: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6203-several-significant-questions-about-the-governors-budget">Several Significant Questions About The Governor's Budget</a>]</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>THIS WEEK’S NUMBERS:</strong></p> <ul> <li dir="ltr"><strong>9%</strong> of all households in New York City, or nearly 280,000 units, have more than one person per room, the <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/01/nyregion/overcrowding-worsens-in-new-york-as-working-families-double-up.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fnyregion&amp;action=click&amp;contentCollection=nyregion&amp;region=rank&amp;module=package&amp;version=highlights&amp;contentPlacement=1&amp;pgtype=sectionfront">latest Census Bureau data</a> reveals, indicating that crowded living arrangements are increasingly common across the city.</li> <li dir="ltr"><strong>$86 million</strong> spent on lobbying in New York City last year, a new record; with lobbying receipts from one firm led by one of Mayor de Blasio’s friends and fundraisers totalling nearly $13 million alone, the <a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/lobbying-receipts-hit-86-million-in-new-york-1456874965">Wall Street Journal</a> reports.</li> <li dir="ltr"><strong>92</strong> New York City high schools will allow juniors to take the SAT free of charge during regular school hours, the first step in a plan to administer the test in all 438 high schools next year, the <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/02/nyregion/92-new-york-city-high-schools-to-give-no-fee-sat-on-wednesday.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fnyregion&amp;action=click&amp;contentCollection=nyregion&amp;region=rank&amp;module=package&amp;version=highlights&amp;contentPlacement=2&amp;pgtype=sectionfront">Times</a> reports.</li> <li dir="ltr"><strong>40%</strong> of students in New York City recommended for special-education services may not be getting them, a <a href="http://schools.nyc.gov/NR/rdonlyres/6035782C-F95D-4224-8372-F2B1F7E9A226/0/LocalLaw27of20152292016FINAL.pdf">report</a> from the Department of Education finds.</li> <li dir="ltr"><strong>2,846</strong> personal injury claims from city jails were filed during fiscal year 2015 - a 27% jump from the previous fiscal year, the <a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/number-of-injury-claims-at-nyc-jails-jumps-1456961855">Journal</a> reports.</li> <li dir="ltr"><strong>$13.1 million</strong> spent by the city to pay for settlements or judgments resulting from injury or deaths in city jails in fiscal year 2015 - a 66% increase from the previous fiscal year, <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/us-new-york-prison-idUSKCN0W42II">Reuters</a> reports.</li> <li dir="ltr"><strong>18%</strong> drop in the number of evictions in New York City from 2014 to 2015, down to 21,988, the lowest total since 2005, which the city attributes to more legal services and preventive efforts to keep New Yorkers from becoming homeless, the <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/01/nyregion/evictions-are-down-by-18-new-york-city-cites-increased-legal-services.html">Times</a> reports.</li> <li dir="ltr"><strong>180</strong> instances of improper searches of people’s homes by the police based on an investigation conducted by the CCRB of 1,762 complaints over five years, according to a <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/03/01/nyregion/report-on-home-entries-and-searches-by-the-police.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fnyregion">report</a> released by the CCRB.</li> <li dir="ltr"><strong>17</strong> affordable houses still vacant after a decade in a city-run affordable housing program, <a href="https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20160229/crown-heights/17-affordable-houses-still-vacant-after-decade-city-program-report-says">DNAinfo</a> reports.</li> <li dir="ltr"><strong>$4.8 billion</strong> over the next four years is how much Governor Cuomo's proposed budget would cost New York City, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6203-several-significant-questions-about-the-governors-budget">Gotham Gazette reports</a>.</li> </ul> <p dir="ltr"><strong>THE GLORY AND THE GOAT: </strong></p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>It was a good week for</strong> Assembly Member Keith Wright, whose prospects of winning the race to replace retiring Rep. Charles Rangel got a boost after state Senator Bill <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/city-hall/2016/02/8592180/wright-defends-housing-record-front-runner-perkins-drops-out?top-featured-1">Perkins dropped out</a> of the race and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie decided to <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/speaker-carl-heastie-backs-rep-keith-wright-congress-run-article-1.2551987">back Wright</a> in his run for Congress.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>It was a bad week for</strong> City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who has made the need to direct those who commit low-level, nonviolent offenses to a civil court system rather than jail a priority, yet was not included in a policy shift <a href="http://manhattanda.org/press-release/district-attorney-vance-commissioner-bratton-mayor-de-blasio-announce-new-structural-c">announced</a> by the Mayor, the NYPD, and the Manhattan District Attorney that will reduce arrests for low-level offenses.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>THE FLASH:<br />Around this time last year</strong>, on March 4, 2015, Mayor de Blasio announced that New York City will add <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/05/nyregion/new-york-to-add-two-muslim-holy-days-to-public-school-calendar.html">two Muslim holy days</a> to the public school calendar, becoming the country's first major metropolitan city to close public schools in observance of the two most sacred Muslim holy days.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Around this time last year</strong>, on March 2, 2015, the Department of Education lifted a <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/dept-education-ends-cell-phone-ban-nyc-schools-article-1.2134970">ban on cellphones</a> in New York City schools.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Around this time two years ago</strong>, on March 4, 2014, news broke that the city was expected to <a href="http://www.newsday.com/news/new-york/nyc-to-file-stop-and-frisk-settlement-soon-1.7286539">file a settlement</a> of stop-and-frisk lawsuits, not long after Mayor de Blasio had announced that the city would drop its appeal of a ruling that had found NYPD’s stop-and-frisk practices unconstitutional, and would agree to have a court monitor oversee reforms. Just this week, Mayor de Blasio, NYPD Commissioner Bratton, and Manhattan District Attorney Vance announced a new major policy shift in the way the NYPD in Manhattan will handle low-level offenses, building upon previous efforts to reduce the use of arrests for minor offenses.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Around this time 48 years ago</strong>, on March 1, 1968, the <a href="http://web.mta.info/nyct/facts/ffhist.htm">Metropolitan Transportation Authority</a> was created to oversee transportation operations in 12 counties.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Around this time 227 years ago</strong>, on March 4, 1789, after being established by the Constitution, Congress met for the <a href="http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/treasures_of_congress/text/page2_text.html">first time</a> at New York City’s Federal Hall.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>GOTHAM GAZETTE HIGHLIGHTS OF THE WEEK:</strong><br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6206-key-to-vision-of-closing-rikers-city-council-bail-fund-moves-through-state-process">Key to Vision of Closing Rikers, City Council Bail Fund Moves Through State Process</a>, by David Howard King</p> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6198-city-council-to-begin-public-examination-of-mayors-budget">City Council to Begin Public Examination of Mayor's Budget</a>, by Meg O’Connor and Samar Khurshid</p> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6203-several-significant-questions-about-the-governors-budget">Several Significant Questions About The Governor's Budget</a>, by David Howard King</p> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6202-at-first-council-budget-hearing-concerns-over-city-savings-and-state-cuts">At First Council Budget Hearing, Concerns Over City Savings and State Cuts</a>, by Samar Khurshid and Meg O’Connor</p> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6200-calls-for-more-transparency-and-oversight-in-department-of-education-contracting">Calls for More Transparency, Oversight in Department of Education Contracting</a>, by Samar Khurshid</p> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6201-housing-groups-defend-homelessness-report-after-pushback-from-cuomo-administration">Housing Groups Defend Homelessness Report After Pushback from Cuomo Administration</a>, by David Howard King</p> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6199-supporters-launch-renewed-push-to-pass-plastic-bag-bill-by-earth-day">Supporters Launch Renewed Push to Pass Plastic Bag Bill by Earth Day</a>, by Samar Khurshid</p> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/opinion/6197-ten-days-in-the-life-of-a-police-reform-advocate">Ten Days in the Life of a Police Reform Advocate</a>, by Bob Gangi (opinion)</p> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/opinion/6204-a-budget-for-immigrant-new-york">A Budget for Immigrant New York</a>, by Cristina Molina (opinion)</p> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/opinion/6205-will-the-democrats-fresh-entitlements-lift-poor-families">Will the Democrats' Fresh Entitlements Lift Poor Families?</a> by Bruce Fuller (opinion)</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>MORE FOR THE WEEKEND: </strong></p> <p dir="ltr">Each week, Gotham Gazette Executive Editor Ben Max and City Limits Executive Editor Jarrett Murphy discuss the latest on housing policy and politics in New York. Listen to the latest developments in affordable housing <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6183-max-a-murphy-on-housing">here</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">Mayor de Blasio appeared on <a href="http://www.cc.com/video-clips/d9yv6z/the-daily-show-with-trevor-noah-bill-de-blasio---on-new-york-city-s-rats--businesses-and-residents">The Daily Show</a> with Trevor Noah on Thursday, and spoke about the sharing economy, income inequality, the role of a mayor, and universal pre-k (<a href="http://www.cc.com/video-clips/71xiv6/the-daily-show-with-trevor-noah-exclusive---bill-de-blasio-extended-interview">extended interview</a>).</p> <p dir="ltr">Alyssa Katz from the Daily News and NY1 Political Director Bob Hardt join Alexis Grenell and Nick Powell to discuss the <a href="http://www.stitcher.com/podcast/city-state-twenty4">politics</a> surrounding New York City’s homeless crisis on this week’s NY Slant Podcast.</p> <p dir="ltr">Allison Sesso, executive director of the Human Services Council, Gordon Campbell from NYU’s Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, and Frederick Shack, executive director of Urban Pathways, appear on Inside City Hall to discuss the <a href="http://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/shows/2016/03/3/inside-city-hall-3-3-16.html">collapse</a> of the social services agency FEGS and the lessons for nonprofit organizations.</p> <p dir="ltr">Politico New York’s Sally Goldenberg takes an in-depth look at the city’s <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/real-estate/2016/02/8592189/senior-housing-crisis">senior housing crisis.</a></p> <p dir="ltr">Mayor de Blasio appeared on MSNBC's Morning Joe to discuss the <a href="http://on.msnbc.com/1oOY3XC">presidential primaries</a>.</p> <p><em>***<br />NOTE TO READERS: we hope you enjoy this new Gotham Gazette weekly feature - please share it if you do; on Twitter, use our handle&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a>.</em></p> <p><em>If you have feedback on this feature for us, you can email editor Ben Max:&nbsp;<a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com">bmax@gothamgazette.com</a></em></p> <p><em>Watch Sunday evening for our latest Week Ahead in New York Politics, which gives you a preview of key issues and events to be aware of for the week about to start. In the meantime, catch up on&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government" target="_blank">the latest original reporting from Gotham Gazette here</a>. And have a great weekend!</em></p> <p><em>***</em><br />by Meg O'Connor and Ben Max</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/week_in_review_bus_readers.jpg" alt="week in review bus readers" height="409" width="600" /></p> <p><span style="font-size: 10pt;"><a href="http://blog.mcny.org/2012/04/24/a-ride-on-the-subway-in-1946-with-stanley-kubrick/" target="_blank">photo</a>: Stanley Kubrick via Museum of the City of New York</span></p> <hr /> <p>Gotham Gazette's Week in Review, Friday March 4, 2016</p> <p><strong>PHOTO OF THE WEEK:&nbsp;</strong>Mayor de Blasio and City Council Member Robert Cornegy Jr. visit Bed-Stuy businesses, <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/nyccouncil/25284947026/in/dateposted/" target="_blank">via William Alatriste</a>;</p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/25284947026_3c5d88fe44_z.jpg" alt="bdb cornegy bed stuy" style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" height="267" width="400" /></p> <p><strong>TOP FIVE STORIES OF THE WEEK:<br /></strong><strong>1. Budget Talks Begin:</strong> On Tuesday, the City Council held the <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6202-at-first-council-budget-hearing-concerns-over-city-savings-and-state-cuts">first</a> of many preliminary budget hearings. Two issues that came up time and again were concerns about cuts to city funding in Gov. <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6203-several-significant-questions-about-the-governors-budget">Cuomo’s budget proposal</a>, and whether the city is adequately <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6198-city-council-to-begin-public-examination-of-mayors-budget">saving for an economic downturn</a>. As hearings proceed this month, Council committees will hear from agency commissioners, leading to the Council’s official preliminary budget response, due by March 30. [Read: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6198-city-council-to-begin-public-examination-of-mayors-budget">City Council to Begin Public Examination of Mayor's Budget</a> &amp; <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6202-at-first-council-budget-hearing-concerns-over-city-savings-and-state-cuts">At First Council Budget Hearing, Concerns Over City Savings and State Cuts</a>]</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>2. Summons Shift:</strong> On Tuesday, Mayor de Blasio, NYPD Commissioner Bratton, and Manhattan District Attorney Vance <a href="http://manhattanda.org/node/5847/print">announced</a> a policing shift under which NYPD in Manhattan will issue summonses to individuals who commit low-level offenses like public consumption of alcohol, public urination, and various subway offenses, instead of arresting them. City officials hope the change will free up resources to prosecute more serious crimes and reduce the backlog of cases in Criminal Court. De Blasio said he expects to expand the effort to all five boroughs while some wondered why the move was being taken while the City Council considers legislation in a similar vein.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>3. Housing, Cuomo Criticism:</strong> During a City Council budget hearing on Thursday, city housing commissioner Vicki Been sharply criticized a proposal in Gov. Cuomo’s budget that would change how the state allocates housing bonds, calling it a “<a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/housing-commissioner-cuomo-budget-poison-pill-article-1.2552290">poison pill</a>” for affordable housing. Been added that 1,200 below-market-rate units in the city were <a href="http://politi.co/1TWt8o9">held up by Cuomo</a> at the end of last year. Been, budget watchdogs, the real estate industry, and contractors have <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6203-several-significant-questions-about-the-governors-budget">come out against</a> Cuomo’s proposal, warning that it could drive away funding and create gridlock. [Listen: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6183-max-a-murphy-on-housing">Max and Murphy on Housing</a>]</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>4. More on Rikers:</strong> <a href="http://cityandstateny.com/articles/politics/new-york-city/closing-rikers-won%E2%80%99t-solve-underlying-problems,-doi-commissioner-says.html">Discussions</a> about the feasibility of closing the city’s notorious jail complex, Rikers Island, <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/03/nyregion/closing-rikers-island-despite-rhetoric-intractable-obstacles-remain.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fnyregion&amp;action=click&amp;contentCollection=nyregion&amp;region=rank&amp;module=package&amp;version=highlights&amp;contentPlacement=6&amp;pgtype=sectionfront">continued this week</a>, with Comptroller Scott Stringer <a href="http://observer.com/2016/03/comptroller-claims-filed-against-city-at-rikers-island-up-27-percent/">calling</a> the 27 percent increase in the number of personal injury claims filed against the city for mistreatment in the city’s correctional facilities a “humanitarian crisis.” Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, meanwhile, hopes that her plan to <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6206-key-to-vision-of-closing-rikers-city-council-bail-fund-moves-through-state-process">reform the bail system</a> in the city, which is in the process of being implemented, will make it possible to close Rikers. [Read: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6206-key-to-vision-of-closing-rikers-city-council-bail-fund-moves-through-state-process">Key to Vision of Closing Rikers, City Council Bail Fund Moves Through State Process</a>]</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>5. State Budget Woes:</strong> Several <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6203-several-significant-questions-about-the-governors-budget">significant questions</a> about the governor’s budget proposal remain less than a month before the plan is set to be finalized, including around how major capital projects will be paid for, how the state will fund the MTA, and whether Cuomo will keep his pledge that his plan to shift millions in costs for CUNY and Medicaid “won’t cost New York City a penny.” [Read: <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6203-several-significant-questions-about-the-governors-budget">Several Significant Questions About The Governor's Budget</a>]</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>THIS WEEK’S NUMBERS:</strong></p> <ul> <li dir="ltr"><strong>9%</strong> of all households in New York City, or nearly 280,000 units, have more than one person per room, the <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/01/nyregion/overcrowding-worsens-in-new-york-as-working-families-double-up.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fnyregion&amp;action=click&amp;contentCollection=nyregion&amp;region=rank&amp;module=package&amp;version=highlights&amp;contentPlacement=1&amp;pgtype=sectionfront">latest Census Bureau data</a> reveals, indicating that crowded living arrangements are increasingly common across the city.</li> <li dir="ltr"><strong>$86 million</strong> spent on lobbying in New York City last year, a new record; with lobbying receipts from one firm led by one of Mayor de Blasio’s friends and fundraisers totalling nearly $13 million alone, the <a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/lobbying-receipts-hit-86-million-in-new-york-1456874965">Wall Street Journal</a> reports.</li> <li dir="ltr"><strong>92</strong> New York City high schools will allow juniors to take the SAT free of charge during regular school hours, the first step in a plan to administer the test in all 438 high schools next year, the <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/02/nyregion/92-new-york-city-high-schools-to-give-no-fee-sat-on-wednesday.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fnyregion&amp;action=click&amp;contentCollection=nyregion&amp;region=rank&amp;module=package&amp;version=highlights&amp;contentPlacement=2&amp;pgtype=sectionfront">Times</a> reports.</li> <li dir="ltr"><strong>40%</strong> of students in New York City recommended for special-education services may not be getting them, a <a href="http://schools.nyc.gov/NR/rdonlyres/6035782C-F95D-4224-8372-F2B1F7E9A226/0/LocalLaw27of20152292016FINAL.pdf">report</a> from the Department of Education finds.</li> <li dir="ltr"><strong>2,846</strong> personal injury claims from city jails were filed during fiscal year 2015 - a 27% jump from the previous fiscal year, the <a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/number-of-injury-claims-at-nyc-jails-jumps-1456961855">Journal</a> reports.</li> <li dir="ltr"><strong>$13.1 million</strong> spent by the city to pay for settlements or judgments resulting from injury or deaths in city jails in fiscal year 2015 - a 66% increase from the previous fiscal year, <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/us-new-york-prison-idUSKCN0W42II">Reuters</a> reports.</li> <li dir="ltr"><strong>18%</strong> drop in the number of evictions in New York City from 2014 to 2015, down to 21,988, the lowest total since 2005, which the city attributes to more legal services and preventive efforts to keep New Yorkers from becoming homeless, the <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/01/nyregion/evictions-are-down-by-18-new-york-city-cites-increased-legal-services.html">Times</a> reports.</li> <li dir="ltr"><strong>180</strong> instances of improper searches of people’s homes by the police based on an investigation conducted by the CCRB of 1,762 complaints over five years, according to a <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/03/01/nyregion/report-on-home-entries-and-searches-by-the-police.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fnyregion">report</a> released by the CCRB.</li> <li dir="ltr"><strong>17</strong> affordable houses still vacant after a decade in a city-run affordable housing program, <a href="https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20160229/crown-heights/17-affordable-houses-still-vacant-after-decade-city-program-report-says">DNAinfo</a> reports.</li> <li dir="ltr"><strong>$4.8 billion</strong> over the next four years is how much Governor Cuomo's proposed budget would cost New York City, <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6203-several-significant-questions-about-the-governors-budget">Gotham Gazette reports</a>.</li> </ul> <p dir="ltr"><strong>THE GLORY AND THE GOAT: </strong></p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>It was a good week for</strong> Assembly Member Keith Wright, whose prospects of winning the race to replace retiring Rep. Charles Rangel got a boost after state Senator Bill <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/city-hall/2016/02/8592180/wright-defends-housing-record-front-runner-perkins-drops-out?top-featured-1">Perkins dropped out</a> of the race and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie decided to <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/speaker-carl-heastie-backs-rep-keith-wright-congress-run-article-1.2551987">back Wright</a> in his run for Congress.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>It was a bad week for</strong> City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who has made the need to direct those who commit low-level, nonviolent offenses to a civil court system rather than jail a priority, yet was not included in a policy shift <a href="http://manhattanda.org/press-release/district-attorney-vance-commissioner-bratton-mayor-de-blasio-announce-new-structural-c">announced</a> by the Mayor, the NYPD, and the Manhattan District Attorney that will reduce arrests for low-level offenses.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>THE FLASH:<br />Around this time last year</strong>, on March 4, 2015, Mayor de Blasio announced that New York City will add <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/05/nyregion/new-york-to-add-two-muslim-holy-days-to-public-school-calendar.html">two Muslim holy days</a> to the public school calendar, becoming the country's first major metropolitan city to close public schools in observance of the two most sacred Muslim holy days.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Around this time last year</strong>, on March 2, 2015, the Department of Education lifted a <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/dept-education-ends-cell-phone-ban-nyc-schools-article-1.2134970">ban on cellphones</a> in New York City schools.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Around this time two years ago</strong>, on March 4, 2014, news broke that the city was expected to <a href="http://www.newsday.com/news/new-york/nyc-to-file-stop-and-frisk-settlement-soon-1.7286539">file a settlement</a> of stop-and-frisk lawsuits, not long after Mayor de Blasio had announced that the city would drop its appeal of a ruling that had found NYPD’s stop-and-frisk practices unconstitutional, and would agree to have a court monitor oversee reforms. Just this week, Mayor de Blasio, NYPD Commissioner Bratton, and Manhattan District Attorney Vance announced a new major policy shift in the way the NYPD in Manhattan will handle low-level offenses, building upon previous efforts to reduce the use of arrests for minor offenses.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Around this time 48 years ago</strong>, on March 1, 1968, the <a href="http://web.mta.info/nyct/facts/ffhist.htm">Metropolitan Transportation Authority</a> was created to oversee transportation operations in 12 counties.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Around this time 227 years ago</strong>, on March 4, 1789, after being established by the Constitution, Congress met for the <a href="http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/treasures_of_congress/text/page2_text.html">first time</a> at New York City’s Federal Hall.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>GOTHAM GAZETTE HIGHLIGHTS OF THE WEEK:</strong><br /><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6206-key-to-vision-of-closing-rikers-city-council-bail-fund-moves-through-state-process">Key to Vision of Closing Rikers, City Council Bail Fund Moves Through State Process</a>, by David Howard King</p> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6198-city-council-to-begin-public-examination-of-mayors-budget">City Council to Begin Public Examination of Mayor's Budget</a>, by Meg O’Connor and Samar Khurshid</p> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6203-several-significant-questions-about-the-governors-budget">Several Significant Questions About The Governor's Budget</a>, by David Howard King</p> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6202-at-first-council-budget-hearing-concerns-over-city-savings-and-state-cuts">At First Council Budget Hearing, Concerns Over City Savings and State Cuts</a>, by Samar Khurshid and Meg O’Connor</p> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6200-calls-for-more-transparency-and-oversight-in-department-of-education-contracting">Calls for More Transparency, Oversight in Department of Education Contracting</a>, by Samar Khurshid</p> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6201-housing-groups-defend-homelessness-report-after-pushback-from-cuomo-administration">Housing Groups Defend Homelessness Report After Pushback from Cuomo Administration</a>, by David Howard King</p> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6199-supporters-launch-renewed-push-to-pass-plastic-bag-bill-by-earth-day">Supporters Launch Renewed Push to Pass Plastic Bag Bill by Earth Day</a>, by Samar Khurshid</p> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/opinion/6197-ten-days-in-the-life-of-a-police-reform-advocate">Ten Days in the Life of a Police Reform Advocate</a>, by Bob Gangi (opinion)</p> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/opinion/6204-a-budget-for-immigrant-new-york">A Budget for Immigrant New York</a>, by Cristina Molina (opinion)</p> <p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/opinion/6205-will-the-democrats-fresh-entitlements-lift-poor-families">Will the Democrats' Fresh Entitlements Lift Poor Families?</a> by Bruce Fuller (opinion)</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>MORE FOR THE WEEKEND: </strong></p> <p dir="ltr">Each week, Gotham Gazette Executive Editor Ben Max and City Limits Executive Editor Jarrett Murphy discuss the latest on housing policy and politics in New York. Listen to the latest developments in affordable housing <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6183-max-a-murphy-on-housing">here</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">Mayor de Blasio appeared on <a href="http://www.cc.com/video-clips/d9yv6z/the-daily-show-with-trevor-noah-bill-de-blasio---on-new-york-city-s-rats--businesses-and-residents">The Daily Show</a> with Trevor Noah on Thursday, and spoke about the sharing economy, income inequality, the role of a mayor, and universal pre-k (<a href="http://www.cc.com/video-clips/71xiv6/the-daily-show-with-trevor-noah-exclusive---bill-de-blasio-extended-interview">extended interview</a>).</p> <p dir="ltr">Alyssa Katz from the Daily News and NY1 Political Director Bob Hardt join Alexis Grenell and Nick Powell to discuss the <a href="http://www.stitcher.com/podcast/city-state-twenty4">politics</a> surrounding New York City’s homeless crisis on this week’s NY Slant Podcast.</p> <p dir="ltr">Allison Sesso, executive director of the Human Services Council, Gordon Campbell from NYU’s Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, and Frederick Shack, executive director of Urban Pathways, appear on Inside City Hall to discuss the <a href="http://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/shows/2016/03/3/inside-city-hall-3-3-16.html">collapse</a> of the social services agency FEGS and the lessons for nonprofit organizations.</p> <p dir="ltr">Politico New York’s Sally Goldenberg takes an in-depth look at the city’s <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/real-estate/2016/02/8592189/senior-housing-crisis">senior housing crisis.</a></p> <p dir="ltr">Mayor de Blasio appeared on MSNBC's Morning Joe to discuss the <a href="http://on.msnbc.com/1oOY3XC">presidential primaries</a>.</p> <p><em>***<br />NOTE TO READERS: we hope you enjoy this new Gotham Gazette weekly feature - please share it if you do; on Twitter, use our handle&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a>.</em></p> <p><em>If you have feedback on this feature for us, you can email editor Ben Max:&nbsp;<a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com"></a><a href="mailto:bmax@gothamgazette.com">bmax@gothamgazette.com</a></em></p> <p><em>Watch Sunday evening for our latest Week Ahead in New York Politics, which gives you a preview of key issues and events to be aware of for the week about to start. In the meantime, catch up on&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government" target="_blank">the latest original reporting from Gotham Gazette here</a>. And have a great weekend!</em></p> <p><em>***</em><br />by Meg O'Connor and Ben Max</p>