Gotham Gazette

The Place for New York Policy and politics

Criminal justice reform

Criminal justice reform

  • gov cuomo order

    Gov. Cuomo signing legislation (photo: Kevin P. Coughlin/Governor's Office)


    This summer, New Yorkers statewide simultaneously reckoned with the new reality of COVID-19 and the persistent reality of systemic racist violence. The state Legislature heard the calls from millions in the streets and passed vital legislation during an emergency session that protects the communities most vulnerable to these twin threats. 

    The State Senate and Assembly passed bills that would keep ICE out of New York’s courts and their eyes off COVID-19 contact-tracing information, a bill

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  • cuomo heastie stewart cousins

    Gov. Cuomo, Speaker Heastie, Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins (photo: Governor's Office)


    Despite facing tough battles in districts that they narrowly won two years ago and being on the verge of defeat in some places, Democrats also flipped a few seats and will grow their large majority in the State Senate, retaining control of both chambers of the Legislature by wide margins. Along with the ongoing tenure of third-term Governor Andrew Cuomo, Democrats will keep full control of New York state government through 2022, the next state election

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  • rikers form one

    Rikers Island (photo: formulanone)


    New York City’s historic commitment to closing the Rikers Island jail complex is in jeopardy. Thanks to an adverse court ruling, a struggling budget, and unfocused political leadership, Mayor de Blasio’s plan to build four new jails at a cost of $9 billion is endangered -- and so is the very idea of closing Rikers. In recent weeks, the discussion over Rikers closure has devolved into debates about real estate, and lost sight of the people and communities harmed by our medieval jail complex and broken criminal justice system.

    It’s

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  • dom vio walk

    The 16th Annual Gladys Ricard and Victims of Domestic Violence Memorial Walk/Brides' March (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)


    The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office is in need of reform, but practicality and feasibility must be considered first and foremost when we look to implement changes that can realistically make a difference in its effectiveness in serving New Yorkers. Make no mistake though, internal and pragmatic changes can make those differences significant for many people who experience what are often traumatic instances of direct contact with our criminal

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  • 3 report positive impacts

    Mayor de Blasio makes an announcement (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)


    Defendants in New York City's pretrial supervised release program are no more likely to miss court than people who have bail set and are not rearrested at a higher rate, according to a city-commissioned study by MDRC's Center for Criminal Justice Research being released Thursday.

    The research, contracted by the Mayor's Office of

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  • office hosted food

    Brooklyn DA Eric Gonzalez, center, is one of the authors (photo: @BrooklynDA)


    Brooklyn is at a turning point for public safety and criminal justice reform. Through hard work, creativity, and trial and error, both law enforcement and citizen-powered organizations like East Brooklyn Congregations have achieved a sustained, historic drop in crime—but this year has seen troubling shifts. The recent spike in shootings and homicides – coinciding with the COVID-19 pandemic and the protests that followed the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis – has thrown people

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  • city working dev

    Housing discrimination must be addressed (photo: Edwin J. Torres/Mayor's Office)


    In January 2015, I was released from a federal prison in California with the clothes I came in with, a few personal possessions I’d collected over the six years I had been incarcerated, and a bus ticket back to New York City. After a six-day journey home, I found myself subletting a room from a family friend – and as long as the rent was paid on time, they did not ask questions. Living in this apartment allowed me to find employment, cultivate relationships with my family, and continue pursuing

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  • 2 very pathetic

    Charles, left, & Inez Barron, right, at a ceremony with the Mayor & others (photo: John McCarten/City Council)


    Anything short of a revolution won’t satisfy Charles and Inez Barron, the married Brooklynites who hold seats in the State Assembly and City Council, respectively, and the police reforms and city budget passed in the wake of recent widespread Black Lives Matter protests serve merely as a distraction to their radical idea of Black-led politics. 

    Assemblymember Charles Barron and City Council Member Inez Barron, both Democrats, have a

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  • avenue bx pres

    Aftermath of looting in the Bronx (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)


    Growing up near New York City in the 1970s and ‘80s, the city seemed a terrifying place, full of gangs, muggers, and tabloid-worthy murders.  

    By the time I moved to the city for work in the mid-’90s, however, it was in the midst of a transformation. The first two neighborhoods I lived in, in Manhattan, were Murray Hill and the East Village, and both initially had terrible reputations. Murray Hill featured street prostitutes and notorious single resident occupancy hotels,

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  • 5 justice system public

    Four New York City District Attorneys (photo: John McCarten/City Council)


    After a four-month hiatus as the courts struggled to go virtual amid the coronavirus outbreak, New York City's supervised pretrial release program is taking new clients again in all five boroughs.

    Supervised release, established as a middle-ground between bail and release on recognizance, allows defendants to return to their communities before trial, under the watch of a case manager who checks in regularly, and also links the client to social services. The program

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  • bx law gov

    Graduates (photo: Edwin J. Torres/Mayor's Office)


    Plagued by a pandemic and confronted by a national outcry against racial injustice, our final semester in college was challenging at best. As nontraditional students and Black women directly impacted by a deeply-flawed criminal legal system, we are no strangers to adversity. We consistently prove, time and again, that we can succeed despite our backgrounds.

    That success is predicated on an unmovable foundation that reframes our relationship with the world and the issues we face today – a college degree. A college

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  • Eric Garner police reform NYPD

    Eric Garner's mother, Gwen Carr, at a recent press conference (photo: Emil Cohen/City Council)


    New York, and the nation, was teetering on the edge when it was suddenly and violently pushed over it on May 25, as George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis, Minnesota by police officer Derek Chauvin. It was an incident as shocking as it was familiar, an unarmed Black man dying at the hands of a police officer with the episode caught on video and broadcast to millions of people.

    “I can’t breathe,” Floyd cried out, as Chauvin knelt on his

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  • must address jails

    A rally to end solitary confinement (photo: John McCarten/City Council)


    On April 14, 60-year-old Leonard Carter died of COVID-19 while incarcerated at Queensboro Correctional Facility. He had already been granted parole and, after a quarter century behind bars, was just weeks from his release date. He was the brother of one of us writing to demand change here

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  • prison sing sing

    Sing Sing prison, 19th century (photo: New York Public Library)


    Monuments of all kinds are facing renewed scrutiny as protesters, fueled by the police killing of Rayshard Brooks, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and others, have taken to the streets in more than 140 cities. Statues that glorify and venerate slavery and slaveholders are coming down, with or without governmental approval, across the country. The sight of these prominently displayed symbols of brutality, inhumanity, and state-sponsored racism tumbling down inspires hope that there may also be a long-overdue

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  • New York State government capitol building Albany legislators

    The State Capitol Building (photo: Governor's Office)


    The murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and other Black people at the hands of police sparked righteous calls for change across New York State and led to meaningful action in Albany. We were proud to vote for police reforms that promote more transparency, accountability, and justice for those we represent. These were important steps, but they fall short of addressing the harm that happens to our constituents behind bars.

    For years, we’ve spoken with

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  • Cuomo signs bills

    Governor Cuomo signs criminal justice reforms (photo: Governor's Office)


    New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has been trying in his daily press briefings to position himself as the national voice of reason, truth, and compassion regarding the coronavirus. To that end, he has liberally signed an array of executive orders ranging from shutting down businesses and closing schools to limiting the size of social gatherings.

    When the evidence revealed that COVID-19 was especially ravaging communities of color, the governor then tried to assume the mantle of race

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  • parollee restor oped

    Questioning which New Yorkers can go to the polls (photo: Gotham Gazette)


    Practicing social distancing is by no means easy, but the guidelines are simple: maintain six feet of distance from others, avoid crowded environments, public bathrooms, and shared dining facilities, and to blow off steam, go outside. Stick to the guidelines, health officials assure us, and we can all help protect each other, especially the vulnerable. 

    But many of the most vulnerable people during the COVID-19 crisis are those whom most of us will never see and for whom social

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  • gov health dep

    Governor Cuomo (photo: Mike Groll/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo)


    At his daily coronavirus press briefing on Sunday, April 26, Governor Cuomo was asked  whether he had any plans to grant broad clemencies to people in prison, particularly to vulnerable populations. His testy and dismissive response – “How about if they are violent and just started their sentence?” – was telling. Presumably, the governor meant to remove from consideration people he believed remained a threat to public safety and had not been sufficiently punished.

    The reporter’s question was

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  • greene corr fac gov cuomo

    Gov. Cuomo at a correctional facility (photo: governor's office)


    On April 3, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo rammed through a budget that will be devastating to New Yorkers and then on April 4 declared that the legislative session was “effectively over” for the year. Several legislators immediately pushed back.

    Comments from legislators on social media ranged from “Hell no” to “...

  • 3 albany ltgov duffy grad

    State lawmakers wrongly bowed to law enforcement pressure on bail reform, the author writes (photo: governor's office)


    Predictably, and disappointingly, the New York State Legislature rolled back last year’s historic and hard fought bail reforms at the eleventh hour. It was an act of cruelty after providing our communities the briefest of reprieves following the historic enactment of bail reform just three months ago, on January 1.

    Less than two minutes of floor debate allowed racists and prison profiteers to win in their crusade to

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  • corona justice

    Equal justice for all, whether a top elected official or not, the author writes (photo: Wikimedia Commons)


    Alongside the daily coronavirus news come allegations about shocking abuses of power. Several United States senators, most notably Senators Burr and Loeffler, allegedly used non-public information — confidential congressional briefings about COVID-19 — to sell stocks whose prices they believed would drop due to the pandemic. Even worse, while taking steps to profit from the

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  • sochie bail reform

    Sochie Nnaemeka, the author (photo: @sochiesays)


    In moments of crisis, we see what our leaders value. Over the past week, coronavirus has spread to Rikers Island. Our state should be focused on keeping detained New Yorkers and correctional workers safe and healthy. Instead, elected officials may roll back bail reforms in response to fear-mongering by opponents of the new law. If our leaders in Albany choose to reduce the number of people eligible to await their trial from home, the jail population could grow during a dangerous pandemic. We must put human safety over

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  • police grad cere

    Law enforcement officials have pushed for bail reform rollbacks (photo: Governor's Office)


    The hyperbolic vitriol about bail reform in New York should be viewed in context – it is but one example of the ways those with entrenched power in the criminal legal system rebel against even the slightest diminution of, or threat to, their authority.

    Despite a growing movement for change, police officers, prosecutors, and judges cling to their absolute power to arrest, prosecute, and adjudicate with scant concern for due process, equal protection, or basic

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  • port authority bus

    (photo: Benjamin Kanter/Mayoral Photo Office)


    While New York’s public health system is doing its best to combat the coronavirus, we need far more assurance from elected officials, especially those involved in our criminal justice system, that they are ready to protect our civil liberties in this emergency. As a civil rights attorney, I know that we must meet this moment with a response that honors public safety, protection from discrimination and price-gouging, civil liberties, and regard for those most marginalized, including people in our jails. We cannot

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  • brooklyn bridge ave 33rd cityhall

    Policing the subways (photo: Benjamin Kanter/Mayoral Photo Office)


    If you’ve ridden the subway recently, you could be forgiven for feeling watched. The MTA’s fare evasion crackdown is ubiquitous; subway cars are plastered with phrases like “We’d rather your $2.75 fare than your $100 fine.” Governor Cuomo’s ...