Gotham Gazette

The Place for New York Policy and politics

Criminal justice reform

Criminal justice reform

  • Qualified Immunity is a Jim Crow Relic; For a More Just Future, New York Must End This Harmful Doctrine

    Taking stock of history and policy (photo: Paige Polk/Mayoral Photography Office)


    In the period following the Civil War, slavery had ended, but the horrors of racial violence persisted. The Ku Klux Klan terrorized newly-emancipated Black Americans with lynching, mob violence, and other vile forms of intimidation and brutality. In response, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1871...

  • 12 Issues to Watch in Albany's Post-Budget Legislative Session

    Legislative leaders Stewart-Cousins and Heastie (photo: Kevin P. Coughlin/Office of the Governor)


    With a whopping $220 billion state budget approved, Governor Kathy Hochul and the State Legislature now move on to the post-budget legislative session with a long list of issues to address. The governor and two legislative majorities, all Democrats, have their own priorities, and New York City Mayor Eric Adams also has unfinished state business that he is hoping to accomplish before the session is over.

    But the clock is ticking, with the legislative session scheduled to end June 2, just

    ...
  • No Rollbacks to Raise the Age

    Top New York officials (photo: office of Governor Kathy Hochul)


    Jewish tradition offers us a comprehensive blueprint for how to build just and caring communities. From the very beginning of our story, we learn that we are knit together with a clear directive toward mutual obligation and responsibility. Supporting and nurturing our children is a fundamental part of that ethos.

    We were devastated to see Governor Hochul’s last-minute proposals to include rollbacks to New York’s historic Raise the Age legislation in state

    ...
  • Max Politics Podcast: Senate Minority Leader Rob Ortt on State Budget Priorities

    Senate GOP Leader Rob Ortt at a rally (photo: NY Senate GOP)


    March 29, 2022 - Max Politics Podcast: Senate Minority Leader Rob Ortt on State Budget Priorities

    Rob Ortt, the State Senate Republican Minority Leader, joined the show to discuss state budget negotiations and top priorities for the GOP conference, including bail reform and more, as well as the potential Buffalo Bills stadium deal.

    Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think, on Twitter @TweetBenMax. You can listen to the show through the

    ...
  • Solving The Crisis of Rikers Now and In The Future

    Outside Rikers Island jails (photo: Gerardo Romo/NYC Council Media Unit)


    Rikers Island is a devastatingly terrible investment. New York City spends more on jails than anywhere else in the country – over $500,000 per person per year. Yet, violence rates dwarf those elsewhere.

    The jails on Rikers Island are decrepit beyond repair. Their crumbling walls are turned into weapons. Built mostly on decaying landfill, the jails are plagued by methane leaks and asbestos. Working conditions for staff, and morale, are abysmal.

    ...
  • We Need Eric Adams to be the Mayor Who Closes Rikers

    51811403025 1c85b28a19 c

    Eric Adams at church (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)


    Throughout his campaign, Mayor Eric Adams spoke about the dysfunction that plagues our city, stemming from a failure to go ‘upstream’ to address the problems we face. There is no more tragic example of this than Rikers Island, where conditions are so dire that hundreds of incarcerated people have launched a hunger strike.

    The moral costs of this stain

    ...
  • Sealing Records, Opening Doors

    sealing rec

    Gov. Hochul signs legislation (photo: Kevin P. Coughlin/Office of the Governor)


    Imagine being a young, impressionable teenager unable to vote or even drive a car. A teenager who can’t take a field trip, get a passport, or make health decisions without the guidance and consent of an adult; but if you made a terrible mistake, you were held accountable as if you were an adult.

    Young people are more emotional, vulnerable, and impulsive than adults. Yet, prior to 2019, 16- and 17-year-old teenagers across New York State were automatically charged and

    ...
  • Eric Adams’ Choice: A Deputy Mayor for Justice

    Eric Adams NYPD precinct public safety

    Mayor-elect Eric Adams outside the 71st Precinct (photo: Erica Sherman/Brooklyn BP's Office)


    The last time that New York City had a deputy mayor for public safety, New York City was in crisis. In 1990, murders topped out at over 2,200 – seven times the city’s low in 2018.

    Mayor David Dinkins directed his new appointee, Judge Milton Mollen, to “confront the crime that

    ...
  • ‘Less is More’ is Needed Now, Not in March

    less is more

    Gov. Hochul signs the Less Is More Act (photo: Kevin P. Coughlin/Office of the Governor)


    The state of New York took a moral step recently when Governor Hochul signed into law the Less Is More Act, which aims to soften the draconian parole laws that have disproportionately harmed people of color. Nearly 200 New Yorkers re-joined their families as soon as the bill became law, freeing them from

    ...
  • How New York City Ended Mass Incarceration for 30 Days and Could Do It Again

    rikers doc tours

    Mayor de Blasio on Rikers Island (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)


    Just over a year ago, the city of New York did something special, a monumental achievement not seen since the end of World War II. In May of 2020, for the first time since 1946, the average daily population (ADP) of city jails dropped below 4,000.

    A combination that included the plan toward a reduced-capacity borough-based jail system, significant bail reform taking accused people’s ability to pay into account, and transitional housing facilities like the ones

    ...
  • Manhattan District Attorney Candidates Bragg and Kenniff Debate Resumes and Visions

    Gotham Gazette:

    Manhattan DA candidates Alvin Bragg, left, & Thomas Kenniff


    The two candidates running for Manhattan District Attorney in the imminent fall election met recently for a spirited televised debate, with issues ranging from the bail system to gun violence and each aspirant’s record of public service.

    Democratic nominee Alvin Bragg, a former prosecutor and top deputy New York Attorney General, and Republican nominee Thomas Kenniff, a former military judge and criminal defense attorney, sparred over their resumes and visions for the office in a debate hosted by

    ...
  • WATCH: Manhattan District Attorney General Election Debate

    Gotham Gazette:

    Alvin Bragg, left, & Thomas Kenniff


    In the general election for Manhattan District Attorney, Democratic nominee Alvin Bragg and Republican nominee Thomas Kenniff met for a debate hosted by Manhattan Neighborhood Network and moderated by Gotham Gazette's Ben Max. Watch:

  • Debate Over Reform and Safety in Manhattan District Attorney General Election

    bragg kenniff mashup

    Alvin Bragg, left, & Thomas Kenniff


    With Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. retiring after 12 years leading one of the most high-profile prosecutorial offices in the country, Alvin Bragg emerged from a crowded, competitive, expensive, and closely-watched Democratic primary and is now in the midst of a one-on-one general election. Bragg, a progressive former prosecutor and top deputy New York Attorney General, competing with Republican nominee Thomas Kenniff, a former military judge and criminal defense attorney.

    The

    ...
  • Ending New York's Love Affair with Life Sentences

    fishkill prison

    Fishkill (photo: ©2021 Google Maps)


    After being in maximum security prisons for approximately 30 years, one day I found myself in a van headed toward a medium security prison called Fishkill Correctional Facility. 

    Looking back then, I remember seeing “Greenhaven,'' the maximum-security prison I was leaving behind and its imposing thirty-foot high fortress walls with guards patrolling the towers. Greenhaven has one of the largest populations of convicted people serving various kinds of sentences. More than half of the approximately 1,500

    ...
  • Max Politics Podcast: Tiffany Cabán Heads Toward the City Council

    tiffany caban 600b

    Tiffany Cabán (photo: cabanforqueens.com)


    August 2, 2021 - Max Politics Podcast: Tiffany Cabán Heads Toward the City Council

    Tiffany Cabán, the Democratic nominee for City Council in Queens' District 22 and a leader of the city's left political movement, joined host Ben Max to discuss her primary win, plans for joining the City Council, latest thoughts on policing, NYPD funding, and "budget justice," and much more.

    Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think, on Twitter ...

  • Housing for Everyone Makes Everyone Safer: The City Council Must Ensure a Fair Chance for Housing for All

    banana kelly resident

    Housing in the Bronx (photo: Edwin J. Torres/Mayor's Office)


    In response to George Floyd’s killing and demands to reimagine community safety, Governor Cuomo ordered all local governments to create plans to reform and reinvent their police forces. In response, the New York City Council adopted a “Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative Plan.” The

    ...
  • Post-Primary Win, Bragg Promotes Plans for Manhattan DA's Office

    1 primary vic a

    Alvin Bragg at NAN (photo: @AlvinBraggNYC)


    Alvin Bragg, the former Chief Deputy Attorney General for New York State, appears likely to become Manhattan’s next District Attorney. After winning the Democratic primary, in the general election Bragg will face Republican nominee Thomas Kenniff, who has a very steep uphill battle given the overwhelmingly Democratic make-up of Manhattan's electorate and other advantages Bragg comes into the race with, including institutional support. Bragg ran a progressive primary campaign, while still treading something of a

    ...
  • We Lost Our Siblings to Solitary Confinement; This Torture Must End Now

    dep corr rikers

    Mayor de Blasio at Rikers (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)


    June is Torture Awareness Month and it is also the month we both lost our siblings — Kalief Browder and Layleen Polanco — because of the torture of solitary confinement. No other family should ever have to go through the pain and torment our baby brother and baby sister suffered and we continue to suffer. Political leaders from New York City to Washington, D.C. have repeatedly invoked Kalief’s and Layleen’s names to promise to end solitary confinement. Now is the time they must

    ...
  • Candidates for Manhattan District Attorney on Ending the 'Trial Penalty'

    pat jef co

    Courtroom (photo: @nakrnsm)


    Earlier this year, a report on use of the “trial penalty” -- the increased likelihood that a defendant, if proven guilty at trial, will face a harsher sentence than if they had opted into a plea deal -- in New York showed that its practice by district attorneys threatens the constitutional rights of defendants, limits law enforcement transparency, and weakens the overall integrity of the justice system.

    The report, from the New York State

    ...
  • How District Attorneys Must Step Up to Support Survivors

    gender eq hr

    A rally for survivors (photo: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office)


    The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office doesn’t currently have prosecutors dedicated to combatting sex crimes. Yes, you read that right. Assistant District Attorneys responsible to victims of sexual violence simultaneously work in the Trial Bureaus and on sex crimes. This means that staff are overloaded, victims are not being put first, and the system churns rather than addresses the root causes of the violence. 

    As a survivor of sexual violence and as a prosecutor whose career has been

    ...
  • Manhattan DA’s Own Data Proves Racist Prosecution Fuels Mass Incarceration in New York

    1 mda data

    Manhattan DA Cy Vance (photo: Ed Reed/Mayor's Office)


    As I write this many are breathing a sigh of relief for the guilty verdict returned in the trial of Derek Chauvin. However, we must not forget that prosecution is an intrinsic part of the racist law enforcement regime that resulted in the death of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Daunte Wright, Adam Toledo, Ma’Khia Bryant, and hundreds of others killed by police officers in the last year. 

    In June, Manhattanites, myself included, will vote in the primary for the top cop in Manhattan—the District

    ...
  • Seeking to Influence Mayor's Race and Solve Social Issues, Advocates Offer 'Caring & Compassionate New Deal for NYC'

    cm raf holds

    Housing rally (photo: John McCarten/City Council)


    An advocacy group that has spent decades fighting for the “defunding of harmful systems” is issuing a call to action to New York City’s political class to reorient city government and pursue permanent solutions to longstanding issues of home lessness, substance use, mental health, criminalization, and

    ...
  • Legalizing Marijuana the Right Way

    taskforce nnouncement along

    Mayor de Blasio, DA Vance & others discuss marijuana legalization (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)


    Because of the coronavirus crisis, New York is facing a massive budget hole and calls for innovative solutions to dig us out of this fiscal crisis. While Governor Cuomo recognizes the tremendous tax windfall that would come with the legalization of adult-use cannabis, this is about more than just tax revenue.

    The reality is that New Yorkers will face a mounting racial and criminal justice crisis without a more

    ...
  • Max & Murphy Podcast: Balancing Police Reform and Fighting Crime

    NYPD briefing

    The mayor and NYPD officials (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)


    February 3, 2021 - Max & Murphy Podcast: Balancing Police Reform and Fighting Crime

    Richard Aborn of the Citizens Crime Commission of NYC joined the show to discuss police reform and keeping the city safe, including a new set of recommendations from his group.

    Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter @TweetBenMaxand ...

  • Activists Press Manhattan District Attorney Candidates on How Far They’ll Go on Reform

    4x4 2

    Top (l-r): Tahanie Aboushi, Alvin Bragg, Eliza Orlins, Tali Farhadian Weinstein; Bottom (l-r): Liz Crotty, Dan Quart, Diana Florence, Lucy Lang


    All eight candidates currently running for Manhattan District Attorney gathered virtually last week for a reform-focused forum. The race to be Manhattan’s top prosecutor is taking place as incumbent District Attorney Cy Vance has not stated whether he will seek reelection, but has not been raising money or making campaign appearances. All eight candidates in the running are, like Vance, Democrats,

    ...