Gotham Gazette

The Place for New York Policy and politics

 

Criminal justice reform

Criminal justice reform

  • gov andcuomo doc

    (photo: the governor's office)


    At the end of August, NBC New York ran a story about a young woman who was raped after going out to a Manhattan bar. Despite the fact that she came forward, wanting justice to be done, the Manhattan District Attorney refused to prosecute the case.

    When a reporter questioned his decision not to pursue charges, DA Cyrus Vance’s staff shared a letter he wrote

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  • maydbd coord off

    (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)


    The New York City Council’s effort to reduce the criminalization of low-level, non-violent offenses through legislation passed in 2016 has continued to further achieve its aims for the third year in a row, as the NYPD makes fewer arrests and hands out fewer criminal summonses, opting instead for civil fines. But there remain concerns about racial disparities in law enforcement, as an overwhelming number of citations are handed out to black and Latino New Yorkers.

    In 2016, the Council under former

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  • m bdb dcc joseph ponte

    (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)


    Not long ago, closing the Rikers Island jails was a radical idea. Today, however, less than four years after we launched the #CLOSErikers campaign, New Yorkers have reached political and popular consensus that closing the jail complex is morally imperative. Yet, they are increasingly opposed to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s visionless approach to executing this important mission. Today I write to join that opposition.

    The purpose of the #CLOSErikers campaign was not only to shut down a horrific penal colony,

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  • first lady chir2

    (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)


    Valerie Gaiter died in Bedford Hills Correctional Facility last week. She had been in prison longer than any woman in New York State.  She had cancer. She was 61 and had served 40 years of a 50-years-to-life sentence for her conviction of the murder of two elderly people in Brooklyn in 1979. She was eligible to see the Parole Board in 2029 when she would have been 71.

    Edgardo Gonzalez is in Fishkill Correctional Facility. He is 75. He has chronic liver failure, hepatitis, and other ailments. He has lost

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  • gov cuomo tour wbai px

    (photo: the governor's office)


    August 7, 2019 - Max & Murphy Podcast: State Prison Policy, Parole and Reentry Programming

    lizgaynes official wbaiLiz Gaynes of the Osborne Association joined the show to discuss state prison policy, including the controversial planned closing of a Manhattan facility, reentry programming, and parole laws.

    Listen to the

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  • cc ps comm prelim budget

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


    Last week, Governor Cuomo signed a bill effectively decriminalizing recreational use of marijuana. Once in effect at the end of August, New Yorkers charged with possession of less than two ounces of marijuana will face fines instead of criminal charges. Possession of over two ounces of marijuana maintains high fines and the possibility of jail time.

    It is well known that throughout the United States communities of color have been disproportionately affected by

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  • bk jail rendering mocj

    (image: mayor's office rendering of new Brooklyn jail)


    July 17, 2019 - Max & Murphy Podcast: City Plan to Replace Rikers Island Jails Moves Ahead

    Tyler Nims, executive director of the Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform, also known as the Lippman Commission, joined the show to discuss the city's plan to close the Rikers Island jails and replace some of the inmate and detainee capacity with four local jails, one in each borough other than Staten Island. He

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  • caban monica wbai

    Larry Krasner and Tiffany Cabán (photo: @MonicaCKlein)


    “I was a public defender. I didn’t become a prosecutor.”
    -former Vice-President Joe Biden, addressing former prosecutor Senator Kamala Harris during a Democratic presidential primary debate, June 27, 2019

    Public Defenders are familiar with getting little respect. Law school classmates assume you couldn’t get a real job. Family members ask why you aren’t trying to make money. Acquaintances ask with distress and disgust, “How can you represent criminals?” Court officers sneer

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  • first lady chirlane mccray host convo across

    (photo: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office)


    Five leaders in criminal justice and mental health discussed wide-ranging options to keep seriously mentally ill people out of the prison system during a panel discussion held by the Greenburger Center for Social and Criminal Justice last week at Baruch College. Two out-of-state panelists, from Arizona and Florida, elaborated on initiatives in their states that have not made it to New York.

    The discussion took place just a week after the New York City Council ...

  • caban district attorney public defenders

    (photo: @CabanForQueens)


    Imagine this: you're a 50-year-old black man working as an assistant manager at a Gristedes in lower Manhattan, where you've worked for the past 25 years. It’s a typical evening: you close up the store and prepare for your long journey home to Harlem with a couple bags of groceries you bought for your family.

    Once aboard an uncrowded A train, you set your groceries down next to you on one of many empty seats. At the 125th street stop, two uniformed NYPD officers board the train. They spot you, grab your

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  • tiffany caban

    Tiffany Cabán and supporters (photo: Working Families Party)


    Public defender Tiffany Cabán, a self-described “31-year-old queer Latina” originally from Richmond Hill, appeared to pull off a stunning upset victory on Tuesday in the Democratic primary for Queens District Attorney. If the counting of a few thousand absentee and other final ballots stays true to her roughly 1.5% margin over apparent second-place

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  • governorcuomo chief judge difiore remarks

    (photo: the governor's office)


    The recognition that prosecutors were a primary cause of mass incarceration has spawned a movement for progressive prosecutors. While exactly what it means to be a progressive prosecutor is far from clear, at a minimum it reflects a change in the way prosecutors approached their work over the past several decades.

    Common features of a progressive prosecutor include emphasizing diversion over prosecution for minor crimes; declining to prosecute marijuana arrests in certain circumstances;

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  • Cuomo solitary confinement prison

    (photo: Governor's Office)


    Thousands of people are subjected to long-term solitary confinement in New York. The United Nations calls it torture. New York’s jails and prisons call it business as usual.

    Our state’s laws permit 23-hour confinement for months and even years at a time in jails and prisons across the state. This despite the fact that long-term solitary confinement creates severe and irreparable mental and

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  • dept corrections commissioner

    (photo: William Alatriste/City Council)


    We are in a unique moment in history. New York City is embroiled in a process to build new jails -- the aftershock of a grassroots campaign to shut down the human rights catastrophe at Rikers Island. New York State recently passed bail reform, which must be implemented in every county on or before January 1, 2020, and across the country “criminal justice reform” and “ending mass incarceration” have become mainstream conversations -- an unthinkable reality just ten years ago. It’s a moment that

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  • gov amc rockland

    (photo: Governor's Office)


    We are days away from the end of the legislative session and among the many important issues Governor Cuomo and New York legislators have left to accomplish is addressing the racially-biased and unjust enforcement of marijuana prohibition in our state.

    The Marijuana Regulation & Taxation Act (MRTA), currently being considered by New York lawmakers, is one of the clearest pathways toward reducing racism in New York. In the last 20 years our beloved state has earned the dubious distinction of becoming the marijuana arrest

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  • District Attorneys New York City

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


    Does the top prosecutor for one of New York City’s most populous boroughs need to have prosecutorial experience? Should the top prosecutor have spent significant time -- years, maybe decades -- arguing in court proceedings? Do they need to know how to put people in prison? Do they need to know to keep them there?

    That’s part of the “qualifications” debate ignited in recent weeks in the Democratic primary for Queens District Attorney, an election to replace the

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  • pol comm medal

    (photo: Spencer T Tucker/City Council)


    Many justice reformers welcome increased political support for constructive systemic changes. New York state government, for example, recently enacted reforms aimed at restricting the use of cash bail and reducing misdemeanor arrests. Many Democratic presidential candidates pointedly decry mass incarceration and our "broken" criminal justice system.

    The most positive feature of this shifting landscape is the moral concern that it reflects, the relatively new recognition among pundits, politicians, and broader public that our

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  • mayor cm vanessa gibson bdb

    (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)


    If you would have told New Yorkers seven years ago that the jails on Rikers Island would be closing, they would have not believed you.

    Until recently, shutting down the infamous complex was roundly dismissed as a radical idea that was not likely to be achieved during our lifetimes. However, what was once a dream for many people is now closer to becoming reality due to the hard work of brave New York City advocates and a number of forward-thinking organizations who have worked tirelessly to

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  • cm reynoso press

    Council Member Reynoso, one of the co-authors (photo: John McCarten/City Council)


    In recent history, New Yorkers have witnessed numerous instances of brutality and mistreatment at the hands of the police. Justice has not been delivered in many of these cases, and they all point to a glaring reality: a lack of transparency and accountability plagues the New York City Police Department.

    The public was vividly reminded of this just a few weeks ago when a ...

  • remarks conf

    Jonathan Lippman, one of the authors (photo: John McCarten/NYC Council)


    The New York State Legislature recently passed a landmark suite of criminal justice reforms that will profoundly re-shape the justice system in New York. Among other things, the reforms should help recalibrate the balance of power between prosecutors and defense attorneys and accelerate the effort to close the notorious jail complex on Rikers Island.

    A recent analysis found that by reducing the use of bail, the legislative reforms would result in the release of more than 40% of the

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  • Corey Johnson criminal justice speech

    Speaker Corey Johnson (photo: John McCarten/City Council)


    City Council Speaker Corey Johnson announced on Thursday a package of proposals aimed at reforming New York City’s criminal justice system to be more fair and equitable, building on changes championed by progressive politicians and advocates in New York and Albany over the last several years.

    Johnson presented a vision of criminal justice in New York based on refocusing the system away from incarceration and expanding the tools available to pursue his

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  • city council speaker

    Speaker Corey Johnson, one of the authors, with Mayor de Blasio (photo: William Alatriste/City Council)


    Three years ago, the idea of closing the nine jails on Rikers Island was widely considered impossible. But in April 2017, after an intense campaign by advocates and the findings of an independent commission convened by former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and chaired by Judge Jonathan Lippman, Mayor de Blasio committed to the goal.

    Today, we are within hailing distance.

    The starting point for closing the Rikers jails is

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  • flchirlanemccray island

    (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)


    Change swept through Albany as lawmakers passed a suite of reforms aimed at reducing the harms inflicted by the criminal justice system. These changes, which include significant limitations on the use of bail and incarceration, will go a long way towards making our justice system less biased and more responsive to the needs of low-income New Yorkers and, in particular, people of color.

    The next challenge that confronts us is how to move beyond simply avoiding harms and toward the

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  • bail sign via zellnor

    (photo: @zellnor4ny)


    At a Sunday press conference, following his overnight announcement of a $175.5 billion budget deal, Governor Andrew Cuomo heralded a criminal justice reform agreement with the Legislature, and thanked one member of the Assembly in

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  • Cuomo top aides new budget deal 2019 2020

    Cuomo and top aides announce budget deal (photo: Mike Groll/Governor's Office)


    Governor Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders agreed on a $175.5 billion state budget for fiscal year 2020, which begins Monday, that includes several significant policy changes for New York, including a congestion pricing program for New York City, a plastic bag ban of sorts, major criminal justice reforms, and a commitment to enact through a new commission a campaign finance program that includes public matching funds.

    The deal,

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