I believe in a justice system that protects the victims, is fair to the accused and protects the innocent.
Justice demands a police force that is accountable and transparent to all citizens. Which is why I support the Safer NY Act. Police accountability requires police transparency which is why we need 50-a (A2513/S3695) repealed so that we can see officers’ disciplinary records and the collections of statistics on officer violence. We must codify, clarify, and increase training for the state Attorney General to prosecute cases of police killings and deaths in police custody. (A1601/S2574)
CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM
For over a decade I have pushed to change how we handle minor crimes and speed up the processing. In 2009, I proposed to remove minor misdemeanor-level crimes (such as shoplifting) from the standard process.(A4053/S2571) The key is to have attorneys focus on more serious misdemeanors such as domestic violence and assault cases.
Legalizing marijuana (A1617/S1527) will help address the discriminatory enforcement or marijuana prohibition statutes. The excise tax place on selling of cannabis would allow money to be reinvested in those communities most affected by the war on drugs.
As a society, we have to talk about true reform. For far too long the NYPD has been a “one size fits all” solution. We must change our thinking of the criminal justice system. Not every social ill should be handled in criminal court. For too long the criminal court has been the dumping ground for intractable social issues mainly mental illness, homelessness, drug addiction and poverty.
We must fund supportive social services and remove these types of cases from the criminal justice system. I believe you can’t build a community without safety, but once you have safety the best way to keep a community safe is by building community. The question is how do we transfer funding from the NYPD into social services needed to build and maintain community-based programs?
Too often the punishment for minor crimes is the time the defendant spends “going through the system.” An “on-line” arrest is when you are taken into custody, fingerprinted, and are held until you see a judge. This process can take up to 24 hours or more. This is punitive and harsh treatment for a low-level crime and can punish innocent individuals. In criminal court, it is what is called “time served.” Often the accused just pleads guilty and goes home after spending the night in jail for a minor offense. This causes a major imbalance as the entire punishment has been completed before a person is even formally accused and sees a judge.
While many attack our current criminal justice system, we need people who understand the system and are willing to make radical changes. We must amputate sections of the NYPD. We must have mental health teams that respond to mental health crises. The Department of Transportation should handle traffic enforcement and parking. The Department of Education should be in charge of kids in school buildings. Drug addiction should be a medical issue. Sex work should be treated as a business issue.
The purpose of a police force must be redirected to respond to and deal with violent crime.
Bail must only be set to ensure that a person returns to court, not as a punitive measure. Under the reformed laws, bail cannot be set on a majority of criminal cases. The court is mandated to seek the least restrictive measures possible. In addition, the court cannot push any cost of pretrial services on to the accused. I support the new reform bail laws and I applaud the legislatures for bringing true reform and not allowing judges to consider “dangerousness.” In 2019, I voiced concern over some technical issues, which have already been addressed, such as allowing bail to be set on Promoting an Obscene Sexual Performance by a Child and Domestic Violence cases.
The defendants must be provided with the evidence against them in a timely manner so that they can assess the evidence in a case and make appropriate decisions prior to trial. While New York had some of the most restrictive discovery laws where defendants were not provided evidence until the eve of trial, the new laws speed up the process. This new discovery should allow for cases to be resolved more expeditiously.
People change over time and the criminal justice system must acknowledge this. Studies have shown that most criminals age out of crime by middle age. Public safety doesn’t require the continued incarceration of senior citizen inmates that have aged out of being a threat which is why I support elder parole (A.9049/ S.2144) which would allow inmates 55 years or older to be reviewed for parole even if they haven’t served their minimum sentences.
Solitary confinement causes tremendous psychological damage to those subject to it. I support the HALT Act which would bring NYS into line with the world standard for solitary confinement limiting solitary confinement to a maximum of 15 days.
Too often solitary confinement is used to handle mentally ill inmates who can not comply with the rigid prison environment. This “non-compliance” causes them to be repeatedly “written up” for violating prison rules. These sanctions can add up so that non-compliant inmates end up stuck in solitary confinement for extended periods. The HALT Act (A.2500 / S.1623) stops this as it requires correctional institutions to consider the defendant’s mental and physical health issues.
I believe in broad prison reform. Inmates should leave the criminal justice system more secure and healthier than when they entered. Today the idea of coming out of prison better off than when you entered is ludicrous, but we must break down the negative, violent culture in our jails. We must put “correction” back into our correctional institutions.
We must build a bridge between the Office of Mental Health and the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision to ensure that inmates are in the most appropriate environment. In addition, we must make Community Supervision (Parole) a program to help inmates thrive in their post-incarceration life. Far too often parole is just a hammer used to punish inmates who are attempting to build a post-incarceration life.
SCALE BACK THE NYPD
Every noise complaint, traffic complaint, school issue, or family member with a mental health crisis, results in a 911 call forwarded to the NYPD. This is a recipe for disaster. Sending someone with a gun to settle petty disputes or mental health issues doesn’t make sense. Since the 1980’s the police have been used as a potential solution for every problem. The NYPD has grown into an octopus with tentacles in every part of our lives. We need to amputate some of the arms.
- There are 5,000 uniformed NYPD officers assigned to our schools and reporting to the NYPD. In contrast, the DOE has only 2,880 guidance counselors. Safety issues in schools should be dealt with by school employees, who best understand the needs of their students. The savings can be used for guidance counselors and teachers. I’ve been fighting for years to get the NYPD out of our public schools.
- Currently, the NYPD responds to calls for people suffering mental health crises. We need a mental health crisis team responding to calls for help rather than the NYPD. This is a medical issue and should be run out of our public hospital emergency rooms.
- We refuse to provide healthcare for all, denying neighbors basic mental health support, but we run the largest mental health clinic in New York City out of Rikers Island. We need to build a mental health system responsive to all levels of need from counseling, to mediation to supportive housing.
- The Department of Transportation should handle traffic-related issues. Traffic agents should not work for the NYPD.