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Rather than continuing to target young people of color, some cities pull back on curfews


What you’ll read today

  • Spotlight: Rather than continuing to target young people of color, some cities pull back on curfews

  • Despite new rules, NYC is still jailing people long after they post bail

  • Manhattan DA’s office still prosecuting people for the knives they carry for work

  • ‘The People’ are on both sides

  • Supreme Court will take a narrow look at Curtis Flowers’s Batson claim

  • Will a new sheriff bring change to Los Angeles?

In the Spotlight

Rather than continuing to target young people of color, some cities pull back on curfews

A recent analysis by the Denver Post shows that city police enforce the youth curfew ordinance against Latinx children at a rate wildly disproportionate to their presence. Latinx residents form 30 percent of Denver’s population and 41 percent of the 15-17 age group but made up two-thirds of those cited this year for violating the juvenile curfew. And Latinx youth have made up nearly 70 percent of curfew arrests in each enforcement period since 2014. The consequences of a curfew citation can range from participation in a diversion program to hundreds of dollars in fines, nonpayment of which could result in not being able to get a driver’s license. [Andrew Kenney / Denver Post]

The police department focuses curfew enforcement on Latinx-dominated neighborhoods in southwestern Denver. It also deploys extra curfew runs on Cinco de Mayo. One longtime City Council member described it as a “dragnet.” [Andrew Kenney / Denver Post]

From 2014 to 2016, the police department gave the City Council incorrect data on the racial and ethnic breakdown of who was cited under the curfew ordinance. Under the curfew program, police and prosecutors are required to report this data. An investigation by a local TV station, CBS4, found that while police said white youth received the most citations in those years, Latinx youth actually received the vast majority of citations. After the inaccuracy was reported in June, the police department acknowledged it, describing it as a result of “human error.” [Brian Maass and Mark Ackerman / CBS4]

Denise Maes, the ACLU of Colorado’s public policy director, told CBS4 that the inaccurate reporting “raises some very troubling credibility issues. We often say the data doesn’t lie. Here the data clearly was lying.” While she said she believed an honest mistake was made, she said the fact that so many Latinx youth were receiving citations was a “big red flag.” [Brian Maas and Mark Ackerman / CBS4]

Beyond consequences within the court system, the curfew can make things harder for teenagers who need to work. It goes into effect at 11 p.m. on school nights and midnight on weekends. Though there is an exception for young people going home from work, they are not allowed to stop on the way. “A lot of our kids are affected by that issue,” a City Council candidate told the Denver Post. “A lot of young people are forced to take on economic opportunities and contribute to their household income.” One 17-year-old recently cited for violating the curfew was picking up an iced tea at a 7-Eleven on her way home from work at a nearby Taco Bell when police stopped her. She told the Post that she had been saving money from her job for college but quit after being issued the curfew citation. “I didn’t want to risk getting caught,” she said. [Andrew Kenney / Denver Post]

The harsh consequences for young people, including the effect of being stopped and picked up by police, are especially problematic considering the growing body of research that suggests curfews have little effect on decreasing crime rates and may even increase them during curfew hours. Jennifer Doleac, an economist who has studied curfews, told the Post that they are “exactly the kind of policies we need to be scrutinizing heavily if we’re concerned about racial bias in policing and improving trust between communities of color and police.” Doleac’s research in Washington, D.C., showed increased gun violence when the city’s curfew was in effect, suggesting that violence becomes more common when streets are empty and there are fewer bystanders, or when police are focusing on curfew enforcement. A systematic review of research literature on juvenile curfew programs from 2016 also concluded that the evidence suggested that “juvenile curfews are ineffective at reducing crime and victimization” and that the “average effect on juvenile crime during curfew hours was slightly positive—that is a slight increase in crime—and close to zero for crime during all hours.” [David B. Wilson, Charlotte Gill, Ajima Olaghere, and Dave McClure / Campbell Collaboration]

This summer, Ivonne Roman, a Newark, New Jersey, police captain who was a Marshall Project intern, looked at the use of curfews nationwide. She noted that by 2009, 84 percent of cities with populations greater than 180,000 had enacted curfew laws, and that “[t]hey remain an alarmist staple in communities across the country.” Yet many cities are also beginning to re-examine the practice. Last year, Austin, Texas, rescinded its youth curfew law. Community groups reported on its disproportionate effect on young people of color and the police chief joined in asking that it be rescinded, because, he told the Marshall Project, “We looked at the evidence and decided it was time to discard the curfew law; it wasn’t making an impact on juvenile victimization.” While the long-term effects are still unclear, there was a 15 percent drop in crime against young people from January to May of this year. [Ivonne Roman / Marshall Project]

San Antonio also re-examined its curfew and decided to decriminalize violations this year. It is still a violation of the city ordinance for children ages 10 to 16 to be out alone at night or during school hours but they will no longer be charged with a misdemeanor. The city approved $500,000 for a 24-hour “re-engagement center” staffed with case managers and social workers as part of an effort to address underlying any underlying needs or problems. Akeem Brown of My Brother’s Keeper San Antonio was one of those who had urged the City Council to address concerns with the curfew. He told Texas Public Radio: “Most of these young people, truly, were leaving homes or leaving school because they didn’t feel safe there. We wanted to make sure that the policies on the back end would better assist young people and families in solving the issue.” [Camille Phillips / Texas Public Radio]

Stories From The Appeal

Mayor Bill de Blasio visits young people housed at Rikers Island in 2014. [Susan Watts – Pool/Getty Images]

Despite New Rules, NYC Is Still Jailing People Long After They Post Bail. A new Bronx Freedom Fund report documents these extended pretrial lockups, which threaten people’s jobs and destabilize families. [George Joseph]

Manhattan DA’s Office Still Prosecuting People for the Knives They Carry for Work. In 2016, the office said it dismissed such cases, but Legal Aid says that’s not what’s happening. [Melissa Gira Grant]

Stories From Around the Country

‘The People’ are on both sides: In an essay to be published in the Columbia Law Review, law professor Jocelyn Simonson critiques the practice of viewing the prosecution as representing the interests of “The People” (evident daily in those jurisdictions where it is courtroom practice to refer to the government, and individual prosecutors, as “The People”). This understanding, Simonson points out, fails to recognize that the “people” of the state are in fact on both sides of a criminal case, in the person of the defendant and the community of which they are a part, as well as in the actions of the state. “If we think of all members of the public as represented by “the People,’” Simonson writes in a post for the blog Law and Political Economy, “and all those who might side with a defendant as ‘biased,’ then we entirely exclude from criminal adjudication those who would disagree with a prosecution or support a defendant. But powerful acts of popular intervention on the side of defendants happen every day. … [O]ften, they are part of long-term efforts by marginalized groups, especially poor people of color, to participate in and change a criminal justice system that they feel does not represent them.” [Jocelyn Simonson / Law and Political Economy]

Supreme Court will take a narrow look at Curtis Flowers’s Batson claim: Curtis Flowers, on death row in Mississippi, was tried six times for the same murder. His case has attracted attention, including from the podcast “In the Dark,” for the egregiousness of the misconduct and racial bias demonstrated throughout. The blog Prosecutorial Accountability previously noted that “[t]here are not many cases like Flowers. The record is undeniable. Racism pervades the mind-boggling six trials” he endured. Flowers’s conviction at his sixth trial came before a jury of 11 white jurors and one Black juror, despite a jury pool that was 42 percent Black. The Supreme Court has agreed to hear Flowers’s case, but Prosecutorial Accountability highlights that the question the Supreme Court asked the parties to brief is “an unusual and narrow one: whether the Mississippi Supreme Court erred in how it applied Batson v. Kentucky.”  While Flowers seems likely to prevail, the reality is that “this case may not set much of a precedent.” The approach to Flowers’s case seems consistent with the Court’s recent practice of only taking “the most egregious cases to correct the most obvious injustices.”  [Prosecutorial Accountability]

Will a new sheriff bring change to Los Angeles? For the first time in a century, an incumbent has lost the race for Los Angeles County sheriff. Alex Villanueva defeated Jim McConnell and will take his place as head of one of the country’s largest law enforcement agencies. McConnell conceded on Monday. Villanueva, a lieutenant who served in the sheriff’s department for three decades, will be the first Democratic sheriff of the county in 138 years. It is unclear how much he will depart from past practices, however. He promised to bar ICE from the county jail but has said that he will simply transfer people to ICE outside the jail in a secure courtyard. He has also said he would continue to honor requests from ICE to detain people convicted of serious crimes, going against a preliminary recommendation by the Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission, issued this month, to bar ICE officials from the jail and stop honoring ICE’s requests to detain people, except when required by law. [Maya Lau / Los Angeles Times]

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