This week’s top justice system stories in New York
Each week, the Fair Punishment Project monitors the news in New York, talks to local journalists and advocates, and share the most important stories with you through our weekly New York newsletter. In this week’s New York newsletter, we brought you stories about ICE raids, the future of Rikers Island, a program that is cutting down on gun violence without involving the police, a new plan for getting rid of cash bail, and many others.Be sure to subscribe to our New York newsletter here.
- NYCLU Suit Claims Trump Holding Asylum-Seeking Immigrants Indefinitely. Immigrants in detention in Batavia, New York claim that the Trump administration has put a hold on their parole process, keeping them from their families and stopping them from properly preparing their asylum application. The New York Civil Liberties Union, working the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP), are seeking an injunction to provide the immigrants with their legal right for a proper parole process, along with a bond hearing after six months of detention. The Buffalo Federal Detention Facility abruptly stopped providing asylum-seekers with parole following the inauguration of president Trump. “Even though federal policy states that parole should be granted to asylum-seekers who can establish their identity and are not a flight risk or danger, Batavia officials effectively stopped granting parole to asylum-seekers in late January, leaving dozens of people who fled violence and persecution to languish in jail,” the groups wrote in a statement announcing the lawsuit. Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruledthat courts will have to consider financial resources when setting bonds for detained immigrants, including asylum seekers. A hearing on the injunction is scheduled for October 27th. [Jason Grant / New York Law Journal]
- ICE Arrests 45 New Yorkers In 4 Days As Part Of Nationwide Raid On Sanctuary Cities. An immigration sweep targeted at cities that don’t fully cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) included the arrest of 45 New Yorkers, according to ICE. According to Emma Whitford at Gothamist, a third of those arrested in New York had “no criminal record.” Under the Obama administration, those with criminal convictions were made a priority for enforcement; under the Trump administration, the dragnet has been widened to include any undocumented immigrants. Cities like New York, which were targeted for their “sanctuary city” policies, help put immigrants on ICE’s radar by cracking down on low-level offenses like turnstile jumping and drinking in public. The vast majority of individuals arrested in New York City are immediately fingerprinted by the NYPD, which then sends those fingerprints to the federal government. Arrests by ICE in New York and New Jersey have increased by 38% between January and May of this year as compared to 2016. [Emma Whitford / Gothamist]
- De Blasio Appoints Acting Commissioner to Head City Jails.Disappointing advocates who wanted to see an outside candidate appointed to oversee the shuttering of Rikers Island, Mayor de Blasio appointed the acting commissioner, Cynthia Brann, to oversee the city’s corrections system. The position became vacant when de Blasio’s first corrections commissioner retired after revelations about his use of a city-owned car for leisure trips. Back in the spring, de Blasio committed to closing the infamous prison following a City Council-commissioned report that favored decommissioning the prison rather than try to reform it. Since then, de Blasio has laid out a ten year plan to shut down Rikers, but has said it will take at least ten years for the city to do so, and a reduction of the city’s jail population to 5,000 people. Advocates for a speedier closure of the facility have pointed out that if the administration simply released pre-trial detainees who were being held because they couldn’t pay bail, thecity would be able to reach that number immediately. De Blasio has since passed the responsibility of closing Rikers to local politicians who would have to find new jail sites in their boroughs to accommodate prisoners. Queens politicians have zeroed in on an unused jail facility behind the county courthouse. [J. David Goodman / New York Times]
- Ex-Rikers inmate is latest forced to spend more time in jail due to officials’ blunder. Brann has overseen a Department of Corrections whereviolence continues at an “alarming” rate, and one which is mired in dysfunction. Detainees routinely have to spend extra time in jail due to clerical errors, like Jeramy Hill, who spent an extra day in Rikers after a Corrections employee mistakenly calculated time already served. Determinations for release date are still often done by pen and paper, according to Legal Aid, and lead to people spending weeks, or even months needlessly behind bars. [Reuven Blau /New York Daily News]
- How Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump, Jr., Avoided a Criminal Indictment. The latest in the endless stream of Trump-related scandals focuses on how Ivanka Trump and her brother, Donald Trump, Jr., escaped an indictment by the Manhattan District Attorney, Cyrus Vance, after the Trump family lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, made a sizable donation to Vance. From a criminal justice perspective, the story offers a great illustration of how political donations determine who gets prosecuted and for what. Real estate empires in New YorkCity are built on political donations. On Thursday, the International Business Times reported that an attorney representing Harvey Weinstein, the Hollywood mogul now tied to a long history of sexual harassment, had made a $10,000 dollar donation to Vance after the DA declined to press charges following an allegation that Weinstein had groped an Italian model. Today, the New Yorkerreported that, according to “a police source” (so take it as you may), that Vance’s office had more than enough evidence to prosecute Weinstein. Vance is running unopposed in one of the least competitive elections in New Yorkhistory. [Andrea Bernstein, Jesse Eisinger, Justin Elliott, and Ilya Marritz / The New Yorker, Pro Publica, and WNYC]
Alternatives to Policing
- Big Drops in Gun Crime Reported in NYC Neighborhoods Where ‘Violence Interrupters’ Patrol. A national program that uses community members to help de-escalate potentially violent situations has been successful in two neighborhoods in New York City, according to researchers at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. The “Cure Violence” program, which pursues from a “public-health” approach to stemming violence, as opposed to stop and frisk or gang policing, “was responsible for statistically significant drops in the number of shooting victims and gunshot hospitalizations in areas of East New York, Brooklyn, and the South Bronx,” according to the report. In the South Bronx, gun injuries were down 37 percent, while shootings were down 63 percent. The drop in gun crime in those two neighborhoods follows the success of the same program in Queensbridge, the largest public housing project in the country, which went over a year without a fatal shooting. Instead of surveilling social media and waiting for crimes to occur to establish conspiracy cases against young men, and then pursuing massive raids, the “Cure Violence” program aims to stop violence before it occurs, without the need to involve law enforcement. [Ann Givens / The Trace]
- Syracuse 14-year-old sues city cops claiming school officer put him in chokehold. T.H. wanted to be a police officer… until he was almost killed by one. The NYCLU is suing the Syracuse police department after a plainclothes officer put a 14-year-old into a lethal headlock, similar to the one used on Eric Garner in Staten Island. T.H., as he’s being identified in the lawsuit, was walking away from a fight outside his school when Sgt. Dennis Regin grabbed T.H. by the neck and threw him to the ground. T.H. lost consciousness, but police officers refused to take him to a hospital. T.H. suffers from asthma. The NYCLU is alleging that the Syracuse Police Department has an “inadequate” use-of-force policy. [Julie McMahon / Syracuse.com]
- How We Can Make New York City’s Bail System Fairer Right Now.Under New York law, judges aren’t limited to exclusively imposing cash or bail bonds. They could also use “alternative forms of bail,” like offering just a fraction of cash bail, or no cash at all. But convincing judges to do this has been a hard task. Over the course of three months, the Vera Institute of Justice trained public defenders in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens on how to request these types of bail. Judges were skeptical — only 99 cases out of thousands were given alternative forms of bail, but within those 99 cases, there were promising results. Insha Rahman, the project director for Vera writes, “Those released had a court appearance rate of 88 percent and a rate of pretrial re-arrest for new felony offenses of eight percent.” She believes that by continuing to ask for “alternative forms of bail,” public defenders can make a huge impact on the city’s onerous and degrading criminal justice system. [Insha Rahman / City & State]
- And for a quick demonstration of how broken the city’s bail system is, let’s check in on how they city is helping make it easier to pay the massive amounts required of cash bail:
Head slap emoji, indeed.