JUSTICE WEEK: JAILS IN YOUR COMMUNITY

May 23, 2019 at 5:30 am

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to close Rikers Island and replace it with borough-based jails is underway. But could smaller jails lead to safer or more dangerous streets? In partnership with Public Square Media, we continue our special “Justice Week” series and examine the blueprint for the closing of Rikers Island with some of the key officials leading New York’s criminal justice reform.

For more information on Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez’s Post Conviction Review Unit, Sealing Unit, and the nationally recognized Conviction Review Unit, click here: www.brooklynda.org

To read New York’s “Bail Elimination Act” authored by New York State Senator Michael Gianaris, click here: https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2019/s2101

To learn more about Tyler Nims, Executive Director of The Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform and how that commission is driving change, click here: https://www.morejustnyc.org/

Aired on May 22, 2019. 

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>>> TONIGHT ON "METROFOCUS."
JAILS IN YOUR COMMUNITY.
THE MAYOR'S PLAN TO CLOSE RIKERS
AND REPLACE IT WITH FOUR
BURROUGHED BASED FACILITIES IS
UNDERWAY.
OUR SPECIAL JUSTICE WEEK SERIES
EXAMINES THE BLUEPRINT FOR THE
CLOSING OF RIKERS ISLAND WITH
SOME OF THE KEY OFFICIALS
LEADING NEW YORK'S JUSTICE
REFORM.
THE SPECIAL JUSTICE WEEK ON
"METROFOCUS" STARTS RIGHT NOW
>> THIS IS "METROFOCUS" WITH
RAFAEL PI ROMAN, JACK FORD, AND
JENNA FLANAGAN.
>> "METROFOCUS" IS MADE POSSIBLE
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BERNARD AND IRENE SCHWARTZ,
ROSALIND P. WALTER,
BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG,
AND BY --
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IN THE FUTURE.
>> GOOD EVENING.
WELCOME TO "METROFOCUS."
I'M JACK FORD.
TONIGHT YOUR SAFETY AND YOUR TAX
DOLLARS.
AS WE CONTINUE OUR JUSTICE WEEK
INITIATIVE AND PARTNERSHIP WITH
PUBLIC SQUARE MEDIA, OUR FOCUS
TURNS TO A QUESTION OF SIZE,
DOLLARS, AND COMMON SENSE.
HOW CAN WE SHRINK THE CRIMINAL
JUSTICE SYSTEM WITHOUT IMPACTING
PUBLIC SAFETY?
MAYOR de BLASIO HAS A 10-YEAR
MAN TO CLOSE RIKERS ISLAND AND
BUILD FOUR SMALLER FACILITIES
AROUND THE CITY.
IS IT EVEN FEASIBLE?
AND WHAT MIGHT CLOSING RIKERS
MEAN FOR YOU, YOUR FAMILY, YOUR
COMMUNITY AND EVEN YOUR PROPERTY
VALUE IF THIS PLAN PREVAILS?
AND IN A MUCH BROADER CONTEXT.
THERE ARE CURRENTLY SOME 46,000
PEOPLE SERVING TIME IN AND
AROUND THE STATE WITH.
SOME INSIGHT, THE BROOKLYN
DISTRICT ATTORNEY.
THE NEW YORK STATE SENATOR AND
DEPUTY SENATE MAJORITY LEADER,
AND THE EXECUTIVE FOR THE LITMAN
COMMISSION.
WELCOME TO ALL OF YOU.
I'LL COME TO YOU GIVEN YOUR
INVOLVEMENT HERE.
FLR A LOT OF PEOPLE WHO MAY BE
SAYING, WHAT'S WRONG WITH RIKERS
ISLAND?
THERE ARE PEOPLE WE NEED TO TAKE
OFF THE STREETS TO PROTECT
SOCIETY FROM THEM.
WHAT'S THE PROBLEM AND WHAT'S
THE REPLACEMENT?
>> THE FIRST THING TO UNDERSTAND
IS THAT RIKER'S ISLAND IS A
COMBINATION OF EIGHT JAILS.
MOST OF THE PEOPLE THERE ON
RIKERS ISLAND ARE PEOPLE WHO
HAVEN'T BEEN CONVICTED OF A
CRIME.
THEY'RE MOSTLY PRETRIAL.
>> THAT'S AN INTERESTING FACTOR
THAT I DON'T THINK PEOPLE ARE
AWARE OF.
A SIGNIFICANT PERCENTAGE HAVEN'T
EVEN GOTTEN TO THEIR TRIAL STAGE
YET.
>> THAT'S RIGHT.
AND THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN
EXTENSIONED ARE ONLY THOSE THIS
FOR LESS THAN ONE YEAR.
IF IT IS MORE THAN THAT, YOU GO
TO A STATE PRISON.
AND THEN ANOTHER CHUNK OF
PEOPLE.
OUR COMMISSION LOOKED AT THESE
JAILS ON RIKERS WHICH HAD BEEN
AROUND 80 YEARS.
FROM THE VERY OUTSET, KNOWN FOR
INHUMANE CONDITIONS, KNOWN FOR
VIOLENCE, MOST RECENTLY, THE
FEDERAL PROSECUTORS FOR THE
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
BROUGHT SUIT AGAINST THE CITY OF
NEW YORK CALLING CONDITIONS
THERE UNCONSTITUTIONAL.
MOST OF THE PEOPLE, MANY OF THE
PEOPLE THIS SUFFER FROM MENTAL
ILLNESSES.
WE LOOKED AT THE JAILS ON RIKERS
ISLAND.
WE LOOKED AT THE PHYSICAL
CONDITIONS.
AND IN MANY CASES, THE PHYSICAL
CONDITIONS ARE FALLING APART.
SIGHT LINES ARE LONG.
THE CONDITIONS ARE UNSAFE.
THOSE ARE THINGS THAT
THEORETICALLY YOU CAN FIX ON
RIKERS ISLAND.
BUT WHAT YOU CAN'T FIX IS THE
ISOLATION.
RIKERS ISLAND IS AN ISLAND, IN
THE EAST RIVER.
MOST OF THE PEOPLE WHO WERE
THERE HAVE TO BE TAKEN TO COURT
FREQUENTLY SO EVERY DAY IN NEW
YORK CITY, YOU HAVE 700 PEOPLE
WHO WERE TRANSPORTED TO COURTS
IN EACH OF THE FIVE BURROUGHS.
YOU CUT PEOPLE OFF FROM THEIR
FAMILIES.
FROM THEIR LAWYERS, FROM SERVICE
PROVIDERS.
MOST PEOPLE WHO GO INTO THE
JUSTICE SYSTEM OR THE JAILS IN
RIKERS ARE COMING RIGHT BACK TO
NEW YORK CITY.
GOT THE TAKE BETTER CARE OF THEM
AND IT IS ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE TO
DO THAT ON AN ISLAND LIKE
RIKERS.
SO THERE ARE TOO MANY PEOPLE IN
JAIL.
WE CAN CUT THE NUMBER IN JAIL BY
HALF.
AND WE SHOULD MOVE TO A SMALLER
SYSTEM OF JAILS LOCATED CLOSE TO
THE COURT HOUSES.
GET RID OF MANY OF THE PROBLEMS
IN THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM.
>> LET ME FOLLOW UP ON THAT.
RIKER'S ISLAND AS A SYMBOL.
HOW SIGNIFICANT IS THAT IN TERMS
OF THE DECISION MAKING?
AND WE TALKED ABOUT ALL THE
PROBLEMS.
MAYBE 80 YEARS AGO IT MADE SENSE
TO BE ON AN ISLAND.
IT DOESN'T ANYMORE.
AND THE NUMBERS FAR EXCEEDED
WHAT ANYBODY ANTICIPATED.
HOW ABOUT WHAT IT HAS BECOME?
THE NOTION OF WHAT IT
SYMBOLIZED?
>> FOR PERSPECTIVE ON RIKERS
ISLAND, I HAPPEN TO LIVE ABOUT A
HALF MILE AWAY FROM THE BRIDGE.
I SPEND TIME AS AN OFFICIAL AND
I PARTICIPATED IN A MENTORING
PROGRAM.
FOR ME, MEMORIES OF ESCAPE FROM
NEW YORK.
WHERE THEY WALLED OFF MANHATTAN
AND DUMPED OFF ALL THE PRISONERS
IN THERE.
MORE IMPORTANT IS THE PRACTICAL
CONSEQUENCE THAT'S TYLER JUST
MENTIONED.
WE HAVE A STRUCTURE WHERE IT IS
DIFFICULT FOR ANYONE WHO LIVES
IN MY NEIGHBORHOOD IN ASTORIA TO
GET TO.
FOR LAWYERS TO VISIT THEIR
CLIENTS AND IT BECOMES VERY
IMPRACTICAL AND COSTLY FOR
TRANSPORTATION OF THESE INMATES
TO AND FROM COURTHOUSES.
IT WOULD WORK MUCH BETTER IN A
DISPERSED SYSTEM.
THE OTHER THING I WOULD MENTION,
THE JAIL POPULATIONS ARE FALLING
IN GENERAL BECAUSE OF THE
REDUCTION IN CRIME OVER THE LAST
COUPLE DECADES.
WE ELIMINATE CASH BAIL FOR
NONVIOLENT CHARGES.
THAT WILL END UP HAVING A
MASSIVE REDUCTION ON THE JAIL
POPULATION OF IT IS A FACT,
ABOUT 80% OR SO, ARE PEOPLE
AWAITING TRIAL SITTING AT RIKERS
ISLAND.
SO THAT POPULATION WILL BE
DECREASED BECAUSE OF THE CHANGE
IN THE LAW.
>> LET'S TALK ABOUT THE MARKETS
OF CLOSING DOWN RIKERS COULD
HAVE.
FROM YOUR PERSPECTIVE, AS THE
DISTRICT ATTORNEY.
AND SOME MIGHT THINK, IF YOU'RE
THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY, WE'RE
FINE WHERE THEY ARE.
DON'T WORRY ABOUT IT.
THAT'S NOT THE CASE.
WHY DO YOU FEEL THAT THIS IDEA
OF CLOSING DOWN LIKERS AND
OPENING UP FOUR OTHER FACILITIES
THAT WILL FOCUS MORE ON NOT JUST
WAREHOUSING PEOPLE.
FIRST OF ALL, TRYING TO REDUCE
THE NUMBER.
PROVIDE SOME SERVICES.
WHY WOULD THAT BE SIGNIFICANT TO
YOU AS A PROSECUTOR?
>> FOR US IN BROOKLYN, WE HAVE A
JAIL, PRE EXISTING, THE BROOKLYN
HOUSE OF DETENTION.
THAT PLACE IS A A FUNCTIONING,
OPERATING JAIL CURRENTLY.
SO WHILE THERE ARE SOME CONCERNS
FOR THE NEIGHBORHOOD ABOUT HOW
WE WOULD BUILD A NEW JAIL IN
THAT EXISTING FOOT PRINT.
IT MAKES A WILL THE OF SENSE FOR
US TO HAVE THAT.
WE HAVE THE COURTHOUSE ACROSS
THE STREET FROM THE JAIL.
THE TUNNEL FROM THE JAIL RIGHT
INTO THE COURTHOUSE.
SO IN TERMS OF PUBLIC SAFETY.
THERE'S NOT A LOT OF CONCERNS.
BUT FOR THE SENSE OF BEING ABLE
TO HAVE AN EFFICIENT COURT
SYSTEM, WE SPEND HOURS EACH
MORNING WAITING FOR THE BUS TO
COME FROM RIKERS ISLAND.
OFTEN DLAIG CASES.
>> NOTHING IS WORSE THAN JURORS
SITTING IN A ROOM WAITING FOR A
TRIAL TO GET STARTED.
>> AND THEN WAITING EARLY SO
PEOPLE CAN GET BACK ON THE BUS.
OFTEN NONDELIVERY OF PEOPLE WHO
HAVE TO COME TO COURT.
IT PREVENTS THE ADMINISTRATION
OF JUSTICE.
BUT ON A MORE IMPORTANT BASIS
THAN THAT IS THE HUMAN DIGNITY
OF OUR CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM.
WE HAVE TO HAVE A JUSTICE SYSTEM
THAT IS MEANT TO ACCOMPLISH
PUBLIC SAFETY.
BUT ALSO PROMOTE PUBLIC TRUST.
AND TO JUST GLOSS OVER THE FACT
OF THE TORTURED HISTORY OF
RIKERS ISLAND, AND WHAT
SYMBOLICALLY IT MEANS TO PEOPLE
TO BE PLACED ON THE ISLAND.
AND THE HARM THAT BEING PLACED
ON RIKERS ISLAND HAS DONE OVER
THE YEARS IN GENERATIONS AND
PARTICULARLY IN LOW INCOME AND
COMMUNITIES OF COLOR.
JUST TO SAY THAT IT COULD BE
SPRUCED UP.
REALLY UNDERESTIMATES HOW
DAMAGING THAT INSTITUTION HAS
BEEN.
WE CAN HAVE A NEW JAIL THAT IS
CREATED WITH THE GOAL OF
RESTORING HUMAN DIGNITY TO
PEOPLE WHO HAVE NOT BEEN
CONVICTED.
EVEN TO THOSE WHO ARE CONVICTED
OF CRIME.
HOUSE THEM THAT WAYS THAT ARE
MEN TO REHABILITATE THEM AND NOT
MEN TO PUNISH THEM IN OUR JAIL
SYSTEM.
>> LET'S GO BACK TO THE IDEA OF
THE VARIOUS INITIATIVES THAT
HAVE BEEN TAKING PLACE HERE.
THAT ARE DESIGNED TO IMPROVE OUR
JUSTICE SYSTEM.
DESIGNED TO REDUCE THE NUMBER OF
PEOPLE WHO ARE INCARCERATED.
LET'S START WITH THE NOTION, LET
ME COME TO YOU.
YOU ARE INSTRUMENTAL IN THE
CHANGES BEING MADE TO THEM.
>> IF I'M COULD NOT IS IT THE
WENT OF YOURS AND I SAY, WHY ARE
YOU DOING THIS?
ISN'T BAIL GOOD THING?
A LOT OF PEOPLE THINK IT IS TRUE
BUT IT'S NOT.
THEY BELIEVE IT IS A HEAD START
ON A PUNISHMENT.
GET PEOPLE IN JAIL NOW TO START
THEIR PUNISHMENT.
REGARDING THEY ARE INNOCENT
UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY.
BUT PEOPLE THINK IT PUTS A HOOK
IN THEM AND GETS THEM OFF THE
STREET TO PROTECT US.
THAT'S NOT THE CASE LEGALLY.
BUT WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO ONE OF
YOUR CONSTITUENTS?
WHY ARE YOU LEADING THIS CHARGE
HERE TO CHANGE THE WHOLE BAIL
STRUCTURE?
>> BECAUSE THE JUSTICE SYSTEM
NEEDS TO BE JUST.
AND WE HAVE FORWARD THINKING
DISTRICT ATTORNEYS LIKE MR.
GONZALEZ HERE KNOWS THAT.
FOR A LOT OF PEOPLE WHO ARE
ENTERING INTO THE SYSTEM, AS YOU
POINT OUT, THEY'RE BEING TREATED
LIKE CRIMINALS BEFORE THEY'RE
CONVICTED OF CRIME.
AND BAIL ESPECIALLY, TO THE
POOR.
ONE HAS MEANS AND ONE DOES NOT.
THE WEALTHY PERSON WILL BE AT
HOME WAITING FOR TRIAL AND THE
PERSON WHO DOESN'T HAVE
$500,000, WHATEVER THE BAIL IS
SET FOR.
>> THIS COMES BACK TO WHAT YOU
SAID ABOUT THE PERCENTAGE OF
PEOPLE WHO ARE BEING WAREHOUSED
WHO HAVEN'T EVEN BEEN TRIED YET.
>> AND THAT'S THE PROBLEM WITH
BAIL.
NONE OF THESE PEOPLE HAVE BEEN
CONVICTED OF THE CRIME FOR WHICH
THEY WERE CHARGED.
AND YET THEY DON'T HAVE THE
MONEY TO GET OUT AND THEY'RE
SERVING PUNISHMENT.
WE TALKED ABOUT THE DISPARITY
BETWEEN RICH AND POOR IN THE
SYSTEM BUT YOU'RE DEALING WITH
THE FACT, SOME UNSCRUPULOUS
PROSECUTORS, A GOOD FRIEND HERE
WHO IS ONE OF THE PROGRESSIVES
OF THE CITY.
WE'LL USE THAT LEVERAGE.
IT IS SOMETHING WHERE THEY'RE
ALREADY SERVING TIME AS A HEAD
START ON THEIR PUNISHMENT IF
THEY'RE CONVICTED.
SOME WILL SAY YOU'VE BEEN
CHARGED WITH A RELATIVELY LOW
LEVEL WITH A CRIME.
>> I CAN TELL YOU, WHEN I WAS A
YOUNG PROSECUTOR, THIS IS LIKE
FOUR DECADES AGO.
AND GOING TO PROSECUTOR SCHOOL,
WE WERE TAUGHT THAT.
USE IT LEVERAGE.
I KNOW YOU'RE SAYING YOU DID NOT
DO IT BUT --
>> THAT'S OBVIOUSLY WRONG.
IT IS HARD FOR SOME PEOPLE TO
SAY NO TO IF THEY'VE BEEN THIS
THERE.
>> IT TAKES A TREMENDOUS AMOUNT
OF COURAGE AND BRAVERY FOR
SOMEONE WHO DIDN'T DO A CRIME TO
SAY I'LL SPEND MORE TIME ON
RIKERS THANG I NEED TO TO TRY TO
PROVE MY INNOCENCE.
>> BUT WE'RE TAUGHT THROUGH
SCHOOL, WE'RE ALL LAWYERS IN ONE
FORM OR ANOTHER, THAT YOU'RE
INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY IN
OUR SYSTEM.
THE REALITY IS YOU'RE GUILTY
UNLESS PROVEN WEALTHY.
IF YOU DON'T HAVE THE MONEY.
>> WHAT ARE WE SEEING AS BAIL
OPTIONS?
>> FOR THE NONVIOLENT CHARGES
FOR THE MOST PART, MISDEMEANORS
AND NONVINT FELONIES, THERE'S NO
BAIL AS OF 2020 HAD THIS GOES
INTO EFFECT.
JUDGES WILL BE ABLE TO IMPOSE
CONDITIONS ON THE RELEASE OF
SOME OF THESE DEFENDANTS WHERE
THEY'RE REQUIRED TO CHECK IN.
WITH THE EQUIVALENT OF THE
PAROLE OFFICERS.
>> IN SOME PLACES.
>> BUTS --
>> WHAT THEY CAN DO IS DETAIN
THAT IN JAIL PRIOR TO A
CONDITION.
>> THE VIOLENT CRIMES ARE
TREATED THE SAME AS TODAY.
WE'RE NOT CHANGING THE SYSTEM
FOR VIOLENT CRIMES.
>> IT IS IMPORTANT TO RECOGNIZE
THAT.
THIS IS NOT ACROSS THE BOARD.
PEOPLE ARE SURPRISED HOW MANY OF
THE PEOPLE IN OUR CRIMINAL
JUSTICE SYSTEM ARE THEREFORE
NONVIOLENT CRIMES.
WE THINK ABOUT 80% OF THE JAIL
POPULATION WILL BE AFFECTED BY
THIS.
>> ARE YOU OKAY WITH THAT AS A
PROSECUTOR?
ARE YOU OKAY WITH THE NOTION OF
SORT OF RELAXING, WHAT WITH THE
TRADITIONAL APPROACHES TO BAIL?
>> ABSOLUTELY.
I CALLED TO END CASH BAIL.
BECAUSE THE ISSUE WITH CASH BAIL
AS THE SENATOR SAID WAS AN ISSUE
THAT WAS A POVERTY TAX, IF YOU
COULD NOT AFFORD $200, OR $500.
YOU WERE KEPT IN.
IF YOU COULD NOT AFFORD THAT
SMALL AMOUNT OF BAIL.
AND AS CASES BECAME MORE
SERIOUS, THE MORE PEOPLE GET
KEPT IN AS THEY WERE POOR.
A NUMBER OF PEOPLE WHO WERE
$1,000 IS EVERY MAN'S STATUS.
BUT NOT ONLY WAS IT UNFAIR.
IT DIDN'T PROVIDE FOR PUBLIC
SAFETY.
BECAUSE THE CONCEPT THAT IF YOU
COULD AFFORD TO BE OUT OF REALLY
SPEAKS TO THE IDEA THAT THE
SYSTEM ISN'T DESIGNED FOR PUBLIC
SAFETY.
WHAT IT WAS MEN TO DO WAS ENTRAP
PEOPLE WHO COULD NOT AFFORD IT.
PEOPLE WHO COULD AFFORD TO MAKE
BAIL REGARDLESS OF HOW SERIOUS
THE CHARGE WAS, REGARDLESS OF
THE CRIMINAL BACK GROUND, THEY
GOT OUT.
SO WE NEEDED A SYSTEM THAT
ACTUALLY MADE SENSE IN TERMS OF
PUBLIC SAFETY.
>> FROM YOUR PERSPECTIVE AND THE
COMMISSIONS, WHEN YOU'RE SEEING
THESE PROPOSALS, HOW DID THEY
FIT INTO THE OVERVIEW THAT YOU
HAD IN THE SYSTEM?
WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE TO HELP IN
TERMS OF THE POPULATION.
>> WE HAD ABOUT 45 DIFFERENT
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR HOW THE
JUSTICE SYSTEM COULD BE IMPROVED
SO THERE ARE FEWER PEOPLE IN
JAIL.
WE DON'T HAVE A MONOPOLY ON ALL
THE GOOD IDEAS OUT THERE.
BUT ONE OF THE CENTRAL PIECES IS
GETTING RID OF CASH BAIL.
SO VERY IMPORTANT.
WHAT HAS BEEN DONE IN THE
LEGISLATURE.
DISCOVERY REFORM, SPEEDY TRIAL
REFORM, ALSO THINGS THAT
HAPPENED A FEW WEEKS AGO.
I WANT TO MAKE A BIGGER POINT.
WHEN WE TALK ABOUT THE JUSTICE
SYSTEM WE'RE OFTEN TALKING ABOUT
THE RISK OF LETTING SOMEBODY
OUT.
WHAT WE RARELY TALK ABOUT IS THE
RISK OF PUTTING SOMEBODY IN JAIL
WHO DOESN'T NEED TO BE THERE.
AND THE CONSEQUENCES OF SPENDING
EVEN A FEW DAYS IN JAIL ARE
REALLY SERIOUS.
WE CAN IMAGINE IT IN OUR OWN
LIVES.
HOW WE EXPLAIN TO IT OUR BOSS.
WE COULD LOSE OUR JOB, OUR
HOUSE, CUSTODY OF YOUR KIDS.
ALL OF THOSE THINGS ARE THINGS
THAT CAN HAPPEN TO PEOPLE WHO
ARE PUT IN JAIL EVEN FOR A SHORT
TIME.
AND STUDIES BEAR THIS OUT.
THEY SHOW THAT SOMEBODY WHO IS
IN JAIL FOR MORE THAN 48 HOURS
IS MORE LIKELY TO COME BACK TO
JAIL.
SO WHAT THAT SHOWS IS THAT IN
MANY CASES, JAIL IS ENCOURAGING
CRIMINAL ACTIVITY.
IT IS LEADING TO MORE CRIMINAL
ACTIVITY DOWN THE LINE.
NOTHING CAN BE MORE PERVERSE
THAN THAT.
>> AND THOSE ARE VERY REVEALING
STUDIES.
LET'S TALK AGAIN ABOUT PUBLIC
PERCEPTIONS.
BECAUSE THE PUBLIC DOESN'T KNOW
THAT.
>> THEY HAVEN'T SEEN THOSE
NUMBERS.
HERE'S WHAT THE VAST NUMBER
WOULD THINK.
THIS GUY HAS BEEN CHARGED WITH
SOMETHING.
ODDS ARE HE DID IT.
SOMETHING REAL CLOSE TO IT.
WHY SHOULD HE BE BACK ON THE
STREET?
ARE NOT I SAFER IF HE'S IN
THERE?
THEN YOU HAVE ELECTED JUDGES AND
PROSECUTORS.
AND I KNOW FROM TALKING TO
JUDGES, THAT THE WORST NIGHTMARE
IS, YOU LET SOMEBODY OUT ON
BAIL.
AND THE NEXT THING YOU KNOW,
THEY'RE BACK ON A HOMICIDE
CHARGE.
>> I THINK WE HAVE TO CHANGE THE
PERCEPTION OF WHAT OUR JUSTICE
SYSTEM IS ABOUT.
OUR JUSTICE SYSTEM SHOULD BE
ABOUT ACCOUNTABILITY AND
PREVENTING PEOPLE FROM
COMMITTING CRIMES.
I THINK FROM A VERY EARLY STAGE
IN OUR COURTS, YOU KNOW, JUDGES
WERE EXPECTED TO COULD THAT 56th
PEOPLE AND HAND OUT LENGTHY
SENTENCES.
AND WE NEED TO REALLY CHANGE
WHAT THE GOAL OF OUR COURT
SYSTEM AND PROSECUTION SHOULD
BE.
IT SHOULD BE ABOUT MAKING OUR
COMMUNITIES SAFE AND DOING
THINGS TO MAKE OUR COMMUNITIES
SAFER.
WE SPOKE EARLIER ABOUT THE FACT
WHEN PEOPLE GET OUT OF RIKERS,
THEY RETURN RIGHT BACK HOME.
SO IF OUR JAIL IS NOT ABOUT
REHABILITATION, WE JUST DELAY
THE PROBLEM.
WE'RE NOT KEEPING OURSELVES SAFE
BY PUTTING SOMEONE IN JAIL SIX
OR NINE MONTHS.
THEY'RE RETURNING HOME WITH MUCH
MORE TRAUMA AND MUCH MORE
ISSUES.
WE KNOW IT IS PRETTY
UNCONTESTED.
THE THINGS THAT KEEP PEOPLE ON
THE STRAIGHT AND NARROW, HOUSING
OPPORTUNITIES, EMPLOYMENT
OPPORTUNITIES, AND HAVING A
SIGNIFICANT OTHER PERSON IN YOUR
LIFE.
AND WHEN WE TAKE PEOPLE AND WE
PUT THEM IN JAIL, WE REMOVE THEM
FROM THE THINGS THAT WILL MAKE
THEM WITH THE POSSIBILITY OF
HAVING SUCCESS.
AND WE SEE THIS ON PAROLE.
WE TAKE PEOPLE IN AND OUT OF THE
SYSTEM ON THESE TECHNICAL
VIOLATIONS AND WE REMOVE THEM
FROM THEIR JOBS AND COMMUNITIES.
AND WE YO-YO THEM BACK AND
FORTH.
THAT'S NOT A RECIPE TO MAKE A
PERSON LIVE A PRODUCTIVE LIFE.
THAT IS A RECIPE FOR WHAT WE SEE
TO HOMELESSNESS.
AND TO FURTHER CRIMINAL
ACTIVITY.
>> YOU SAID SOMETHING EARLIER.
UP PEOPLE'S PERCEPTIONS, ODDS
ARE THEY COMMITTED A CRIME.
THE PRETRIAL PROCESS IS NOT
SUPPOSED TO BE PREDICTIVE OF
WHETHER THEY'RE GUILTY OR NOT.
WE HAVE A JUDGE TO DECIDE
WHETHER SOMEONE IS GUILTY OR NOT
OF THEY'RE SUPPOSED TO GO BEFORE
A JURY OF THEIR PEERS,
PRESUMPTION OF INNOCENCE, ALL OF
THAT GOOD STUFF THAT WE BELIEVE
IN.
IT IS TOO OFTEN BEING PERCEIVED
TO KEEP GUILTY PEOPLE AWAY
BEFORE THEY'VE HAD THAT
OPPORTUNITY.
>> EVEN IF THEY ARE GUILTY.
>> WHO GETS TO JUDGE IT?
IT IS LIKE THE MOVIE REFERENCES,
LIKE THE MINORITY REPORT WHERE
THEY HAVE A PREDICTIVE WAY TO
FIGURE OUT WHO WILL COMMIT A
CRIME AND THEN PUT THEM THAT
BEFORE HAND.
THAT'S NOT WHAT IT IS FOR.
THE MORE PEOPLE IN JAIL, IF
WE'RE ALL IN JAIL AND NO ONE IS
ON THE STREET, IT WILL BE ZERO
CRIME.
IF YOU TAKE TO IT A RIDICULOUS
POINT, THE MORE PEOPLE YOU KEEP
BEHIND BARS, THE MORE SAFETY ON
THE STREETS.
WE HAVE A SYSTEM BUILT AROUND
FAIRNESS AND TRYING TO MAKE SURE
THE GUILTY ARE FOUND GUILTY AND
PUNISHED AND THOSE WHO ARE NOT
HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO SHOW
THAT THEY ARE NOT.
>> LET ME GO BACK TO YOU.
A FEW OF THE OTHER THINGS THAT
WE'RE SEEING IS BEEN DESCRIBE AS
REDUCED PROSECUTIONS.
LESS CASES BEING BROUGHT.
ALSO, WE KNOW THAT THERE HAS
BEEN A DRAMATIC REDUCTION IN THE
POLICY DESCRIBED AS STOP, ASK
AND FRISK.
I SAW NUMBERS SAYING AS MANY AS
700,000 OF THOSE INSTANCES IN
2011, DOWN TO ABOUT 10,000 NOW.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE IMPACT?
>> EVEN JUST IN THE PAST TWO AND
A HALF YEARS SINCE OUR
COMMISSION CAME OUT WITH OUR
REPORT.
SINCE THERE IS ADVOCACY, MAYOR
de BLASIO SAID THE CITY WOULD
CLOSE THE RIKERS JAIL, THERE
HAVE ALREADY BEEN MASSIVE
CHANGES.
TODAY THERE ARE 2,000 FEWER
PEOPLE IN JAIL ON ANY GIVEN DAY
THAN TWO YEARS AGO.
THAT'S A HUGE CHANGE.
IT IS MEASURED IN PEOPLE'S
LIVES.
WHEN YOU LOOK AT PUBLIC SAFETY
IN THE CITY, WE'RE SAFER TODAY
OR AS SAFE AS WE'VE EVER BEEN.
SO IT'S PROOF.
WE DON'T HAVE TO JAIL OR
INCARCERATE OURSELVES TO SAFETY.
WE CAN DO IT BETTER AND SMARTER.
>> LET ME COME BACK TO THE
NOTION OF DIFFERENT JAILS.
>> I WANT TO GET TO THAT.
ONE OTHER THING I WANT TO TALK
TO YOU ABOUT.
YOU HAVE THIS POST CONVICTION
UNIT THAT YOU'VE CREATED IN YOUR
OFFICE.
WHAT'S THE PURPOSE?
>> IT IS TO REEXAMINE THINGS
THAT WE'VE DONE IN THE PAST.
A LOT OF THE EFFORT TO REDUCE
INCARCERATION IS ON THE FRONT
END.
IF WE'RE GOING TO BE SERIOUS
ABOUT DOING THIS WORK, WE HAVE
TO LOOK AT THE PEOPLE WHO ARE
CURRENTLY IN JAIL.
EVERY MONTH I MEET PEOPLE WHO
THE PRISON BELIEVES SHOULD BE
OUT.
THAT THEY NO LONGER SERVE A
PUBLIC SAFETY CONCERN.
YET THEY REMAIN IN.
THERE ARE PEOPLE IN THE 60s AND
70s YEARS OF AGE.
THIS IS THE MOST EXPENSIVE THING
WE CAN DO IS TO HOUSE THEM
UPSTATE.
WE HAVE TO MAKE SURE THE PEOPLE
CAN BE RETURNED SAFELY AND
REENTER SOCIETY IS DONE.
SO WE'LL LOOK AT THAT.
WE'RE ALSO LOOKING AT PAROLE AND
CLEMENCY OPERATIONS AND WORK
WITH THE GOVERNOR.
WE HAD A SAILING UNIT WHO WILL
LOOK AT THESE OLD CASES.
PEOPLE SHOULD NOT WALK AROUND
FOR THE REST OF THEIR LIVES.
ESPECIALLY ON LOW LEVEL OFFENSES
WHERE CRIMINAL RECORDS PREVENT
THEM FROM MOVING FORWARD.
ABOUT TWO YEARS AGO, ALBANY
PASSED A SAILING STATUTE.
MOST PEOPLE DON'T KNOW IT
EXISTS.
MY OFFICE NOW HAS A PORTAL WHERE
PEOPLE CAN APPLY FOR FREE TO GET
THEIR RECORDS SEALED.
INSTEAD OF THE D.A. FIGHTING
THEM, THE D.A. WILL ASSIST IN
GETTING THE RECORDS SEALED.
SO THAT'S A BIG COME POSSIBLY.
WE HAVE TOO MANY PEOPLE.
>> I'M GOING BACK TO MY TIME AS
PROSECUTOR WHICH WAS A LONG TIME
AGO.
I REMEMBER ESSENTIALLY WHEN
PEOPLE HAVE EMOTIONS TO EXPUNGE
RECORDS, TO SEAL RECORDS, YOUR
POSITION WAS YOU OBJECTED TO IT.
BASICALLY SAYING, WE WANT
ACCESS.
THEY DON'T KNOW WHAT THEY MIGHT
BE DOWN THE ROAD.
IT IS BETTER FOR PEOPLE TO KNOW
TO HAVE ACCESS TO IT.
PAROLE.
UNIFORMLY, THE FIRST
ELIGIBILITY.
WHY ARE WE SEEING A CHANGE AT
LEAST IN YOUR OFFICE?
WHY ARE WE SEEING A CHANGE IN
TERMS OF PROSECUTORS SAYING,
LET'S LOOK AT SOME THINGS
RATTLEALLY.
LET'S LOOK AT WHAT POSITION.
>> WE'VE SEEN THE TREMENDOUS
HARM OUR JUSTICE SYSTEM HAS.
WE'VE GOT 2.2 MILLION IN PRISON
ACROSS THE COUNTRY.
WE'VE GOT TENS OF THOUSANDS OF
PEOPLE IN STATE PRISON AND ON
POST RELEASE SUPERVISION ON
PAROLE.
AND WE REALIZE, IF WE ARE
CONCERNED ABOUT A SYSTEM THAT
PROTECTS PEOPLE, THAT WE HAVE TO
SCALE IT DOWN SO THE PEOPLE WHO
ARE UNDER SUPERVISION, AND THE
PEOPLE WHO ARE IN JAIL, ARE THE
FEW PEOPLE WHO WE BELIEVE ARE
REALLY A THREAT TO PUBLIC
SAFETY.
WE'VE CREATED A SYSTEM THAT IS
TOO LARGE TO ACTUALLY PROTECT
US.
WE'RE NOT GOING TO JAIL OUR WAY
TO PUBLIC SAFETY.
AND WE HAVE TO GET BACK TO THE
WORK OF SAYING, THE HARDEST
THING GOVERNMENT CAN DO IS PUT
SOMEONE IN PRISON.
AND TO RESERVE THAT FOR THE
PEOPLE WHO REALLY NEED IT.
>> WE'RE TALKING ABOUT
PERCEPTIONS.
THE PERCEPTION OF THE PUBLIC
THAT WE'RE SAFE.
AND ALL WE NEED IS ONE PERSON
WHO GETS OUT ON BAIL.
SOMEBODY WHO GETS OUT.
THE FIRST ELIGIBILITY ON PAROLE.
THERE'S NO OBJECTION TO COMMIT A
HORRENDOUS CRIME.
AND ONE OF THOSE IS FOR THE
PUBLIC TO SAY, YOU ARE NOT DOING
YOUR JOBS.
YOUR PRIMARY JOB IS NOT TO
IMPROVE THE LIVES OF SOMEBODY
THAT HAS BEEN CONVICTED OF A
CRIME.
YOUR PRIMARY JOB IS TO PROTECT
ME OF WE HAVE A LITTLE LESS THAN
A MINUTE HERE.
A TOUGH QUESTION TO ASK.
WHAT DO WE NEED TO DO TO GET THE
MESSAGE OUT TO THE PUBLIC?
>> WE'RE DOING IT RIGHT NOW.
THE TOUGH DECISIONS ARE HARD BY
DEFINITION.
ONE OF THE THINGS BENEATH THE
SURFACE, AS WE DEBATE THESE
REFORMS, THE EXAMPLE.
NOBODY WANTS A WILLY HORTON.
ONE PERSON GETS OUT AND DOES THE
RIGHT THING.
IT IS OUR JOB TO NOW EDUCATE
PEOPLE ABOUT WHAT IS JUST.
MIND YOU, THERE ARE FAMILIES
THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS OF THEM
WHO ARE AFFECTED BY PEOPLE WHO
ARE BEING HELD IN JAIL UNJUSTLY
HELD PRETRIAL.
THEY WILL SEE THE DIRECT
BENEFIT.
FOR EVERYONE ELSE, WE'VE GOT TO
EXPLAIN TO THEM THAT THERE IS NO
REASON SOMEONE, THE BAIL
EXAMPLE, WHO IS RICH.
ON THE STREETS DOING THE SAME
THING.
THEY HAVE NOT BEEN CONVICTED.
>> IT IS IMPORTANT THAT WE HAVE
AS MANY OF THESE CONVERSATIONS
AS POSSIBLE TO GET THESE OUT.
THANK YOU.
I APPRECIATE YOUR TIME.
HOPEFULLY WE CAN GET TOGETHER
AND CONTINUE THIS CONVERSATION
AS WE MOVE DOWN THE ROAD.
THANK YOU FOR SHARING THE TIME
WITH US.
>> FIND OUT MORE ABOUT OUR
JUSTICE WEEK COVERAGE AND OUR
PLANS TO BRING QUALITY TO OUR
JUSTICE SYSTEM.
MAKE SURE YOU VISIT US AT
METROFOCUS.ORG.
>> "METROFOCUS" IS MADE POSSIBLE
BY
JAMES AND MERRYL TISCH,
SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III,
THE SYLVIA A. AND SIMON B. POYTA
PROGRAMING ENDOWMENT TO FIGHT
ANTI-SEMITISM.
BERNARD AND IRENE SCHWARTZ,
ROSALIND P. WALTER,
BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG,
AND BY --

Mutual of America PSEG

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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