About 5 years ago, when I started my current efforts to improve the criminal justice system and to help thousands of people being unjustly harmed by it, VERY FEW people were discussing the problems. Today, although our overall prison population has decreased by only about 2%, we are seeing changes … some big, many small, nowhere near enough … but it IS happening. The failed “war on drugs”, prison abuse, mandatory minimum sentences, out of control “piss-poor” lawyers, folks are focusing on all of the issues.
Why? Here’s why: People have persisted in getting the word out!!
Here is what usually happens:
Your loved one in prison is abused by prison staff … beaten for no reason (he has mental health problems, and he “talked back” to a nurse) , left with broken bones and told that if he tries to go to the infirmary he will be beaten again! [If you don’t think this happens, you are clueless about what goes on in our prisons!]. So you complain to the prison, call 4o law firms, none of whom will take your case, notify your elected officials, and you even join a demonstration and post about the incident all over Facebook. For a few weeks or months, and then you give up!
Here is what you MUST DO:
Commit to stay with the problem and get it solved! Sure, prison abuse is one of the most difficult problems in the system to solve, but, like any problem, it can be solved! Read Why only PROSECUTION and IMPRISONMENT Will Stop Prison Abuse! Demand It!! How to Avoid the Deaths of More Prison Guards! and see the ACTION PLAN! Join a group like Citizens for Criminal JUSTICE, and do something every month – it may take you a half hour! – to help fix the system and thus improve America! Please take a moment to JOIN our Facebook group Citizens for Criminal JUSTICE if you have not already! https://www.facebook.com/groups/588838431158009/
This website is loaded with great practical tips and the solutions for every problem. Read, for example: Get Empowered! How YOU Can Create a Powerful, Effective Force for Reform of our Criminal Justice System
But, dabnabbit wabbit, you have got to STICK TO IT! 🙂
Folks, it took more than 40 years for the problems to form – I remember when the system worked well, as it should! – and no significant change will happen fast. YOU MUST NOT EXPECT MIRACLES, AND YOU MUST NOT UNDERESTIMATE YOUR SIGNIFICANCE IN THE FIGHT FOR JUSTICE. You CAN make a difference!
T. T. T.
Put up in a place
where it’s easy to see
the cryptic admonishment
T. T. T.
When you feel how depressingly
slowly you climb,
it’s well to remember that
Things Take Time! T T T
America is awash with heroin … every city, every state … you can put me in any town in America and I can get heroin within 10 minutes! Moms, Dads, Sons, Daughters, are DROPPING DEAD from overdoses in massive numbers. Guess what? This won’t end until we end our “war on drugs”!
Did we learn NOTHING from criminalizing alcohol? Apparently. At least 85% of all crime is drug related! Alcohol did not create Al Capone, Prohibition did!
STUDY THE IMAGE OF THE “WAR ON DRUGS TREE”. IT IS NOT JUST “A NICE LITTLE PICTURE”, IT IS AN ACCOUNT OF ENDLESS WASTE, VIOLENCE, AGONY AND INJUSTICE!
Read this to see what really happens after we end this UTTERLY FAILED policy called “the war on drugs”!- AFTER PROHIBITION
And read this to see why the same policy has destroyed our criminal justice system! How the “War on Drugs” has Destroyed Justice!
READ the excellent article in The New Yorker: The Addicts Next Door!
Ohio has declared itself the heroin capital of America! Drug deaths are rising faster than ever!
INDEED, THERE ARE SO MANY NEWS REPORTS ABOUT THE ABUNDANCE OF HEROIN THAT SOME POLITICIANS ARE STILL SHOUTING THAT WE SHOULD “GET TOUGHER WITH LAWS AGAINST HEROIN”! DUH- THAT HAS NOT WORKED FOR 40 YEARS! WHERE ARE THE STORIES EXPLAINING THE REAL SOLUTION TO THE PROBLEM?!
I am still amazed that police training is soooo bad that they continue to make these stupid mistakes! READ the related articles to know your “search and seizure” rights and to learn more about this issue. Click on the tab “search & seizure”! While it is important – paramount – to protect defendants’ Constitutional rights, these dumb-ass mistakes increase crime! It means the criminal is still on the streets!
Excerpts from the Article:
The police seizure of two cell phones from a man accused of a Felton home invasion was invalidated in Superior Court on Thursday. In an 11-page order, Judge Jeffrey Clark pointed to ample opportunity authorities to obtain a search warrant for the phones Marquan Richardson had on Aug. 8, 2016.
According to the order, Mr. Richardson was developed as a suspect in June before arriving at a probation office appointment in New Castle County two months later. A detective arrived and seized two phones Richardson possessed without a warrant.
Mr. Richardson is charged with home invasion, three counts of first-degree robbery and other alleged offenses regarding an incident on June 9, 2016.
According to documents, the State maintained that “had the detective not obtained the phones while he was at the probation office, it would have been easy and expected for Mr. Richardson to destroy evidence contained on the phones.” Also, the State pointed to alleged consent to seize the phones.
According to Judge Clark, “the State failed to meet its burden of establishing that Mr. Richardson consented to the seizure of even the first phone.
“Furthermore, as to both phones, police had adequate time to obtain a warrant prior to the scheduled meeting. …“
Read the Whole Story:
Again: for every 1 person arrested, 29 benefit financially, so there are a lot of “bodies” working in or serving our mass incarceration machine, who are not helping any individual, nor society, … but they are lobbying hard to stop needed reforms! This article actually confirms what I have said for years. We have bloated payrolls = politicians afraid to eliminate the useless jobs of those lobbying them, and inflated health-care costs.
Excerpts from the Article:
A new report finds that a drop in the prison population doesn’t necessarily mean a drop in prison costs. Since the number of inmates in United States prisons peaked at 1.4 million in 2009, there has been broad, bipartisan support for criminal justice reform that reigns in both prison populations and spending. These efforts have been largely successful: Today, there are some 77,000 fewer people in prison than in 2009, which has led to a $232 million drop in prison costs nationwide. But those savings don’t always go to the states that have best-managed to prune their prison populations.
A new report from the Vera Institute of Justice, a criminal justice non-profit, on the total costs of running prisons found that, between 2010 and 2015, 20 states managed to decrease spending. Given that prison personnel costs—including salaries, benefits, and overtime—accounted for over two-thirds of prison spending, many states (New York and New Jersey among them) that decreased spending did so by cutting workforce numbers in tandem with prison populations.
Only Oklahoma and Nevada decreased spending by reducing employees while increasing prison populations. Meanwhile, at least 25 states saw an increase in spending thanks largely to rising employment and health-care costs.
Below, four maps from Vera’s report that show how population and spending trends varied across the U.S.:
State prison population and expenditures, 2010-2015
(Map: Vera Institute of Justice)
State prison populations and expenditures, 2010-2015
(Map: Vera Institute of Justice)
Prison populations and expenditures, 2010-2015
(Map: Vera Institute of Justice)
Prison populations and expenditures, 2010-2015
No surprise to me; these agencies are out of control nationwide! I get calls every day from families harmed by their conduct! READ Practical Tip – You must do this if you get a call or a visit from CPS! The Fight CPS HANDBOOK
Excerpts from the Article:
The Joliet office of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services offered gift cards to workers closing the most cases just months before a missing 1-year-old girl’s body was found under a couch in a home, a report Saturday said. The Chicago Tribune reported the existence of the contest a day after the department released a report reviewing its actions leading up to the death of 1-year-old Semaj Crosby. The toddler was found dead April 26 in a Joliet Township home shortly after DCFS closed an investigation into whether she was being neglected.
The contest that began in January awarded $100 gift cards to the two workers who closed the most cases within a month, the report said. The third place winner received a $50 gift card.
It’s unclear whether any of the winners were involved in DCFS inquiries at Semaj’s home.
State Rep. Mary Flowers, a Chicago Democrat who has chaired a recent legislative hearing on DCFS investigations, called the contest “unethical.” She called for the agency’s inspector general to conduct an immediate investigation into the contest, including the children and families who were affected by cases that may have been closed prematurely.
“Children’s lives could have been put at risk because of this bad behavior,” Flowers said. “This is not a game.”
The private-prison industry has one big client that no one talks about – And they are a Disaster! Sessions- kra
Read articles under prison abuse to learn the many ways that private prisons truly are a disaster. Here we see the shadowy network of private prisons run by the U S Marshals.
Excerpts from the Article.
The largest jail system in the United States has no buildings of its own. Instead, it’s a shadowy complex of agreements that tucks detainees in wherever there’s available space. It has swelled substantially over the past two decades, and it is likely to grow further.
This jail isn’t run by a county or state. It’s operated by the federal government’s oldest law enforcement agency. The US Marshals Service (USMS) rents beds in hundreds of incarceration facilities for tens of thousands of federal detainees every day. Many of them end up in jails and prisons run by private companies whose facilities have a track record of poor conditions and abuses. In fact, the service locks up nearly as many inmates in private detention as the Federal Bureau of Prisons: more than 18,000 in total. This number—along with the revenue of private-prison operators—is very likely to increase under attorney general Jeff Sessions and president Donald Trump as they continue to upend reforms of the Obama years.
What makes it all the worse: When the public does get a rare look inside this largely hidden system, it becomes clear that the marshals service’s oversight of these private facilities has been woefully lacking.
Who are the marshals? In the public imagination, federal marshals are tough dudes who escort dangerous inmates on airplanes (think “Con Air”), or chase fugitives (think “Justified” and Tommy Lee Jones hunting Harrison Ford). But that public image sells short the many roles of the marshals service, a critical element of the US criminal justice system that prides itself on being established in 1789, before any other federal law-enforcement agency.
In addition to transporting federal inmates and arresting fugitives, the agency, which employs more than 3,700 deputy marshals and investigators, provides security for federal courts, manages asset forfeiture for the Department of Justice, and handles the federal witness-protection program. It touts itself as the most “versatile” federal law-enforcement agency, sometimes serving unusual functions, such as security for education secretary Betsy DeVos.
The service’s overall mission makes it responsible for an average of 51,000 detainees daily. If you’re charged with a federal offense, the USMS becomes the agency responsible for you as you await trial. Almost half of these defendants, according to data obtained by Quartz, are booked for immigration or drug offenses. After trial, if you receive a short sentence, you usually serve out your time in the service’s detention as well. If it’s a more serious conviction, you are transferred to a federal prison.
The sprawling USMS detention apparatus serves as a sort of federal “jail,” an organization with coast-to-coast reach that is largely removed from public view. “It’s a hidden part of the criminal-justice system,” said Bethany Carson, a researcher at the Texas-based anti-privatization group Grassroots Leadership. Since the detention is more short term, “nobody tends to pay attention.”
Over the past two-plus decades, marshals detention has more than doubled, from just under 100,000 bookings annually in the mid-1990s to just under 200,000 in 2016. The peak was 2010, with more than 221,000 people booked. Part of this rise can be explained by the overall mass-incarceration boom in the United States. Yet the fastest-growing population within USMS detention, by far, is immigration offenders, whose numbers have climbed tenfold over this period.
Between 2013 and 2016, the number of immigration detainees within marshals’ detention — and thus the agency’s inmate population as a whole — was falling. This is likely in part because immigration prosecutions had been decreasing in recent years. In a 2016 report from the Government Accountability Office, USMS officials outline several other reasons: declining funding for federal law-enforcement, hiring freezes, and the Smart on Crime effort launched by Obama administration attorney general Eric Holder. The program directed federal prosecutors to avoid charging low-level drug offenders with crimes that carried long sentences—a widely praised move that the Sessions Department of Justice has already reversed.
We’re likely to see another change in the chart above. The two main drivers of incarceration in the federal system, which includes marshals detention, are immigration and drug offenses. These are also the two areas where the Trump administration has declared a crackdown. In fact, according to a budget request for fiscal year 2018 from the DOJ, the service is seeking funds to accommodate an anticipated rise in detainees, identifying “enhancements to border security and immigration enforcement” as the reason.
The service does not have its own detention facilities. Instead, it uses a combination of public and private ones, through different kinds of agreements. As of 2016, the marshals service held more than 9,400 detainees in federal facilities run by the Bureau of Prisons. There were nearly 24,000 detainees in state and local prisons and jails, placed through Intergovernmental Agreements (IGA), and more than 9,400 in 15 private facilities under direct contract with the service. Additionally, the agency delegates the process of contracting with private-prison companies to state or local governments. So in effect, nearly 8,600 more detainees are held in private facilities as well (there are 25 such contracts, the USMS told Quartz). In comparison, the Bureau of Prisons holds about 21,000 of its inmates in private prisons, which is about 11% of the total population. This means that more than one-third of USMS’ detainees are in private facilities, which is a larger share of the population than in either federal or state prisons overall. (This data comes from Freedom of Information Act responses from the USMS, obtained by the privatization watchdog In The Public Interest and the ACLU, and provided to Quartz.)
Private prisons have a poor track record
Private-prison companies have long been criticized by advocates for running their facilities in inhumane and unsafe ways.
“Handing control of prisons to for-profit companies it is a recipe for abuse and neglect, and that holds true regardless of who is being held in any particular facility,” said Carl Takei, staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Prison Project. While the poor conditions in federal and state prisons, local jails, and immigration detention centers run by private companies are getting increased media attention, we don’t often hear about USMS detainees. Marshals detention is usually shorter than federal prison sentences, and it’s also less discussed than headline-grabbing Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention.
But there have been some glimpses into the system, cases that usually get publicized because the service shares a facility with another agency. In 2014, for instance, at a federal prison in Youngstown Ohio run by private prison giant CoreCivic, then known as CCA, several hundred inmates refused to leave the recreation yard in a protest, citing bad sanitary conditions, difficulties in getting health care and high food prices at the commissary, among other issues. The Bureau of Prisons ended its contract with Core Civic in 2014. The marshals did not, keeping about 600 detainees in the scandal-ridden facility. (A month after Trump’s election ICE signed a contract for the Youngstown facility as well.)
The Karnes County (Texas) Correctional Center, also run by GEO, serves as an ICE detention center and as a marshals facility. In 2014, the Texas Commission on Jail Standards found that the jail was under-staffed and overcrowded, with 46 inmates in space designated for 24.
As the Obama administration was winding down, then-deputy attorney general Sally Yates decided to begin phasing out federal use of private prisons, citing a government report that found private facilities are less safe than public ones, and that they do not save taxpayers’ money.
Her decision did not cover the US marshals service, which has not escaped these problems. The 2016 GAO report found that the service was not efficient in its use of private contractors, and had poor mechanisms for monitoring costs. Detainee populations and overall expenditures have been falling since 2012, even as the cost per prisoner increased. The agency said the hike was in part a result of “bed guarantees,” which stipulate that companies will get paid regardless whether the facility is at capacity, or is just 80% or 90% full (these guarantees are widely used across all private prison contracts). If the number of detainees falls below a forecast for a certain period, the government ends up paying for empty beds.
Private companies are known to lobby for “tough-on-crime” laws, donating to politicians on all levels (including Trump) in order to keep their business churning.
Sometimes the ties between private companies and the agencies they work with become even cozier. Stacia Hylton, who served as the head of the agency between 2011 and 2015, worked as a consultant for GEO Group between government positions, and just over a year after she retired amid allegations of misconductat the USMS, CoreCivic announced she was joining their board.
“The marshals service has operated under the radar for years, but with more than 50,000 people in custody on an average day, they are an enormous jail system,” said Takei. “It’s not right that they have been able to avoid public scrutiny up to this point.”
The private company that runs the facility faced essentially zero consequences. According to its contract and the agency’s policy, the marshals could demand price reductions for failure to fill important staff positions or other shortcomings. During the span of 10 years, the service did not demand a single price reduction for any of its 15 contracted facilities. In comparison, the Bureau of Prisons, between just 2011 and 2015, imposed more than $23 million in reductions. “And there are only two possible conclusions: one is that the marshals were failing to identify and punish violations, or that for some reason private-prison companies were miraculously offering perfect performance for the marshals at a time when they were not doing that for the Bureau of Prisons,” Takei said.
He noted that as a result of Trump’s executive orders there is “an escalation of capacity need for all three federal agencies.”
Sessions put it simply when directing federal prosecutors in April to prioritize immigration cases: “This is a new era. This is the Trump era.”
Read next: The US mass incarceration crisis can’t be fixed until we realize we’ve been looking at the problem all wrong
Read next: Are video visits a smart innovation for jails—or yet another way to exploit families?
Innocent, on Death Row, exonerated! A huge statement about the level of dysfunction – injustice – in the criminal justice system! Outrageous!
As with prison abuse, the most serious cost is not financial; it is the human toll or damage! However, the financial cost is monumental. “Kids who are placed in the adult system are 34 times more likely to recidivate than their counterparts in the juvenile system.” More prison costs, more victims’ costs, more “processing” costs, etc. adds up to BILLIONS of your tax dollars wasted@
READ this and the “related articles”! Why only PROSECUTION and IMPRISONMENT Will Stop Prison Abuse! Demand It!! How to Avoid the Deaths of More Prison Guards!
Excerpts from the Article:
Despite federal statues prohibiting it, many states imprison those under 18 alongside adults, where they are much more likely to suffer sexual abuse and violence.
On December 14, 2015, Philip Chism, of Danvers, Massachusetts, was convicted of raping and murdering his high-school math teacher, Colleen Ritzer. Chism, now 16, was 14 when he committed the crime, but was tried as an adult due to a Massachusetts state law requiring juveniles 14 and older accused of murder to be tried as adults. Massachusetts has policies in place that prevent juveniles from being sentenced to adult prisons, policies meant to protect youth from the increased risk of sexual abuse, injury, and death they face when imprisoned alongside adults.
Juveniles constitute 1,200 of the 1.5 million people housed in federal and state prisons in this country, and nearly 200,000 youth enter the adult criminal-justice system each year, most for non-violent crimes. On any given day, 10,000 juveniles are housed in adult prisons and jails. These children lose more than their freedom when they enter adult prisons; they lose out on the educational and psychological benefits offered by juvenile-detention facilities. Worse, they are much more likely to suffer sexual abuse and violence at the hands of other inmates and prison staff. The National Prison Rape Elimination Commission described their fate in blunt terms in a 2009 report: “More than any other group of incarcerated persons, youth incarcerated with adults are probably at the highest risk of sexual abuse.”
The National Inmate Survey conducted by Department of Justice indicates that “1.8 percent of 16- and 17- year-olds imprisoned with adults report being sexually abused by other inmates.” Of these cases, 75 percent report having been victimized repeatedly by staff. However, due to the imbalance of power between children and adults, not to mention between children and prison staff, sexual abuse of juveniles in adult prison is underreported; fewer than one in 10 of the juveniles surveyed reported their abuse. Given the lack of services and safety, it’s hardly surprising that juveniles housed in adult prisons are 36 times more likely to commit suicide than juveniles housed apart from adult offenders.
The federal government has taken steps to protect juveniles from being housed with adults through two federal statutes: the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974 (JJDPA) and the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 (PREA). Under JJDPA and PREA guidelines, juveniles must be housed separately from adult inmates. Despite these statutes, states continue to house juveniles with adult inmates, and a few have chosen to forfeit federal-grant dollars rather than comply with PREA.
PREA defines juveniles, or, in PREA language, “youthful inmates,” as “any person under the age of 18 who is under adult-court supervision and incarcerated or detained in a prison or jail.” PREA’s “youthful inmate” standard is the first time a federal statute has defined juveniles as anyone under age 18. The JJDPA, however, allows states to set their own definition of “juvenile” as they see fit, and exempts youths being tried as adults from the JJDPA. Nine states (North Carolina, New York, Missouri, Texas, South Carolina, Georgia, Michigan, Louisiana, and Wisconsin) set the upper limit for “juvenile” at 16 years of age; in New York and North Carolina judicial systems, youths are automatically considered adults at age 16. This discrepancy in age definitions has resulted in disagreement, discord, and ultimately, slow progress toward compliance with PREA’s youthful-inmate standard in many states. Texas recently agreed to comply earlier this year, albeit conditionally and with great reluctance, and in Utah, progress has stalled altogether.
Housing youthful inmates in adult prisons is bad public policy, both for incarcerated juveniles and society.
Access to legal counsel is not only guaranteed by the Constitution, it is also essential to guarding against abuses of power, argues Carmen Daugherty, who serves as the policy director for the Campaign for Youth Justice. “When youth are sent to prison outside of their counties or states, it makes it that much more difficult for that youth to access lawyers who can assist with complicated appeal issues. Instead, you have youth missing out on opportunities for review or opportunities to report prison abuses to attorneys who are often the only people able to visit inmates at any time,” Daugherty explained in a phone interview.
Housing youthful inmates in adult prisons is bad public policy, both for incarcerated juveniles and society at large, she argues. “The impetus behind transferring kids to the adult system has always been public safety, but research has shown the exact opposite. Kids who are placed in the adult system are 34 times more likely to recidivate than their counterparts in the juvenile system.”
“We should be working to rehabilitate these youth while they’re still young, as opposed to throwing them away in the adult system.”
Because these kids are less likely than their counterparts imprisoned in juvenile centers to get the vocational training and education they need in order to function after release in an adult prison, society is essentially setting them up to fail, and priming them for recidivism. Most juveniles, even those convicted as adults, are released while they are still young. “Approximately 80 percent of youth convicted as adults will be released from prison before their 21st birthday, and 95 percent will be released by their 25th birthday,” according to the Campaign for Youth Justice.
Daugherty suggests that it’s difficult to get people to care about the plight of juveniles in prison due to longstanding tolerance of prison sexual abuse. “The joke is that you go to prison, and learn quickly not to drop the soap. The assumption of prison sexual abuse has become so entrenched in American culture that it is assumed to be part of the punishment, but it’s not. You get sentenced to jail and prison, not to be raped and abused behind bars.”
Because prison officials have behaved criminally for decades with NO accountability, these settlements mean nothing unless enforced! I saw the 58 page “health care” settlement between Delaware prisons and the U S D O J violated daily! 🙁 A retired judge had been appointed as a “monitor” but he had NO clue about what really happened inside prison walls!
Excerpts from the Article:
Utah’s Department of Human Services has settled a class-action lawsuit leveled against it by dozens of mentally ill inmates stuck in jails awaiting treatment. On Monday, the agency and the Disability Law Center (which is representing the inmates) announced the agreement that would end the litigation. It would establish timelines and guidelines for inmates awaiting diagnosis and treatment to restore competency.
“People will get in sooner,” Doug Thomas, the director of the Utah Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health, said in an interview Tuesday.
FOX 13 first reported on the lawsuit last year. The Disability Law Center alleged people would get arrested for crimes ranging from shoplifting to more serious assaults. After a judge found them mentally ill and ordered them sent to the state hospital for restoration of competency, they would languish in jails because there’s no bed space.
Some inmates sat in jails indefinitely, the Disability Law Center alleged. Some spent more time in jail waiting for treatment at the state hospital than they would have done had they been convicted. “We’ve seen several members of our class over the last several years deteriorate, some have committed suicide. It’s been kind of a horror show,” said Aaron Kinikini, the Disability Law Center’s legal director.
The settlement will include bringing services to inmates while they’re still in jail. “We have a jail-based program that’s going to be doing competency restoration which we haven’t had previously. We’ve been working with Salt Lake County to develop that inside their jail,” Thomas told FOX 13.
Timelines for treatment will also be sped up, Kinikini said. Within six months, the wait times for treatment go down to 60 days. Within a year, they’re expected to reduce to 30 days. Within 18 months, they go down to 14 days.
There will be outside oversight as the programs are implemented and a federal judge must still approve the settlement agreement within 45 days. However, both sides agreed to waive attorney’s fees in favor of the reforms.
For a couple of years, women have been the fastest-growing group of new prisoners. Most of them don’t even belong in prison. This author has a good point about “criminalization” – and all of the consequences which go with that label of “criminal”. Perhaps reform should include more “civil penalties”, such as there are now for minor marijuana offenses in many jurisdictions.
Excerpts from the Article:
On March 31, Mayor Bill de Blasio vowed that by 2027, New York City would at last close the jail complex on Rikers Island. In both his public announcement and in subsequent interviews, Mayor de Blasio clearly situated the dismantling of the Rikers facility as the crux of the city’s efforts towards criminal legal reform, going as far as to say that “making this important change” will “end the era of mass incarceration.” Though Rikers is undoubtedly a site of immense abuse, to locate the city’s punitive malpractice exclusively within its most exceptional jail is a narrow and incomplete path towards reform that obscures the full continuum of harm wrought by the city’s criminal legal system. The legal and political architecture of mass incarceration is not manifested exclusively in carceral facilities, nor are its victims solely those who are detained. By centering criminal legal reform exclusively around the closure of Rikers Island, Mayor de Blasio has posited a largely male experience as the paradigm of criminal legal involvement in New York City. In doing so, he has erased the experiences of women and girls who suffer so much more from the less visible dysfunctions of the city’s criminal legal system, particularly at the policing and prosecutorial levels.
The city’s plan to close Rikers hinges on its ability to orchestrate a 50 percent reduction in the facility’s incarcerated population. Because around 9,300 of the 10,000 current prisoners on Rikers are male, the bulk of the effort to reduce the number of those confined must center around reforms targeted toward men and boys. As Mayor de Blasio stated in his public announcement, “Job one is to reduce crime. Reducing crime means reducing jail population.” Crime reduction is an inherently gendered practice, however, given that men and women face disparate criminogenic risks that lead them to be policed, prosecuted and incarcerated in different ways and for different crimes. Mayor de Blasio has suggested that sustaining his administration’s criminal justice strategy, which emphasizes neighborhood policing and increasing the volume of officers deployed, will help to keep crime to a minimum. Nevertheless, these reactive rather than restorative strategies disproportionately disadvantage women who are more susceptible to, and more threatened by, encounters with the police.
Since the 1990s, New York City’s policing practice has been characterized by the tactics of “broken-windows” policing, which stresses the punishment of low-level, quality-of-life offenses as a means of preventing more serious crimes. “Broken-windows” policing often targets drug offenses, petty theft, vagrancy, loitering and disorderly conduct, expanding the legal system’s definition of punishable criminal behavior, and in doing so, casting a wider net on those considered culpable. Despite the ample criticism that “broken-windows” policing has received from criminologists, politicians, activists and community members, Mayor de Blasio has praised the strategy, declaring as recently as September 2016, that “it is still the right approach.” While this more punitive culture of enforcement has led to the arrest of many more New Yorkers across the board, it has been most detrimental to women, since women are far more likely than men to be involved in low-level offenses. According to the Vera Institute of Justice, between 1980 and 2009, the arrest rate for drug possession or use doubled for men, but tripled for women. Today, the leading cause of arrest for women in New York City is a public order offense, most common of which is avoiding the city’s $2.75 MetroCard fare. So, while de Blasio’s emphasis on heightened neighborhood policing may decrease the number of serious crimes that warrant incarceration on Rikers, by further criminalizing vulnerable women, it is also more likely to increase the number of women arrested for low-level, dismissible misdemeanors.
Because of the types of crimes they commit and their minimal perceived risk to the community, the vast majority of women who are involved with New York City’s criminal legal system do not end up on Rikers Island. Instead, most women arrested for both misdemeanors and felonies are permitted to return to their communities because they are released on their own recognizance, their cases are disposed at arraignment, or the district attorney declines to prosecute in the first place. Amongst those who face sentencing, only around 7 percent of those charged with felonies and around 4 percent of those charged with misdemeanors are sent to jail or prison, while the vast majority are given conditional discharge, such as completing community service or attending programming. In 2014, of the 57,109 women arrested in New York City, only 2,722 were detained pre-trial because they could not make bail, and only 2,906 were ultimately sentenced to some time in jail. Based on their high rates of arrest, but low rates of incarceration, it is clear that women’s interactions with the criminal legal system in New York City occur disproportionately outside of carceral facilities.
Far more often than men, women commit crimes of indigence, stealing food or diapers for their children or selling drugs or sex to pay their rent and keep their homes. Incarceration — and even arrest and detention — are extremely disruptive in these women’s lives when considering their deep family and community ties and the several people who depend on them. As former US Attorney General Loretta Lynch declared in 2016, “Put simply, we know that when we incarcerate a woman we often are truly incarcerating a family, in terms of the far-reaching effect on her children, her community, and her entire family network.” These unique needs cannot be addressed, however, when the experiences of criminalized men define reforms aimed solely at ameliorating the ills of a single carceral facility.
Any discussion of ending mass incarceration must begin at the point of criminalization, not confinement. Contrary to de Blasio’s rhetoric, mass incarceration is not an issue located exclusively within jails and prisons. As Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow, has written, mass incarceration also encompasses the laws, policies, customs and culture that sustain the carceral system and exercise their control over all those — confined or otherwise — who have been labeled “criminal.” For this reason, any discussion of ending mass incarceration must begin at the point of criminalization, not confinement. If we limit our resources and attention to reforming the city’s prison system, we cannot confront the ills of the policing and prosecutorial systems that are manifested through the criminalization of vulnerable individuals — particularly women and girls of color — within their own communities. Instead, this singular focus posits men as the archetypal victims of the criminal punishment apparatus and enables the physical structures of incarceration to obscure the punitive codes and culture injected in low-income, minority communities by the criminal legal system.