Criminal Justice

You won’t find very much justice in New York’s criminal justice system. Too many black and brown New Yorkers are being jailed and detained because they cannot afford bail. More than criminal justice; this is an issue of economic fairness. New York cannot function under a system that profits off of the corrections system. Our taxpayer dollars should be invested in building new schools, not new jails.

Closing Rikers Island alone is not enough to fix the criminal justice system. It does not resolve thousands of prisoners’ cases. We must do more to prevent New Yorkers from being caught up in the criminal justice system in the first place. A great place to start would be to begin providing more after-school programs for children. I fought for and won $56 million for “My Brother’s Keeper,” making New York state the only state that makes these investments in our young boys and men of color, allowing them to enter school ready to learn, able to read at grade level by 3rd grade, and complete high school.

My former constituent, Kalief Browder, is a sad example of what happens when the system fails.  He spent three years in Rikers for allegedly stealing a backpack, before he tragically took his own life. He should have been in school, not jail. And he certainly should not have been imprisoned with adults.

As an Assemblyman, I helped “Raise the Age” so that children, like Kalief, would not be imprisoned with those over 18 years old. I continue to fight for meaningful bail and discovery reform: vital aspects of the justice system that allow those charged to defend themselves legally. I’m proud to have sponsored a criminal justice reform package in the Assembly last year which eases restrictions on charitable bail organizations, allowing them to provide more bail relief to working-class people, and increases resources for discovery so that defendants can adequately prepare for their hearings. However, there is more that needs to be done.

As Public Advocate, I will:

Work to Change the Culture, Not Just the Jail:

It’s time to change the way we think about criminal justice. As Public Advocate, I will support smaller, more humane jails and a culture of rehabilitation and safety for inmates and correctional officers. At the same time, I will work to expand prevention programs, like the violence prevention model that is working in communities lucky enough to have them. I will also act to align our city’s human services programs so that they limit the poverty to prison pipeline.  

Prioritize Transparency and Accountability in Policing:

We have entered a time when there is less transparency and fewer modes of accountability in our criminal justice system. As Public Advocate, I will work with the New York City Police Department and the Civilian Complaint Review Board to track the types and quantity of complaints about officers by police precincts. I will create a system to provide public information about the number of police officers in risk management and the outcomes of risk management. I will support efforts to make the Commission to Combat Police Corruption permanent and grant the Commission subpoena power.