Criminal and Social Justice Advocates Praise Speaker Johnson’s Policy on Criminal Justice Reform

Criminal and Social Justice Advocates Praise Speaker Johnson’s Policy on Criminal Justice Reform

Speaker Corey Johnson (photo: John McCarten/City Council)

New York, NY – Today, criminal and social justice reform advocates, activists, social service providers and educators praised Council Speaker Corey Johnson’s first policy speech on criminal justice reform delivered at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

“John Jay College is a recognized forum for vibrant discussions about the most complex justice issues we face today.  We are proud to host City Council Speaker Corey Johnson at John Jay as he unveils new proposals designed to improve public safety. I applaud the speaker and the city council as they continue to invest in public safety solutions that reduce the reliance on incarceration, prevent unnecessary criminalization, and address racial disparities in criminal justice involvement,” said Karol V. Mason, President of John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

“I applaud the City Council and Speaker Corey Johnson for setting a forward thinking agenda to help reform our criminal justice system. In Brooklyn, we are implementing many of the approaches and programs announced today – including expanded diversion opportunities, Project Reset and ending prosecutions of loitering for the purposes of prostitution – so I’m gratified that the Council will provide funding for these and other important initiatives. I look forward to continue working with all of our partners to ensure that we keep the public safe and strengthen community trust by ensuring fairness and equal justice for all,” said Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez.

“To bring transformational change to our local justice system, it will take time, resources, commitment, and courageous leadership. Throughout his time leading the council, Speaker Johnson has taken it upon himself to make our criminal justice system a top priority. These critical reforms and investments in alternatives to incarceration at every stage of the justice system are essential to creating a more efficient and effective justice system. The Speaker and the Council’s laser focus on creating a fairer system will not only make our communities safer, but also make our city a beacon of justice for all,” said former Chief Judge of New York State and Chair of the Independent Commission on NYC Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform.

“I am delighted that Speaker Corey Johnson has acknowledged that broken-windows policing and stop-and-frisk policies were wrong and unnecessary, that the remarkable decline in crime in the City was unrelated to those policing strategies, and that the City can continue lowering its crime rate and closing Rikers Island without them. There is absolutely no good evidence–and certainly no reliable social science evidence–that the great crime drop in New York City was tied to the broken windows policing strategies. Those policies were grossly discriminatory in their application. The evidence of disparate treatment of African-American and Latinx people is now overwhelming,” said Bernard Harcourt, Isidor and Seville Sulzbacher Professor of Law and Political Science at Columbia University. 

“New York City has made enormous strides in recent years, significantly reducing both crime and incarceration.  But there is much more to be done. The next steps in building a better justice system are being taken by the City Council under the leadership of Speaker Corey Johnson.  By expanding prevention, diversion and community-based alternatives to incarceration, the Council will help address racial disparities and ensure that New York City is a model to the world of what fair, effective and humane justice looks like,” said Greg Berman, Director of the Center for Court Innovation.

“Safe Horizon, the nation’s largest victim services provider, commends Speaker Johnson and his colleagues on the New York City Council for proposing to offer meaningful services to individuals engaged in sex work, rather than relying mainly on the criminal justice system to address their needs.  Safe Horizon provides supportive counseling, overnight shelter and connections to public benefits and housing each week to men and women engaged in sex work, and we know that these and others services can provide a path to safety and opportunity. Forcing these same individuals to cycle in and out of courthouses and jails, by contrast, does little to change their underlying circumstances. We look forward to working with the City Council to create solution-focused opportunities for vulnerable New Yorkers,” said Ariel Zwang, CEO at Safe Horizon.

“Closing Rikers Island and reducing New Yorkers’ contact with the criminal justice system must be a top priority for both ends of City Hall, and these proposals will further that goal,” said Tina Luongo, Attorney-In-Charge of the Criminal Defense Practice at The Legal Aid Society. “We look forward to working with Council Speaker Corey Johnson and his colleagues, and the Administration to see these policies to fruition. New York City should be a leader for other jurisdictions to follow on these important issues.”

“As directly impacted leaders move closer to our goal of closing Rikers permanently and forever transforming the justice system in New York City, we are grateful that Council Speaker Corey Johnson acknowledges the mass criminalization of communities of color. The #CLOSErikers campaign set a bold vision that will serve as the benchmark for other reform efforts across the country, and it is clear that Speaker Johnson shares our core values and stands with the people and communities most harmed by this city’s criminal legal system. This campaign has always been – and will always be – about more than closing jails and demanding drastic decarceration. Our work is about reducing our over-reliance on the punitive tactics and ensuring all New Yorkers have the resources and opportunities necessary to succeed. It’s about getting people out of the legal system and into the services and supports they need. It’s about redefining safety and justice on our terms. Achieving these outcomes requires significant leadership in the City Council, who will listen and partner with directly impacted communities, and we look forward to continuing to work with Speaker Johnson and his colleagues to accomplish our demands. Together, we will #CLOSErikers and #buildCOMMUNITIES,” said DeAnna Hoskins, President & CEO JustLeadershipUSA.

“I know from personal experience the destructive effects of mass incarceration in New York City. We at Katal applaud Speaker Johnson for outlining  this comprehensive justice reform package which will bring us one step closer to ending mass incarceration in our city. These reforms, if implemented, will make our City safer and fairer, while also shrinking the number of people swept up and stuck in the criminal legal system. These reforms will also help expedite the process of closing Rikers Island jail complex, which is urgently needed. The City Council and State Legislature should take action now to make these proposals a reality,” said Donna Hylton, Director of the Women and Girls Project, Katal Center for Health, Equity, and Justice.

“We commend the Speaker, Corey Johnson, on his dedication to genuine criminal justice reform. We commend him for centering the most marginalized in our communities with progressive policy commitments. He understands that ending mass incarceration and overuse and misuse of the criminal justice system is only half of the of the criminal justice reform project. The other half is ending the historic, systemic, and continuing failure of the criminal justice system to protect the underserved: women and girls, especially those of color, LGBT and gender nonconforming individuals, immigrants, the homeless, economically disadvantaged communities and communities of color. The repeal of the loitering provision and dedicated funding for a comprehensive social service center for survivors of the sex industry are bold steps toward criminal justice reform,” said Taina Bien-Aimé, Executive Director of the Coalition Against Trafficking Women.

“We applaud Speaker Johnson for taking important steps to address the unjust impacts of fines and fees that disproportionately harm people of color and poor communities in New York City. Each year, tens of thousands of New York City residents have their driver’s licenses suspended, not for dangerous driving, but because they can’t afford to pay a simple traffic ticket or to take off work to contest it. Speaker Johnson’s initiative will ensure their poverty is not further criminalized by the courts.  We also enthusiastically support the pilot of ‘Day Fines’ at the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings to ensure that fines imposed by the City are proportionate both to the offense and to the individual,” said Joanna Weiss, co-Director of Fines and Fees Justice Center.

“Today’s announcement demonstrates Speaker Johnson’s commitment to closing Rikers Island and fundamentally changing our criminal justice system. For too long people on parole charged with technical violations and those charged with driving with a suspended license, prostitution or other charges, have been detained and processed through our criminal courts on the ‘detention first’ model. They have been held in an outdated, inhumane massive jail complex while they await court or parole adjudication, often hours’ travel time away from their families, advocates and other support systems. The time has come to reduce our reliance on mass incarceration and close Rikers Island by diverting those who could benefit from lifesaving and stabilizing services like substance abuse and mental health treatment, supportive reentry housing, and family reunification and support. Simultaneously, we can eliminate the detention of people with motor vehicle violations like driving with a suspended license. Today’s announcement sets a bold vision for our City, its communities, and people who are damaged by our criminal justice system. As a formerly incarcerated person and Executive Vice President of The Fortune Society, I applaud the Speaker and the entire City Council for supporting this bold step forward in criminal justice reform. The Fortune Society and its seven thousand participants stand ready to support the work of reducing New York City’s reliance on mass incarceration and increasing our use and demand of procedural justice,” said Stanley Richards, Executive Vice President of The Fortune Society.

“Transportation Alternatives believes that suspending a driver’s license for misdeeds unrelated to dangerous driving is not an appropriate remedy. Driving is a privilege, not a right, but that privilege should be revoked only when a driver’s conduct behind the wheel warrants doing so by endangering others. We are eager to see the establishment of Speaker Johnson’s task force to explore how best to combat dangerous driving in the most effective and equitable manner,” said Marco Conner, interim Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives.

“Speaker Johnson’s long list of reforms will help protect countless New Yorkers from the ravages of the criminal legal system. Expanding alternatives to incarceration for people facing felony charges, eliminating surcharges and fees, ending arrests based on poverty-based license suspensions, funding mental health housing for justice-involved people, and helping to put a stop to the vicious cycles of re-incarceration for people on parole are all critical steps toward ending mass incarceration and mass criminalization. I thank him for his work in the Council thus far and look forward to continuing to work with him toward a more just and equitable system,” said Lisa Schreibersdorf, Executive Director of Brooklyn Defender Services.

“We applaud Speaker Johnson’s leadership and willingness to act on what we see every day – that this city incarcerates far too many people, and for far too long. The time to end the criminalization of poverty and expand alternatives to incarceration is now, and we look forward to working with the Speaker as we try to build a criminal legal system that works for all New Yorkers,” said Justine Olderman, Executive Director of The Bronx Defenders.    

“The New York City Council has been one of the driving forces behind the recent sea change in our city’s criminal justice system. At a time when closing jails seemed like a flight of fancy, the Council formed the Lippman Commission, whose groundbreaking blueprint to close Rikers Island made it possible to imagine a world in which fewer New Yorkers are incarcerated and, if they are, they are not out-of-sight and out-of-mind in jails far away from the courts and communities. The Council passed a series of bills aimed at easing and mitigating the harms of the justice system, from removing low-level offenses from criminal sanction to eliminating mandatory surcharges and improving the bail payment process. The investments made by the Council in bold ideas last year — such as expanding the supervised release program in Brooklyn for young adults facing serious charges and an ability-to-pay bail project in the Bronx and Queens — demonstrated the Council’s commitment to going beyond the low-hanging fruit. It is clear from today’s policy ideas that the Council’s drive to transform justice in New York City is only getting started. We applaud Speaker Johnson for his leadership and look forward to supporting him and the Council in delivering on these critical reforms,” said Insha Rahmna, Director of Strategy and New Initiatives, Vera Institute of Justice.

“Thank you Speaker Corey Johnson for understanding and taking a bold step toward embracing the need for more services and not arrests for prostituted individuals. This is an important step toward the Equality Model that calls for more services while holding pimps and sex buyers accountable. Thank you for your sensitivity to the most marginalized and vulnerable among us,” said Rev. Dr. Que English, Executive Director, Not On My Watch, Inc.

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