The death of George Floyd after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee to Floyd's neck for close to nine minutes has triggered a wave of long-held anger and revulsion across the country. Vincent Southerland, the executive director of the Center on Race, Inequality, and the Law at NYU, compares the brazen, public nature of Floyd's death to a lynching. The furor comes in the midst of a pandemic itself exacerbated by racism. How will COVID-19, and the reaction to police violence, affect the deep racial patterns of the justice system?
Our analysis of the revisions passed in April 2020 to New York State’s bail reform projects they will lead to a 16 percent increase in New York City’s pretrial jail population, relative to the effects of the original law. However, even the revised statute makes an estimated 84 percent of cases ineligible for bail. The analysis also weighs factors, including the COVID-19 emergency, that could produce a culture change in pretrial decision-making—in the direction of less, or more, reliance on detention.
The effects of the coronavirus are not being experienced equally. Whether it’s infection rates, deaths, or job losses, people of low-income and of color are being hit hardest. In New York City, many of those effects are concentrated in communities where public housing is located. Our Neighborhood Safety Initiatives works with public housing residents. On New Thinking, the program's Alicia Arrington explains the challenge, and the response.
The Minority Youth Violence Prevention Initiative works to engage public health organizations, law enforcement agencies, and community-based groups in an effort to curb violence and reduce disparities in access to public health among at-risk minority youth. Containing lessons learned from across the initial program sites along with sample documents, this guide is intended as a road map for organizations looking to establish a similar local program.
In 1996, 16-year-old Reginald Dwayne Betts was sentenced to nine years in prison for a carjacking. He spent much of that time reading, and eventually writing. After prison, he went to Yale Law School and published a memoir and three books of poems. But he’s still wrestling with what “after prison” means. This is a conversation about incarceration and the weight of history, both political and personal. Betts's most recent collection of poems is Felon.
What if you brought together prosecutors and people they may have helped to incarcerate for a college seminar behind bars on the criminal justice system, and asked them to produce a list of policy recommendations? That's the premise of a novel experiment in prison education. On New Thinking, hear from Jarrell Daniels, a program graduate, and Lucy Lang, executive director of the Institute for Innovation in Prosecution, who conceived of the idea.
In our study of more than 800 New York City schools, students who were suspended were more likely to incur other negative consequences, including poor academic performance, dropout, and arrest. Suspensions were also disparately applied, influenced by factors such as race, disability, and economic status. Schools with a better overall climate tended to use suspensions more sparingly, and we found positive approaches, such as restorative justice, could greatly improve outcomes for students and school climate alike.
As chief medical officer for New York City jails, Homer Venters realized early in his tenure that for many people dying in jail, the primary cause of death was jail itself. To document what was actually taking place behind bars, Venters and his team created a statistical category no one had dared to track before: "jail-attributable deaths." His work led him into frequent opposition with the security services. It also led to his book, Life and Death in Rikers Island.
Can art transform the criminal justice system? On this special edition of New Thinking, host Matt Watkins sits down with two New York City artists on the rise—Derek Fordjour and Shaun Leonardo—who both work with our Project Reset to provide an arts-based alternative to court and a criminal record for people arrested on a low-level charge. With the program set to expand city-wide, the three discuss art's potential to help heal a racialized criminal justice system.
In 2017, more than 17,000 people were murdered in the United States, most of them in cities. On New Thinking, Thomas Abt, a long-time policy-maker and researcher, says, far from intractable, there are proven ways to reduce the violence, but he worries the urgency of acting now is being ignored. And when it comes to how we think about violence, he has a bone to pick with both the right and the left.