New York City’s jail population dropped to a historic low following the COVID-19 outbreak on Rikers Island in March 2020. But six weeks later, the numbers began increasing again. The steady rise in admissions now threatens to wipe out the effect of the initial reductions, putting more New Yorkers at risk of contracting the virus in the high-risk conditions behind bars. Our analysis highlights the lessons of the multiple population trends from March to November.
The movement to reform prisons is almost as old as prisons themselves. But what is the ultimate goal of reform of a system like the criminal justice system? On our New Thinking podcast, Maya Schenwar and Victoria Law explain why they think many of today's most popular reforms are extending, rather than countering, the justice system's harmful effects. Their new book is Prison By Any Other Name.
Significantly reducing pretrial detention is an urgent policy imperative in New York City, which plans to close its notorious and inhumane jails on Rikers Island, build smaller new jails, and reduce the total number of people held in jail by more than half in the next six years. This document describes a set of strategies that New York City is adopting to address the well-documented harms of pretrial detention.
Across the country, the movement to reduce jail populations and close ageing facilities has scored some notable victories. But where the tide of confinement has receded, it has exposed a significant tension: what to do about the people still behind bars? Can efforts to improve their conditions of confinement be pursued in tandem with work to stem the flow of people into the facilities detaining them?
Community service has been a staple of sentencing in the United States for more than 50 years, yet we know surprisingly little about how it's actually being used. In Act One of this episode of New Thinking, an audio snapshot of community service at the Center for Court Innovation. In Act Two, Joanna Weiss of the Fines and Fees Justice Center offers a national perspective on community service, and the troubling findings of two new reports.
Our survey of more than 600 lower-level courts found that while community service is widely used across the country, many courts are adopting an ad hoc approach to issues such as eligibility, mandate lengths, and oversight of outside service programs. Numerous findings also suggest current practices are undercutting community service's potential to act as an alternative to fines and fees. The study ends with a list of recommendations and avenues for further research.
What’s the connection between ending bail and closing jails? Organizing, organizing, organizing. On New Thinking, the Katal Center's gabriel sayegh explains why New York's reforms to bail might be the most significant in the country, and, when it comes to New York City's notorious Rikers jail, what needs to happen to get "the last person off that island."
Project Reset is a diversion program operating in Manhattan and the Bronx offering a new response to low-level offending that is proportionate, effective, and restorative. Participants who complete brief community-based programming avoid a criminal record without ever setting foot in a courtroom.
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 expose and contain a racialized criminal justice system.