MANHATTAN, NY- New York City seems to continue coming up with ways to boggle the mind and reward people accused of crimes, all at the same time.
In their latest maneuver to achieve “justice reform,” suspects will no longer be held in jail for carrying weapons beginning in January.
Offenders found in possession of any number of weapons, including guns, switchblades, swords, machetes, and stun guns will instead be issued a “desk appearance ticket” and “set free,” the New York City Police Benevolent Association (PBA) pointed out in a Facebook post.
State lawmakers have also opted to eliminate cash bail for hundreds of criminal charges.
“This law starts on January 1, 2020 for ALL of New York, not just New York City,” the PBA noted in another post.
On November 19th, Queens Senior Executive Assistant District Attorney James Quinn released a complete list of the offenses that judges will no longer be able to set bail for.
“Under the new bail laws…Judges in New York State cannot set bail on any of the following crimes (and most attempts to commit these crimes), and must release the defendant on non-monetary conditions, regardless of criminal record, ties to the community or previous bench warrants on other cases,” Quinn wrote.
Okay. Pay very close attention to this next part. These are just some of the charges that now carry mandatory release:
- Resisting arrest
- Money laundering in support of terrorism
- Vehicular assault
- Unlawful imprisonment
- Negligent homicide
- Numerous drug-related charges
- Criminal offenses against children including:
- Child abuse
- Promoting child prostitution
- Facilitating female genital mutilation
- Possessing or promoting a sexual performance by a child
- Obstructing governmental duties by means of a bomb
- Killing a police K9 or horse
- Obstructing emergency medical services personnel
Feel free to read that list again. Every single one of those, plus four pages of other charges now come complete with a “hall pass.” You just have to pinky promise to come back on time.
This latest buffoonery comes on the heels of a report we detailed in early November.
Just one day after we detailed a measure that would free 880 pre-trial inmates in New York City along with giving them Mets tickets, gift cards and other parting gifts, Oklahoma used commutations to move one step closer to shedding its distinction as the state with the highest incarceration rate in the United States.
Yesterday, 527 people serving ‘low-level drug and nonviolent offenses’ went free in what Oklahoma lawmakers are calling the largest single-day commutation in both state and U.S. history.
The commutation is a success for criminal justice reform efforts in a state that has a long history of harsh sentencing practices and high incarceration rates.
It’s also evidence of the Republican-dominated legislature’s willingness to move closer in line with most voters who favor a less punitive approach. The historic commutations come amid nationwide efforts to reduce punishment of low-level crimes and move the U.S. prison system in a more rehabilitative direction.
Criminal justice reform advocates like Ryan Kiesel, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma, agreed that the commutation news signaled a change but cautioned that the road ahead will be a long one.
“From the 30,000-foot view, the criminal justice landscape is light-years ahead of where it was three or four years ago,” Kiesel told The Washington Post. “It would have been impossible before State Question 780 passed in Oklahoma; that signaled to lawmakers there was an appetite for reform.”
The Pardon and Parole Board voted unanimously Friday to recommend commutation for 527 nonviolent offenders serving time for crimes that would no longer be considered felonies if charged today. Gov. Kevin Stitt said he intended to sign off on the recommendations Friday afternoon, allowing most of those individuals to be released from prison Monday.
“More than 450 Oklahomans are getting a second chance today,” Stitt said Friday after the board meeting, surrounded by Pardon and Parole Board staff and members, legislators and other state leaders. “They’ve got a lot of paperwork to do. I’ve got to sign 450 of these this afternoon.”
Sixty-five of the inmates recommended for commutation have detainers, so not everyone will be released next week.
House Bill 1269, which took effect Friday, made retroactive criminal justice reforms that reclassified simple drug possession as a misdemeanor and increased the felony dollar threshold from $500 to $1,000 for felony property crimes.
Instead of automatically granting retroactive relief to eligible inmates, state lawmakers directed the Pardon and Parole Board to establish an accelerated, single-stage commutation docket for people in prison for crimes that have been reclassified as misdemeanors.
The board considered 814 cases Friday.
Board members voted to deny single-stage commutation relief for inmates who had records of serious misconduct, had a victim’s protest letter or a registered victim on file, had received a district attorney protest or would be required to register as either a sex offender or a violent offender.
On Friday, the first day the retroactive law took effect, 814 prisoners applied for commutation consideration, according to the state Pardon and Parole Board. The state said the mass commutations will save taxpayers an estimated $11.9 million based on costs projected if the eligible prisoners served their full sentences.
In some cases, prisoners were able to secure state ID cards or driver’s licenses before their release; though crucial, such documentation can be difficult to obtain for people returning from prison. The effort, Stitt said, was coordinated by a mix of state, local, nonprofit and faith groups.
With most Oklahoma voters supportive of criminal justice reforms, lawmakers in the heavily red state where Republican legislators outnumber Democrats 3 to 1 are increasingly embracing a platform long associated with progressives.
Kris Steele, a Republican who served in the state legislature from 2000 to 2012, is now the executive director of Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform. In his view from within the state’s Republican Party, Steele said criminal justice reform was barely on the radar during his time in the legislature.
“For the first three or four elections, the methodology was to run a platform of ‘tough on crime.’ Political consultants advised that. There were even predesigned mail pieces with that messaging,” Steele said.
By contrast, during the most recent election cycle, Steele couldn’t recall a major Republican candidate who ran on a punitive platform.
“I think the vast majority of candidates and incumbents ran a corrections reform message,” he said.
Steele said he suspects a few factors are behind the Oklahoma Republicans’ embrace of criminal justice reform.
“One is a realization that over-incarceration is the definition of inefficient government, producing neither increased public safety nor less crime for the cost.
There’s also the issue of faith: The messages of criminal justice reform align with the same values at the center of Christianity, such as redemption, grace, forgiveness and second chances,” he said.
But a third factor Steele identifies is starker: Oklahoma’s incarceration rate is more than 10 times that of Canada, according to the Tulsa-based nonprofit think tank Oklahoma Policy Institute, meaning more than 1 in 100 Oklahoma adults is locked up at any given time.
“The sad reality is, we’ve reached a point of saturation, given our high incarceration rate: If it’s not your loved one, chances are, it’s a friend,” Steele said. “The proximity, in many ways, has changed people’s thinking.”
That’s not to say Oklahoma will be pivoting hard toward reform with any speed.
Steele noted that local district attorneys and law enforcement and their allies are among the staunchest, and most effective, holdouts.
“They tend to be very effective in the legislature in thwarting or slowing these [reform] efforts,” he said.
That is understandable. Law enforcement officials and DA’s are the people who arrested and prosecuted the individuals currently behind bars. While recidivism rates in Oklahoma are relatively low compared to most states, cops and prosecutors know that roughly 1 in 5 will commit future offenses and wind up back in jail.
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Rose Ortiz was among those outside the Mabel Bassett Correctional Center in McLoud to welcome a loved one home. Ortiz’s daughter, Calista, was released and reunited with her husband and five kids, including a baby whom she gave birth to in prison.
Ortiz had doubts when she heard her daughter would be eligible for early release. Calista had been unsuccessful in previous attempts to get a reduction in her roughly seven-year sentence for drug possession even as she helped other women successfully file for their own early-release petitions.
“When you hear that, you wonder, ‘Is this really going to happen?’” Ortiz said.
Ortiz saw her daughter outside of prison walls for the first time in two years.
“We’ve missed having her around as a mom, sister and daughter,” Ortiz said. “When you have a little baby, every day is important. Every week, every month is important. She’s had to miss a lot.”
Not to sound heartless or callous, but she didn’t HAVE to miss a lot. She broke the law and was caught, convicted and sentenced. There was a choice involved and choices have consequences.
Nearly 900 incarcerated people in New York City could be celebrating Christmas early courtesy of Gov. Andrew Cuomo and a plan to quietly free them before the state’s bail-reform law goes into effect next year.
A spokesperson for Cuomo said:
“Fearmongering aside, we understand there are concerns about implementing these landmark reforms and we believe it must be done appropriately and effectively.”
New York’s Division of Criminal Justice Services released data in October of 2018 that shows the recidivism rate in New York is right at 66%. That means that, of the 880 inmates expected to be released early in NYC, 581 of them are most likely going to end up committing additional crimes after their release.
It is understandable to be concerned over the latest pro-criminal legislation coming out of New York. That concern does not equate to fearmongering; it equates to common sense.
Just in case early release wasn’t enough of a gift, Mayor Bill de Blasio is promising to follow up with even more presents for these accused criminals, by giving them free baseball tickets, movie passes and gift cards to encourage them to return to court, sources familiar with the program said.
“You’re literally rewarding them for committing a crime,’’ said a disgusted senior staffer in Manhattan Criminal Court.
And we all know how well conditions of release are followed. What the Mayor is about to find is that he bought a bunch of gifts for people that will not show up for their court dates. Some could potentially sell their tickets and then no-show.
The proposed early jail release is associated with a law that Cuomo signed in the spring to eliminate bail for defendants charged with a number of misdemeanor and felony crimes.
The more than 400 offenses include such heinous acts as criminally negligent homicide, aggravated assault on a child under 11 and selling drugs on or near school grounds, according to a memo being circulated by prosecutors across the state and obtained by The New York Post.
The law goes into effect Jan. 1 but it will be retroactive — meaning inmates who are already locked up on such cases can apply to have their bail lifted and to be freed.
In the Big Apple, court officials estimate that 880 prisoners — about 16 percent of all pretrial detainees housed by the Department of Correction — will be eligible for the get-out-of-jail-free cards.
To avoid a deluge of applications in the new year, the state Office of Court Administration has held a series of conferences where officials outlined four ways for judges to deal with the new law, according to a source familiar with the situation.
One proposal would allow judges to issue pre-emptive orders that “comply with the new statute before its effective date,” the source said — and the OCA is already prepping for the move.
OCA spokesman Lucian Chalfen said court and city officials had “begun the unprecedented process of discharge planning and developing the complex logistical process of releasing those defendants.”
You want to know why it is unprecedented? It’s because it is stupid. It has never been done before because most people use logic and common sense and understand what a catastrophe this type of initiative will be.
“To that end, a plan is being developed to stagger the release of defendants starting in mid-December,” Chalfen said. “If a judge, however, feels that it was necessary to make certain [release] orders effective Jan. 1, they certainly retain the discretion to do so.”
The other options discussed at the conferences include taking a wait-and-see approach, scheduling Jan. 2 hearings for everyone who applies — or issuing release orders that take effect on Jan. 1 or 2, the source said.
The Legal Aid Society, which provides government-funded representation for indigent criminal defendants, has instructed its lawyers to file motions on behalf of their eligible clients immediately and to seek their release as soon as possible.
Most judges “have been reluctant to go along” so far, but Legal Aid hopes that will change “with some guidance from OCA,” said Marie Ndiaye, supervising lawyer of its Decarceration Project.
“It is completely arbitrary and cruel to hold people pre-trial now who will have to be released come Jan. 1,” Ndiaye said.
“Early implementation will help ensure that the Office of Court Administration and the Department of Correction are not overwhelmed, and it will also ensure that those New Yorkers being released have a discharge plan and are connected to services that they need.”
State Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb (R-Geneva) was less than pleased upon learning about the early-release plan.
“Any attempt to accelerate this process makes a bad situation even worse, threatens public safety and is a disservice to law-abiding citizens,” he said. “With every law that New York Democrats roll back, our streets become less safe. Their platform that caters to convicts and protects hardened criminals puts the rest of us in danger.”
What happens when the pre-trial offenders are back on the street?
For starters, they get to take in a Mets game as the guests of the city, the Mayor and the not-for-profit Criminal Justice Agency, will be offering tickets and gift cards to ensure that inmates who get sprung don’t skip their court dates, sources said.
A law-enforcement source noted that the tickets would be for the Mets — whose games are in considerably less demand than the Yankees, thus less expensive.
It’s unclear how much taxpayer money will be spent on the rewards, which echo an earlier de Blasio program that offered low-level criminal defendants $15 Dunkin’ Donuts gift cards to fill out questionnaires about their experiences in court.
That criminal-incentivizing initiative cost taxpayers $800,000.
NYPD cops were outraged over the perks being offered to alleged criminals.
“It is bad enough that [suspects] have to be reminded [to show up to court], but to be rewarded is ludicrous,’’ a Queens cop griped.
A Brooklyn officer said of the baseball games:
“What do the victims get — to watch it on TV?’’
A Brooklyn cop added:
“What does that say about the Mets? Are Yankees tickets reserved for murderers? I am sure it will only be a matter of time before they get out on ‘no bail’ too.”
A rep for the mayor’s office said in an e-mail to The Post on Sunday, that the city has a “nationally recognized, award-winning Supervised Release program’’ which “has produced consistently high rates of return to court, which we expect will continue after the State law goes into effect.”
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