ICYMI - Assembly Members on why New York should eliminate cash bail for smaller crimes

Posted by FWD.us Press on 06/15/2018

Wanted to make sure you saw this op-ed in City and State New York by Assemblywoman Latrice Walker and Assemblyman Joseph Lentol entitled Why New York Should Eliminate Cash Bail for Smaller Crimes. In it, they write: “New York has an opportunity to correct one major injustice – the flawed bail system – but only if the state Senate and Gov. Andrew Cuomo act. The Bail Reform Act (A.10137A), which passed the Assembly on Tuesday, would significantly reduce wealth-and race-based disparities in the pretrial justice system.”

With just three legislative days remaining this session, the 16,000 New Yorkers awaiting trial in jail cannot afford to wait for long overdue pretrial reforms.

City and State New York // Latrice Walker and Joseph Lentol // Why New York should eliminate cash bail for smaller crimes

At the United States’ founding, we were told that all men are created equal, but chattel slavery thrived. During the Jim Crow era, Southern states separated people by race, treating African-Americans as second-class citizens.

Today, the hypocrisy continues: We are told that American justice is blind to a defendant’s race or wealth, but we incarcerate people because they are poor and because of racist policing practices targeting black and brown people – a successor to slavery. These contradictions have no place in our society or in our criminal justice system.

New York has an opportunity to correct one major injustice – the flawed bail system – but only if the state Senate and Gov. Andrew Cuomo act. The Bail Reform Act (A.10137A), which passed the Assembly on Tuesday, would significantly reduce wealth-and race-based disparities in the pretrial justice system.

Today, 67 percent of people in New York jails are there before their trial, rather than because they are serving a sentence. They have only been charged with a crime and they are presumed innocent.

Yet they are incarcerated because they cannot afford to pay cash bail. The bail system allows those with money to purchase their freedom, while poor people charged with the same crimes languish in jail, away from their families, jobs and communities. Harvey Weinstein walks free while awaiting trial for rape, but Kalief Browder languished in jail because he was charged with stealing a backpack.

Money should not be the determining factor for someone’s freedom. That’s why our bail bill carefully balances public safety concerns with the need for fairness and justice, and protects the presumption of innocence.

The bill eliminates cash bail for all nonviolent felonies and almost all misdemeanors. Instead of setting cash bail, judges would have the authority to release people with non-monetary conditions, such as having someone check in with pretrial services agencies.

It levels the playing field by eliminating the shameful practice of imprisoning persons simply because they are too poor to pay their way out of jail. This change will go a long way towards advancing equal justice and making pretrial release the norm and pretrial detention the exception.

In many cases, bail is simply unnecessary. Studies have found the vast majority of people who are released, with or without supervision, show up for their court proceeding.

Our bill will also help eliminate the unfair disparity between downstate and upstate communities. In some upstate New York counties, an average of 60 percent of people held on bail had only a misdemeanor or violation as their most serious charge. In New York City, misdemeanor cases make up only 20 percent of cases in which bail is set. In short, you are more likely to spend time in jail on a misdemeanor if you are accused of the crime upstate than if you commit the crime in New York City.

Keeping someone in jail is expensive, and we can save scarce county resources through significant reductions in the number of people who are jailed pretrial.

The bill also increases existing protections for survivors of domestic violence by allowing judges to impose electronic monitoring of defendants in such cases to mitigate the risk of flight. Generally, however, there are limits on the use and length of time a person can be monitored to ensure that electronic monitoring does not become another mechanism of mass surveillance of African-American and Latino communities.

Finally, the bill improves due process protections for people who have bail set or are remanded without bail while facing serious allegations. Our bill requires a prompt judicial hearing and the disclosure of relevant evidence to ensure that innocent people, like Kalief Browder, are not detained for months or years before evidence showing the weakness of the prosecution’s case comes to light.

Across the country, courts are striking down cash bail as a violation of the Equal Protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.

It is time for us to mean what we say when we declare that justice is blind. New York must end the race and wealth-based disparities that plague our criminal justice system with devastating effects for poor people and communities of color. A more fair and just bail system is within our reach; but the state Senate and governor must act boldly and pass comprehensive reform this year.h

FWD.us Statement on Sixth Anniversary of DACA Program

Posted by FWD.us Press on 06/15/2018

WASHINGTON, DC – Since its creation six years ago, the DACA program has allowed roughly 800,000 young people who came to the United States as children and meet stringent background requirements to contribute to communities across the country. The following statements are from four DACA recipients who work at FWD.us on how DACA has changed their lives: Pamela Chomba, Daniela Chomba, Leezia Dhalla and Maria Praeli. Without a legislative solution, all could be forced out of their jobs and face deportation to countries they barely remember:

“DACA allows me to have the courage to participate in my local community. With my protections, I have been able to volunteer my time, invest my creative energy to support local businesses and engage with my faith community without fear of removal to a country I barely remember. DACA gives me extra support to better serve my community and help make our nation a better place.” —Pamela Chomba, Northeast Organizing Director

“DACA for me is both a beginning and an end. It is the beginning of my dreams and aspirations coming true, and the end of thinking this country, my country, doesn’t care for me as much as I do for it.” —Daniela Chomba, Operations Associate

“For six years DACA has been my lifeline, allowing me to become gainfully employed, pay off tens of thousands of dollars in student loans, and build the career I’ve dreamed of since moving to this country nearly 22 years ago. But now, my future — and the future of DACA — is more uncertain than ever. In a matter of weeks, the program could be fully terminated, crumbling my hard-earned financial independence and the peace of mind that has enabled me to more fully contribute to my community.” —Leezia Dhalla, Press Manager

“The United States has been my home since I was five years old. Learning I was undocumented when I was younger was devastating — it seemed like my dreams and aspirations would not be achievable because I lacked proper documentation. DACA changed everything for me. It allowed me to feel safe from deportation in the country that is my home, and to pursue my professional career. Six years later I can’t imagine my life without the program, and I’m feeling extremely anxious about what my future will look like without it.” —Maria Praeli, Immigration Policy Associate

ICYMI: Administration looks to erect tent city to house children separated from parents at the border

Posted by FWD.us Press on 06/14/2018

Wanted to make sure you saw this story about the Administration constructing tent cities near military bases to house children who have been separated from their parents at the border.

In April, the Trump Administration established a new policy that separated children from their parents who were claiming asylum. In many instances, parents have been deported without knowing where their children are, or who is caring for them. In part because so many people across the country have been asking what they can do to help, c and can connect you to organizations in your community working on these important issues. Simply enter your zip code to connect to organizations near you.

McClatchy // Franco Ordonez // Exclusive: Trump looking to erect tent cities to house unaccompanied children

Exclusive: Trump looking to erect tent cities to house unaccompanied children

WASHINGTON – The Trump administration is looking to build tent cities at military posts around Texas to shelter the increasing number of unaccompanied migrant children being held in detention.

The Department of Health and Human Services will visit Fort Bliss, a sprawling Army base near El Paso in the coming weeks to look at a parcel of land where the administration is considering building a tent city to hold between 1,000 and 5,000 children, according to U.S. officials and other sources familiar with the plans.

HHS officials confirmed that they’re looking at the Fort Bliss site along with Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene and Goodfellow AFB in San Angelo for potential use as temporary shelters.

“HHS will make the determination if any of the three sites assessed are suitable,” said an HHS official.

The aggressive plan comes at the same time that child shelters are filling up with more children who have been separated from their parents. The number of migrant children held in U.S. government custody without their parents has increased more than 20 percent as Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen rolled out the administration’s new policy zero tolerance policy that separates children from their parents who now face prosecution.

The Office of Refugee Resettlement at HHS is responsible for the care of more than 11,200 migrant children being held without a parent or guardian and must routinely evaluate the needs and capacity of approximately 100 shelters , which are now 95 percent full.

Because of the large fluctuations in referrals of unaccompanied minors, the administration said its appropriate to have a mix of “standard” beds that are available year-round, and “temporary” beds that can be made available to address any increases in migration flows. HHS can place unaccompanied children in an appropriate setting while a sponsor is identified who can care for the child while their immigration case proceeds. It helps protect the border but also prevents vulnerable kids to fall into the hands of traffickers, officials said.

“The lack of parental protection, and the hazardous journey they take, make unaccompanied alien children vulnerable to human trafficking, exploitation and abuse,” the HHS official said.

Trump has blamed Congress for allowing the loopholes that require federal authorities to release illegal immigrants to await hearings for which many don’t show up.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein at a roundtable last month with Trump charged that those loopholes also prevent the administration from quickly deporting unaccompanied children.

“It can take months and sometimes years to adjudicate those claims once they get into the federal immigration court system, and they often fail to appear for immigration proceedings,” Rosenstein said. “In fact, approximately 6,000 unaccompanied children each year fail to appear when they’ve been summoned. They’re released and they don’t show up again.”

Tens of thousands of unaccompanied children and families have been apprehended since 2014, when a surge of Salvadoran, Honduran and Guatemalan mothers and children raced into the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, fleeing violence and poverty.
The unaccompanied children are generally turned over to family or held in an HHS shelter, like a detention center or tent city. Now those who arrive with their parents are being separated from them and also sent to HHS shelters or sponsor families.

Leon Fresco, a deputy assistant attorney general under President Barack Obama, who defended that administration’s use of family detention, said the Trump administration is also likely going to need to return to Congress soon for more money if it wants to keep up this aggressive detention approach. He said it’s much more expensive to separate the parent and children and hold them in two different facilities than keeping them together using a monitoring system.

“The point is separating families is not only controversial, it’s also inordinately more expensive,” Fresco said.

Advocates accused the Trump administration of using the children as pawns to score political points.

“Detaining children for immigration purposes is never in their best interest and the prospect of detaining kids in tent cities is horrifying,” said Clara Long, U.S. researcher at Human Rights Watch. “US authorities should focus on keeping families together, ensuring due process in asylum adjudications and protecting the rights of children.”

ICYMI: Only 5 days remain for New York legislators to seize on statewide momentum and take action on comprehensive bail reform

Posted by FWD.us Press on 06/14/2018

Wanted to make sure you saw that the New York State Assembly successfully passed the Walker Reform Bill (A-10137A) on Tuesday, which will eliminate money bail for nearly all misdemeanor and nonviolent felonies and safely drive down New York’s jail populations.

However, in order for this legislation to take effect it must be considered in the Senate and passed into law by the Governor. Only 5 days remain in the 2018 legislative session, and we urge lawmakers act without delay.

The Assembly’s action on the Walker bill is the latest in a series of actions over the last 10 days showing substantial momentum for meaningful bail reform.

On June 13, Rena Karefa-Johnson, Senior Associate of Criminal Justice Reform at FWD.us, spoke on the Sirius XM “Make it Plain” talk show to discuss the critical need to end money bail.

On June 12, the New York State Assembly passed Assembly Bill A.10137A which eliminates money bail for nearly all misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies while strictly limiting the use of preventive detention, or pretrial incarceration without the possibility of release.
FWD.us Statement: FWD.us Statement on New York State Assembly’s Passage of the Walker Reform Bill
News Coverage: Spectrum News // Capital Tonight Staff // Assemblywoman Walker talks cash bail system

On June 7, The Vera Institute of Justice and FWD.us released a new policy impact analysis that clearly demonstrates that in order to successfully close Rikers Island, New York state lawmakers must pass real bail reform.
FWD.us Statement: NEW: Closing Rikers Island Depends on Bold Bail Reform in Albany
News Coverage: Politico Pro New York // Thomas Pudney // Report: Closing Rikers hinges on bail reform

Also on June 7, members of the Players Coalition Kelvin Beachum (New York Jets), Josh McCown (New York Jets), and Demario Davis (New Orleans Saints) as well as Chris Johnson, owner of the New York Jets, sent a letter to Governor Cuomo, Assembly Speaker Heastie, and Majority Leader Flanagan calling on New York State lawmakers to pass comprehensive bail reform immediately.
FWD.us Statement: Players Coalition members call on New York lawmakers to pass comprehensive bail reform now
News Coverage:
ESPN // Tim McManus // Jenkins, Long lead Players Coalition group pushing bail reform
New York Daily News // Manish Mehta // Jets CEO Christopher Johnson joins players in sending letter to NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo pushing for bail reform

On June 6, Akeem Browder launched the #IStandWithKalief pledge to end wealth-based detention in New York, on the third anniversary of his brother Kalief’s tragic death.
FWD.us Statement: Statement on Anniversary of Kalief Browder’s death
News Coverage: HuffPost // Kalief Browder’s Brother Searches For Justice On Anniversary Of His Death

On June 1, the New York Council of Churches released a statement urging New York lawmakers to overhaul New York’s money bail system this session.
News Coverage: U.S. News & World Report // Council of Churches Calls on Lawmakers to Pass Bail Reform

For more information, please visit NYCJR.fwd.us.