Senator John Flanagan’s Regressive Policy Proposals and Fearmongering Rhetoric Run Contrary to Evidence and New York Values and Will Keep His Conference in the Minority
Voters Across the State and the Political Spectrum Support Meaningful Criminal Justice Reforms That Will Lead to Decarceration
Earlier this week, Republicans in the State Senate introduced a regressive policy proposal that would aggravate New York’s incarceration crisis and further ravage black and brown communities throughout the state without serving the interest of victims or making New York safer. The package – and the fearmongering rhetoric used to support it – goes directly against the voters and survivors across the political spectrum who support criminal justice reforms that will significantly drive down New York’s incarceration.
“We continue to be disappointed that Republicans in the State Senate – led by Minority Leader John Flanagan – continue to fight against much-needed reforms to New York’s criminal justice system. The Senate Minority’s agenda promotes neither justice nor the interests of crime victims. Studies and polls have consistently shown survivors of crime are not satisfied with the status quo and support bold reforms that lead to decarceration. Extensive evidence has shown that reforms that reduce unnecessary, unjust, and racially biased incarceration also reduce recidivism and create stronger, safer communities.
Senator Flanagan is using the same political playbook that led his conference into the minority. Alarmist fear-mongering and antiquated “tough on crime” rhetoric that fails to address mass incarceration does not inspire votes. The pretrial reforms that passed during the budget were a clear indication that New Yorkers are hungry for change. The majority support for these reforms illustrate that, for constituents, real criminal justice reform is common sense, not a partisan, issue. In spite of the Senate minority’s efforts to pull us back towards some of the worst policy and political instincts of the past, momentum to end the incarceration crisis, eliminate money bail and protect the presumption of innocence for all is only growing in New York ” – Rena Karefa-Johnson, New York State Director, Criminal Justice Reform, FWD.us
“Girls for Gender Equity is committed to removing the systemic barriers which prevent cis and trans girls and non-binary youth from living self-determined lives, we have committed our work for close to two decades to standing up for young survivors of gender-based violence. The recent statements from some New York State legislators, which incorrectly claim to advocate for “victims” of violence do not speak for the many survivors across the State of New York. Survivors include girls, transgender youth, non-binary youth, people of color, and people from marginalized communities. Survivors have said loudly and clearly, that the time is now for a radical shift from the way that the criminal system has operated. We stand in full support of efforts to move toward more fair, effective, and healing systems of accountability. We reject efforts that deploy fear and racism in order to prevent progress.” – Ashley C. Sawyer, Director of Policy, Girls for Gender Equity
“It’s no surprise to see the party of Donald Trump fear-mongering after being ousted from leadership by New York State voters in 2018. What Minority Leader Flanagan fails to acknowledge is that people who spend time in prison and victims of crime are not distinct groups separate from each other or from the rest of New York’s population—they are the same, they are us, and collectively we all make up the State of New York. The very people that Republicans say are not worthy of any rights at all are in fact the most likely to be victims of violence. If the Senate Republicans claim to speak for crime victims, they must confront this contradiction—one which can be explained by only either ignorance or racism.” – Nick Encalada-Malinowski, Civil Rights Campaign Director, VOCAL-NY
“The RAPP Campaign and Parole Preparation Project believe in the inherent dignity of all people and were founded on principles of justice and redemption. These values extend not only to those in prison, but also to people, families, and communities that have survived serious harm and interpersonal violence. We know that responding to harm and violence by perpetually punishing those who cause it does not meet the many needs of survivors or promote public safety. Instead, it creates far more harm than benefit to communities across our state. There are 10,000 older people and 9,000 New Yorkers serving life sentences in New York State prisons. Locking people up into old age or until they die without any opportunity for release serves only as retribution and revenge. It promotes the very policies, practices and politics that first created mass incarceration and disproportionately impacts Black and Brown New Yorkers. It’s time for New York to reject the politics of mass incarceration and bring our loved ones home. We can do this by extending an opportunity for redemption to older people who have served decades in prison by passing Elder Parole (S2144/A4319), which provides a consideration of parole release to people in prison aged 55 and older who have served 15 or more years. At the same time, we strongly support more resources, real safety, and opportunities for healing for survivors of violence and their loved ones.” – Representatives from the Release Aging People in Prison Campaign and Parole Preparation Project
“For nearly 40 years, the New York City Anti-Violence Project has provided free services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer survivors of sexual, intimate partner, and hate violence. Our hotline receives a call from a survivor every three hours. Survivors reach out to us to be heard, make safety plans, and get support around needs like housing, health care, asylum, and economic empowerment – all of which help establish safety for survivors. The criminal legal system offers none of these things to survivors, and punishment for people who have done harm does not contribute to these essential needs. Justice for survivors cannot be won by relying on incarceration and punishment, which is state violence that is systemically racist, classist, homophobic, and transphobic.” – Audacia Ray, Director of Community Organizing and Public Advocacy at the New York City Anti-Violence Project
“As criminal justice reforms have brought together both parties at the national level – one of the only true bipartisan issues of late – the State Senate Republicans are out of touch with their party and reality here in New York. It is imperative that we protect those impacted by crime—and the criminal justice legislation enacted earlier this session will help create a fair and just system for all involved. By spreading dangerous misleading information, the Senate Republicans are actively trying to undermine the significant and urgently needed reforms that have proven to reduce crime and improve public safety—while also decreasing the prison population and saving taxpayer dollars.” – Khalil Cumberbatch, Chief Strategist at New Yorkers United for Justice
As survivors of incarceration and survivors of violence, we know this is a false divide. Before I ever saw the inside of a correctional facility, I saw the inside of an emergency room at the hands of police brutality. At 22, arrested for a crime I did not commit and incarcerated on bail I could not afford, I suffered unconscionable violence on Rikers Island. Our communities demand healing and justice. This comes from investment in our schools, our health, and our wellbeing, not over-policing and not the violation of our constitutional or human rights. We are not willing to turn back the clock to a “tough on crime” pro-incarceration agenda that has already created a bloated industry built on systemic racism and the pain of our communities. We will continue to fight for a true justice agenda and urge the legislature to pass Elder Parole (S2144/A4319) and continue on the path towards pretrial justice by ending money bail and protecting due process for all people regardless of charge.” – Marvin Mayfield, leader of the FREEnewyork Campaign and member of JustLeadershipUSA
“This week, New York Senate Republicans launched what they call a “Victims’ Justice” Agenda. But it is clear that their interest is not in protecting victims, but rather in perpetuating the mass incarceration of Black and Brown New Yorkers. As the largest public defender organization in the state, we know that labeling people as either victim or accused is not just false, but is itself a driver of harm and violence. Rather than an honest effort to make communities and survivors safer, this is just another attempt to scare voters in advance of an election year. People across New York, including those impacted by mass incarceration and survivors of violence, have been loud and clear: they want reform. They want to end mass incarceration. And they want a fair criminal legal system. The Senate Republican minority, meanwhile, is still resorting to the same old fearmongering tactics. New Yorkers aren’t buying it.” – Tina Luongo, Attorney-in-Charge of The Legal Aid Society’s Criminal Defense Practice
“There’s a reason Republicans have a minority in the Senate. New Yorkers know that the Republican agenda only serves to perpetuate systems that marginalize, disenfranchise, and harm Black and brown communities. Recently passed criminal legal reform is a direct response by the communities most impacted by mass incarceration and criminalization, based on the common sense understanding that our criminal punishment system is unfair, coercive, and undermines basic human rights. The Brooklyn Community Bail Fund stands with our allies, directly impacted people, and advocates across the state to protect the rights and dignity of all New Yorkers. We will not stand for the fear-mongering tactics law enforcement and Republican lawmakers are trying to use to perpetuate state violence and control over marginalized communities. We will continue to champion efforts that support and empower communities most impacted by the criminal legal system, including the full and complete elimination of money bail and the end to pretrial incarceration.” – Peter Goldberg, Executive Director, Brooklyn Community Bail Fund
The Senate Republicans are pro-prison, not pro-victim. They have always been against policies that break the cycle of incarceration and reduce recidivism. This is politics, plain and simple. Republicans are doing whatever they can to win conservative votes by stoking fear, while deplorably minimizing the violence perpetrated against marginalized people by decades of mass incarceration. The “Agenda” makes one simple thing clear: The Republicans are mad that real justice is prevailing. That the voices of everyday people who have been affected by these issues are rising above those of the powerful few that have profited and built their careers through maintaining a cruel and racist criminal “justice” system.” – Erin L. George, Criminal Justice Campaigns Director, Citizen Action of New York
“The Senate Republicans’ agenda is to prolong the era of mass incarceration and outsized prosecutorial power. Their proposals to expand life without parole and erect further barriers to release are harsh and mean-spirited and show their wrong-headed commitment to regressive and racist criminal justice policies that harm individuals, families, and communities. The history of mass incarceration in New York is the result of exactly this type of approach—incarcerating people from poor communities of color as a way to create and preserve jobs in upstate prisons. The vote to oust Republican control is a sign that New Yorkers do not want these types of horrible policies and motives in our state. Republicans do not speak for victims of crime. Nor do prosecutors. People who have been harmed by other people and by the harsh criminal justice system can speak for themselves. They did so loud and clear when they fought for these reforms.” – Lisa Schreibersdorf, Executive Director of Brooklyn Defender Services
“This year, we’ve taken important steps towards making our criminal legal system more fair, just, and transparent. It’s no surprise that the same Senate Republicans who stood in the way of progress for years are now resorting to fear mongering and scare tactics in order to perpetuate a system of caging black and brown New Yorkers. We cannot, and will not, reverse course on ending the era of mass incarceration. There’s far more work to be done to fix our criminal legal system and that’s where we intend to put our efforts during the rest of this legislative session and beyond.” – Justine Olderman, Executive Director, The Bronx Defenders