a bird and a bottle

Why I want to Bang My Head Against a Wall, part 580291
April 15, 2007, 10:03 am
Filed under: activism, civil rights, criminal justice, law, news, NYC, politics

From an email from the Correctional Association’s Women in Prison Project to the Coalition for Women Prisoners:

In case you have not yet heard, for the first time in almost 30 years,
the New York City Board of Correction (BOC) has suggested changes to the
Minimum Standards, which are the rules governing conditions of
confinement in City jails. Some of the proposals include: increased
crowding, increased lock-in, use of jail uniforms for pre-trial
detainees, removal of the requirement to provide sufficient Spanish
language interpreters, and greater mail and phone restrictions.

Because that’s exactly what people detained in NYC jails, already pretty dismal places, need. Especially at a time when inmates have less power than ever to challenge the conditions of their confinement. Less help understanding the charges against them, less connection with their families, less space to sleep while they wait for hours and hours to see the judge. Having spent time at the court holding pens that the BOC oversees at the Manhattan and Brooklyn courthouses, it’s hard to imagine that people held there would have fewer rights. Already it’s a fight to get adequate food, access to a telephone, and personalized medical care. These new rules would apply both to Rikers Island, the city’s main jail, and other city jail facilities; sometimes, people who have not yet been convicted are held there. How’s that for innocent until proven guilty?

The proposed new minimum standards would, among other things, allow jail staff to listen in to telephone calls and screen inmate mail without a warrant and increase the number of people confined to their cells 23 hours per day.

In the comments to one of my earlier posts over at Lawyers, Guns & Money, people talked about the lack of political will to change systemic problems in the criminal justice system, like the use of eyewitness IDs or even the death penalty. This is just one small thing. Is the political will lacking even for this? Some days I think it might be.

That’s where the wall comes in.

But you can help prove me wrong. There’s an online petition. Go sign it.

Also at LG&M.


4 Comments so far
Leave a comment

No Thanks, I am not a bleeding heart Liberal.

Comment by madmouser

I don’t think you have to a “bleeding heart liberal” to believe in a humane criminal justice system. It’s called human rights, and conservatives around the world support it (see, e.g., the Second Chance Act sponsored by Christian conservatives here in the good ol’ USA.).

Comment by bean

thanks for the heads up bean. i would have expected this at the state level, but i thought we were supposed to be better at this in the city…

Comment by maxwell

It’d only be bleeding hearted if such programs increased recidivism rates, or otherwise interfered with deterrence. But they haven’t been shown to, and in fact a lot of programs meant to be tough on crime are concerned with vengeance and bravado than with deterrence.

Think about it this way: New York had two mayors who initiated large-scale programs to crack down on crime. Dinkins promoted community policing; Giuliani installed Compstat and declared a zero tolerance policy. Under Dinkins, the ongoing trend of increasing crime reversed itself (though at least partly for national rather than local reasons); under Giuliani, the trend that had begun under Dinkins continued, until the homicide rate reached 9 and subsequently crept downward slowly. But in public imagination, that’s not how it went – instead, Dinkins was the irritating liberal who tried being nice to black people, while Giuliani unleashed the power of NYPD and reigned in crime.

Comment by Alon Levy

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