CRIMINAL JUSTICE: TOWARDS A MORE JUST SOCIETY

  • Invest in public health and community support, not mass incarceration 

  • Emphasize harm reduction, restorative justice and alternatives to policing

  • Stop criminalizing poverty, addiction and mental distress

For too long, our political leaders have turned to policing and prisons to address or sweep away the consequences of our economic and social order like homelessness, addiction, poverty, and mental illness. The result has been the creation of the largest system of mass incarceration the world has ever seen. It’s a human rights disaster that damages more than it repairs.  

Despite important recent reforms, we’re still criminalizing poverty. Governor Cuomo’s decision to flood the subway system with 500 new cops to bust fare-beaters and harass the homeless shows that the “Broken Windows” model of policing, where the solution to disinvestment is to further criminalize its victims, is all too alive and well. 

We have to fundamentally break with the punitive policies of the past and end the conditions that lead to arrest in the first place. Decarcerating our society and creating a more just, rehabilitative and fair system is intimately connected to everything else we’re fighting for: affordable housing, good schools, public health, more and better social services, and an economy that works for all of us. But here are some specific criminal justice reforms we’ll champion in Albany.

Staff 911 dispatch and emergency response with mental health professionals. 

  • In recent years, New York City–and Greenpoint in particular–have seen a dramatic rise in 911 calls related to people experiencing severe emotional distress. Some have been killed in encounters with the police. 
  • Other cities have recently started placing social workers inside police dispatch centers to triage emergency calls and send out special teams. We need to do this here. 
  • The state legislature should explore ways to support, fund and replicate statewide programs to place highly-trained mental health care professionals equipped to understand and de-escalate crises in all emergency response units.

Cancel the hiring of 500 new MTA cops. Expand Fair Fares. 

  • Already facing significant budget shortfalls, the MTA approved Governor Cuomo’s plan to add 500 new police officers in the subway at a cost of nearly $900 million over the next ten years. His decision must be immediately reversed.
  • In addition to better transit service, these resources should be directed to supportive housing for homeless folks currently relying on the subway for shelter
  • Rather than criminalizing fare evasion–a crime of poverty–the state government should work with NYC to expand the Fair Fares program, which many New Yorkers don’t even know exists. Eventually, all public transportation should be free.

End the War on Drugs in New York.

  • Our approach to drug use and addiction must be guided by reducing harm, addressing trauma and providing support. No one should be arrested or criminalized for the possession or use of drugs. 
  • Despite overwhelming public support, the failure to fully legalize marijuana in the last legislative session is a shame. No more waiting: marijuana should be legalized now, past convictions expunged, and preferential licensing for marijuana-related businesses should be extended to the communities most devastated by the war on drugs. 
  • Drug overdoses killed nearly four people a day in New York City in 2018. Our state should follow the lead of Vancouver and Philadelphia, piloting the creation of sites where people can safely inject heroin and other drugs under medical supervision and without fear of criminal prosecution.
  • The state should invest in the creation of 24-hour non-sober drop-in centers for homeless and precariously housed people so they can access medical care, store their belongings, and not be criminalized simply for existing.

End solitary confinement.

  • The evidence is crystal clear: solitary confinement is torture. But it’s still being used in prisons and jails across our state.
  • The failure of our elected officials to pass the HALT Solitary Act in 2019 means more people will be tortured. Some will die. The situation is unacceptable.
  • We will champion and fight for the HALT Solitary Act until it is passed and signed by the Governor.

End “Life Without Parole.” Release aging people from prison.

  • A life sentence is death by incarceration. And it’s completely at odds with a just and compassionate society. More New Yorkers serving “life without parole” are from Brooklyn than anywhere else in the state.  And 1 in 5 people in New York prisons are 50 years or older.  
  • We need to pass Elder Parole reform that allows people aged 55 and older who have served at least 15 consecutive years in prison to be considered for release
  • We need a fair and fully staffed Parole Board that can, in a timely manner, assess who a person is today, not their crime of conviction.

Stop criminalizing youth. 

  • Fund the training and hiring of more guidance counselors and social workers in school to support kids, not criminalize them.
  • New York City has dozens of empty community centers. I’ll fight for major new investments to make sure that every community has a safe place for kids to go. 
  • Ban the use of facial recognition and other biometric surveillance technology in schools. Ban social media surveillance of minors.
  • Pressure the NYPD to erase the gang database that collects and monitors tens of thousands of New Yorkers who haven’t been accused of a crime.
  • Expand summer youth employment.

Decriminalize sex work. 

  • Sex work is work. I’ll fight to pass the Stop Violence in the Sex Trades Act, a package of bills to decriminalize and decarcerate the sex trades in New York. 
  • These bills make it safer for consenting adults who perform or patronize sex work, while upholding all of the felony anti-trafficking statutes that are designed to hold traffickers and people who seek to buy sex from minors accountable.
  • I also support the “Walking While Trans” bill, which would repeal New York’s anti-prostitution loitering law that’s used to profile and detain trans and non-binary New Yorkers.
  • Pass the “Record Relief” bill that allows survivors of human trafficking who have criminal records for crimes their traffickers compelled them to commit to clear their records.