Justice Delayed is Justice Denied, Advocates Say to Albany – New Yorkers Celebrate Key Wins, But More Is Needed to End Criminalization of Black and Brown People Including Immigrants

PRESS RELEASE — FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

June 21, 2019

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – JOINT STATEMENT

June 21, 2019

Contact: Loretta Kane, Loretta@caminopr.com, 202-365-3806

Justice Delayed is Justice Denied, Advocates Say to Albany

New Yorkers Celebrate Key Wins, But More Is Needed to End Criminalization of Black and Brown People Including Immigrants

ALBANY, NEW YORK— As the legislative session comes to a close, the Justice Roadmap — a coalition of immigration and criminal justice advocates fighting for a slate of legislation to reverse the long history of criminalization of Black and Brown New Yorkers — released the following statement:

“While we celebrate the passage of critical bills to end the criminalization of communities of color in New York, we are dismayed that the legislature has failed to act on many issues that are of critical importance to Black and brown people.”

“We celebrate the passage of legislation that restored access to drivers’ licenses for immigrant New Yorkers (Green Light New York), guaranteed pretrial freedom in many cases (Bail Reform), lifted the blindfold so that New Yorkers have access to all the evidence in their case early, automatically, and prior to any plea deal (Discovery Law Reform), and shortened misdemeanor sentences to minimize risk of deportation (One Day to Protect New Yorkers).

“However, New Yorkers will continue to suffer because of Albany’s failure to pass:

    • Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) which would end marijuana prohibition, expunge records and address collateral consequences, invest in communities most harmed by the war on drugs, and create an equitable industry;
    • Police Stat Act, Repeal 50a, and Special Prosecutor which would create police accountability through the collection and public reporting of killings by police and deaths in custody, as well as policing of minor offenses and outcomes, end the police secrecy law which prevents public access to police disciplinary information; and establish a special prosecutor for instances where civilians are killed by police or die in police custody;
    • Protect Our Courts Act which would protect New Yorkers from ICE’s aggressive practice of targeting immigrants at New York State courthouses;
    • Bail reform legislation that ends poverty- and race-based jailing and protects pretrial liberty for all New Yorkers regardless of charge;
    • HALT Solitary Confinement Act which would end the torture of isolated confinement in prisons, jails, and immigrant detention facilities;
    • Elder Parole which would allow elders in New York State prisons to be considered for parole after serving 15 years.

“Advocates and directly impacted New Yorkers will continue to push for the Justice Roadmap and the transformative change needed to protect people targeted at the intersection of the criminal legal and immigration systems.”

Individual Organizations said the following:

“The Justice Roadmap represents a path away from the harms of the criminal and immigration systems and towards human rights for all,” said Mizue Aizeki, Immigrant Defense Project Acting Executive Director. “This legislative session provided a long awaited opportunity to advance social justice, and we drew much hope and inspiration from the unrelenting efforts of advocates in the face of an increasingly hostile national political climate. While some progress was made on critical issues, the legislature fell short of addressing numerous urgent matters, such as ending the torture of solitary confinement and restricting ICE’s escalating attacks on immigrants at courts. New York has the ability and responsibility to stand up as a leader against criminalization and deportation, and we will continue to fight to ensure that it does so.”

“Overturning a system of mass criminalization and addressing the harm to Black and brown communities and economically disenfranchised people requires that we take on the myriad unjust laws and practices that perpetuate state-sanctioned violence, said DeAnna Hoskins, President and CEO of JustLeadershipUSA. With the “Justice Roadmap,” we call on New York’s elected officials to move forward a bold vision for meeting the needs of our communities. While we celebrate the passage of bail reform legislation that will save some from the trauma of pretrial jailing and Green Light New York which will end the criminalization of driving for immigrant New Yorkers, we are dismayed that the state failed to achieve marijuana justice or end the torture of solitary confinment. People targeted by criminalization – whether through the immigration system or the criminal legal system – stand shoulder to shoulder to demand freedom and justice, and we urge our legislators to stand with us.”

“In these trying times, we must rely on our local and state leadership to put forth bold legislation to protect and defend the most vulnerable among us. The Justice Roadmap for New York –

which included prohibiting ICE to enter our courts without a judicial warrant and limiting the harsh immigration consequences for certain misdemeanors – provided the state legislature with a clear blueprint to build integrity and equality within our justice system. This legislative session saw New York make important strides forward, most notably in restoring access to drivers licenses for undocumented immigrants; however, there is still more to do and we will keep pushing to create a New York that is just for all.” said Anu Joshi, Senior Policy Director of the New York Immigration Coalition.

“As Long Islanders we urge New York State lawmakers to support the Justice Roadmap and to understand the impact of current criminal justice policies on women.  New Hour is dedicated to working with justice-impacted women and their children and recognize that women are disproportionately affected by domestic violence which often leads to incarceration, we recognize that The Justice Roadmap will seek to support women, children and families.” said Serena Liguori, Executive Director of New Hour for Women & Children—LI.

“This legislative session has made clear that the movement to end mass criminalization and incarceration has the momentum needed to win. But it also made clear how much more work there is to be done. Changes to our pretrial justice system and discovery laws will ensure that those ensnared by the system have a fighting chance at advocating for their freedom. And through One Day to Protect New Yorkers and the Greenlight Campaign, we’ve successfully reduced the ways in which the system exposes New Yorkers to harsh immigration consequences. But big fights remain ahead of us: for parole reform, police accountability, and for true marijuana legalization that delivers justice for the communities that have suffered under prohibition, among many other items. We will continue to stand with the black and brown communities that are targeted and criminalized by the system and push on until we realize the goal of a criminal legal system that works for all of us,” said Justine Olderman, Executive Director of the Bronx Defenders.

“We commend our allies on many incredible legislative victories this legislative session – from pretrial justice to licenses access for all to all the other really positive changes to our injustice system,” said Victor Pate, lead organizer for the #HALTsolitary campaign. “At the same time, we are outraged at their failure to do so many other urgent and necessary changes, including ending the torture of solitary confinement, marijuana justice, and Elder Parole and Fair and Timely Parole.We are disgusted that there was a backroom deal between legislative leaders and the governor that prevented the widely-supported HALT Solitary Bill from receiving a vote where it surely would have passed. As a result of this appalling act of cowardice people will continue to be tortured and will die. We are devastated. Following last year’s election when Democrats took control of the State Senate we were repeatedly given assurances and promises that HALT was a priority for both houses. Instead leadership back-slid to politics as usual, where just three people, Governor Cuomo, Senate Leader Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie thwarted democracy and undercut the ability of their members to legislate on issues and values that they care about. They also turned their backs on a movement led by survivors of solitary, family members and other advocates, as well as the people currently suffering the psychological terror of solitary confinement.

“For many of our clients and their families, involvement with the criminal legal system and criminalization through the immigration system are two sides of the same coin. This legislative session New York took critical steps to address inequalities at the nexus of the intersecting crim-imm systems – such as ending money bail for many cases, shortening misdemeanor sentences to protect immigrants from punitive immigration consequences, and expanding access to driver’s licenses regardless of immigration status. However, there is more work to be done to end the widespread criminalization of Black and Brown communities. The State must put an end to its reliance on policing and punishment as solutions to systemic issues that should instead be addressed by meeting the fundamental needs of communities most harmed by the abusive criminal legal and immigration systems,” said Peter Goldberg, Executive Director of the Brooklyn Community Bail Fund.

“One of our primary goals this year was to fully staff the New York State Parole Board with commissioners who embrace notions of redemption and believe firmly in rehabilitation,” said Jose Saldana, Director of the Release Aging People from Prison Campaign. “This year-long campaign culminated late Thursday night after a long and contentious parole commissioner confirmation process. While we were disappointed with this group of nominees, we had the most serious reservations about candidate Richard Kratzenberg, a former corrections officer and life-long Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) employee. In an unprecedented and historical moment, due to strong opposition from our advocacy community and our legislative allies, Kratzenberg’s appointment was never brought to the Senate floor for a vote, ending his potential nomination. Sadly, the state legislature did not pass a single piece of legislation this session to improve or expand the parole release process, although both our Elder Parole (S.2144)and Fair & Timely Parole (S.497) initiatives made it out of committee. Thousands of incarcerated men and women and their families must continue to live in uncertainty and despair and even face death in prison, while our legislators stand idly by and continue to cave to the pressures of special interest groups, instead of the interests of the communities they represent. While the Board is now close to being fully staffed, the nominees do not reflect our demands for a Parole Board that is primarily focused on rehabilitation and transformation. We look forward to continuing the struggle for parole justice in the coming months and years.”

“The inability of the state legislature and Governor Cuomo to pass comprehensive marijuana legalization means that Black and Latinx individuals remain disproportionately in the crosshairs of harmful marijuana enforcement. Decriminalization alone is not enough to deal with the full impact of marijuana prohibition and just gives law enforcement discretion. Actually addressing the legacy of harm from prohibition and targeted enforcement by comprehensively legalizing and reinvesting in communities is what policymakers need to deliver on. While it is disappointing that our leaders have once again failed to prioritize racial justice in New York, we will continue to fight on behalf of comprehensive reforms,” said Kassandra Frederique, New York State Director for Drug Policy Alliance. “The expungement provision passed by lawmakers will provide a measure of relief to deal with the 900,000 arrests for low-level marijuana charges that took place in New York in the last two decades. However, it is critical that this bill is not mistakenly understood as a ‘decriminalization’ measure, despite how lawmakers have advertised it. Under the bill, wide-ranging instances of marijuana possession will remain a legal violation, allowing law enforcement the discretion to continue making arrests. As we’ve seen in the years following New York’s so-called decriminalization of marijuana in 1977, anything short of comprehensive legalization means that Black and Latinx individuals will remain disproportionately in the crosshairs of harmful enforcement practices.”

###