Criminal Justice Reform

Posted on November 1st, 2015

Officer Holder’s murder at the hands of a career criminal is a tragedy that all New Yorkers should feel deeply. All lives matter, and especially those in blue that faithfully protect our people from those that only have evil in their hearts. Crime has to be fought on many different levels such as a well-trained and proactive police force, and a better education system that actually prepares our kids for the real world. More after school programs and youth centers are needed to give our young people somewhere to go and activities to do. These youth centers should be up and running in all neighborhoods. A large portion of our population has lost hope, and is distrustful of those in power, especially in our criminal justice system.

Faith in the American criminal justice system is in decay and it needs to be restored. Is this dysfunction real or just perceived? When a huge sector of a nation’s population does not trust their criminal justice system, it is heading for a catastrophe. Without trust in our criminal justice system, we have nothing. We do need the police, the district attorneys and our courts to protect us from those in society who would want to exploit our society as we see happening in many third world nations. However, we cannot have the criminal justice establishment breaking the rules whether it is for expedience sake, or just because they can. They must follow the established rules that protect the innocent, though sometimes those rules do let criminals walk. On occasion, we must suffer consequences of letting a criminal go, but it is better than sending an innocent man to jail. That is why I am proposing these reforms to try to bring trust back to our criminal justice system.

 

  1. We not only want body cameras for law enforcement officers, but also have cameras on all police vehicles. This will be a mandatory law for all New York State local and state law enforcement departments.
  2. First time nonviolent offenders, instead of getting jail time, will have to do mandatory community service during their parole sentence. Examples of this could be helping serving food at senior centers or homeless shelters, picking up garbage at parks and playgrounds, or helping make repairs at NYCHA Housing. This community service will be eight hours a day, six days a week, unless they are in school or have a job. If they have either, then they would have to serve two hours a day after school or work, and 12 hours on the weekends or days off.
  3. Judges, when determining sentencing, need to review a defendant’s full criminal history, which will include sealed juvenile records to formulate an informed decision. Once a trial is over, and a criminal has been convicted or has pleaded guilty, there should be no problem with a judge reviewing these records to get a better picture of the defendant’s character to determine sentencing.
  4. The prison terms for white-collar crimes, such as identity theft and cybercrimes, need to be substantially increased. Cybercrimes are increasing at an alarming rate and costing our economy billions of dollars to defend, while disrupting and destroying individual people’s lives for years. These types of crimes in most cases, are much worse and more costly than being mugged.
  5. A defendant has a right to speedy trial. It is unconscionable that a defendant has to sit in jail for three years before his case goes to trial. We must come up with a reasonable statutory limitation on continuances by both the prosecution and the defense when a defendant is incarcerated. If the defendant is incarcerated, we also need to set a statutory time limit before their trial must be set to begin.
  6. We need to set up an independent panel under the State Attorney General Office, but not controlled by this office. This panel will have the power to start an investigation into any District Attorney’s Office in the state. They also will be given the power to decide if a special prosecutor needs to be appointed for any controversial case in the state. This will take politics and emotion out of some of the more inflammatory cases.
  7. We need to modify our judicial review panels. Sometimes judges go too far in their decisions or run their courtrooms like their own personal fiefdoms. This is why I want to add non-legal people to the review panels. They will be teamed with retired judges, lawyers, and law professors.

Too many of our elected officials are no better than ambulance chasers. When a problem many have known about for years becomes a headline, they want to come up with a quick fix. Most politicians today only look at treating the symptom and not the disease. A prime example is the City Council and Mayor’s proposal to pay the bill for some defendants, instead of looking at the big picture as to why someone is sitting in jail for three years for a minor crime.

For our country to survive and not break down into total anarchy, we must have a criminal justice system that is based on trust. My proposed reforms will not solve all our issues and not everybody will be satisfied. Yet we must begin somewhere for the healing to start. Our law enforcement, District Attorneys, and judges perform a vital function for this country, and we must expect that they perform their duties with honesty and care. The criminal justice system must also respect our rights and freedoms, as we must respect those that perform these vital functions. Without mutual respect and understanding, it will not work. We must make it work for all of us. Working together is the only way we can live and thrive in our communities.

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