The Fortune Society News of the Week — the week of April 17, 2017

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

A wide-ranging collection of news and opinion from the previous week focusing on criminal justice policy, advocacy, and reform.

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Why Kalief Browder’s brother says it’s time to end the prison system

“We need more organizations that are dedicating their work to helping transition people from jail or prisons to society,” says Akeem Browder, Kalief Browder’s elder brother. “Fortune Society — they’re huge [and] also does this kind of work, and is similar to Exodus. But there are not that many programs out there like that, so we gotta be more supportive and get the city to understand that without services like this that prevent people from going in, we’re always going to have this perpetuated system of abuse.”

The Fader

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Jonathan Lippman, radicalized on Rikers

The drumbeat to close Rikers Island’s jails has reached a deafening pitch, and for the first time New York City has an official plan to do it. The lead author of the report detailing Rikers Island’s closure, former Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, joined the podcast on Monday, April 17, along with Greg Berman, director of the Center for Court Innovation, who also worked on the report. Despite his rhetoric calling Rikers Island “a stain on our great city,” Lippman refused to put blame on any one group for the poor conditions at Rikers.

City & State New York

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De Blasio faces tough road replacing Rikers with new jails

Before making his promise to replace Rikers Island with jails elsewhere in the city, Mayor Bill de Blasio was adamant about one thing: He would commit to the goal, but say nothing about precisely where any new jail should go. He was insistent on that point behind closed doors, according to people briefed on the matter, and in public, when he sought to distance himself from a special City Council commission recommendation earlier this month that called for new jails near courthouses in all five boroughs. The mayor may have had good reason to be wary.

The New York Times

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A history of hell: How Rikers Island became a modern municipal abomination

For half a century, men and women of benevolent intent have employed a wide range of skills and tactics to make Rikers Island humane. Their valiant efforts have included armed resistance, official reports, an economic stratagem, and a 42-years-and-counting class-action lawsuit in federal court. As varied as these efforts have been, they all have one thing in common: Every single one of them failed.

Village Voice

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We cannot wait to overhaul Rikers: Reforming the jails demands bold leadership now

Given the history of site selection and construction in city history — it takes forever to build here, especially when what you’re building is something as undesirable a jail — the decade-long timetable for closing Rikers Island laid out by an independent commission and embraced by Mayor de Blasio seems prudent. But it is an awfully long time in the lives of the men and women who will continue to be [incarcerated] in the jails, and the men and women who labor there.

NY Daily News

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New York City Schools’ discriminatory and damaging school-to-prison pipeline

New York City schools feed young black and Latino youth into a school-to-prison pipeline by leveling criminal punishments on students for small infractions and normal youthful behavior. Ending the school-to-prison pipeline, which disproportionately impacts black and brown students, would increase protection for students of color.

City & State New York

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‘Loopholes’ in the ‘Raise The Age’ bill still leave room to condemn [young adults], critics say

Four days after the passage of a contentious bill included in the late state budget raising the age of adult criminal responsibility to 18, defense attorneys, lawmakers, and state officials are still struggling to make sense of how exactly it will work. A criminal justice reform advocate told Gothamist that there is a whole constellation of unknowns about how the new system will work day-to-day.

Gothamist

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New York’s smart criminal justice reform sets an example for Sessions to follow

Even as the Trump administration begins to regress on criminal justice, states continue to find more rational and humane ways to handle crime. In New York, for example, which currently runs an unjustifiably harsh criminal justice system, reform is taking place on several fronts. One of the most urgent is the state’s current practice — only one other state does this — of routinely treating 16- and 17-year-olds as adults in criminal court.

The Washington Post

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Jeff Sessions and the odds of imprisoning innocents

The Washington Post reports that Attorney General Jeff Sessions “will end a Justice Department partnership with independent scientists to raise forensic science standards.” He and [President] Trump are poised to dismiss overdue reforms and pursue a course that will result in even more innocents being needlessly imprisoned—and that will leave some perpetrators of serious crimes free because [innocent individuals] were convicted in their place.

The Atlantic

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After 20 years in prison, all I can write is fantasy

I’ve been locked away for over 20 years, during which time things sure have changed in the world — or at least your world, where computer programs talk and cars drive themselves. Several years ago, I spent a long stretch in a solitary confinement cell. There, I realized two things: 1) that I was beginning to lose my mind, and 2) that the world was passing me by.I devised a simple plan to overcome the first problem: I began to write.

The Marshall Project

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How do we keep people from going back to prison? One organization thinks it’s cracked the code.

Currently, 2,000 men a year are paroled without a home to go to in New York City alone, meaning the demand is already high for entry into The Doe Fund. Since 1990, their core program — Ready, Willing & Able — has served over 22,000 people. Ready, Willing & Able is a 9-12 month program that prepares formerly incarcerated men for careers by immediately putting them to work inside the home where they’re staying.

A Plus

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