There have been a few major steps forward in reforming the criminal justice system in New York this week that I’ve failed to mention. Let’s take this beautiful Sunday to touch on this subject in a little bit more depth.
Rikers Island, a miserable prison that was the subject of an independent commission’s recommendation to close it and open up a series of smaller jails in New York City, will be closing in ten years, provided the crime rate drops low enough to phase out enough inmates and conditions do not deteriorate further. It costs over $150,000 per inmate to house individuals on Rikers Island and that money can be much better spent on education, job investment and infrastructure repair.
The New York State Assembly passed a state budget that includes legislation which raises the age for criminal responsibility to 18, meaning that children can no longer be tried as adults. The New York State Senate still needs to approve the bill, but the Republican leadership on that side is supportive of keeping the measure included in the budget bill.
Finally, students in New York state will be seeing a huge break as free tuition at public colleges (both community colleges and four-year universities) will be implemented for families making less than $100,000 per year (rising to $125,000 by 2019). Bernie Sanders modeled this legislation in Congress and Andrew Cuomo made it a priority in January.
Wins can happen at the state and municipal level and even in the era of Trump it is encouraging to see people taking steps forward.