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Report

The Disproportionate Impact of the Criminal Justice System on People of Color in the Capital Region (full report)

Executive Summary:

This report, the first in a series of three by the Center for Law and Justice examining the impact of federal, state and local criminal justice system practices on minorities in the Capital Region, details the overrepresentation of minorities among Capital Region arrests, convictions, and sentences to state prison. It further chronicles the devastating impact the criminal justice system has on minority individuals and communities, and makes recommendations for change.

Section I of the report presents statistical data culled from state and local criminal justice agencies and the United States Census Bureau to demonstrate the disproportionate representation of minorities among arrests, convictions, and sentences to state prison in Albany, Rensselaer, and Schenectady counties.  The percentage of Capital Region arrests and convictions that are minorities is twice their representation in the general population, and the percentage of minorities among prison sentences is as high as almost four times greater than their representation in the general population.  Contrary to the sometimes asserted contention that this is due to a higher rate of commission of crimes by minorities, the literature indicates that this disproportionality is more likely due to facially neutral policies that have racially disparate effects.

Section II explains the concept of the “collateral consequences” of a criminal conviction:  conditions that, beyond the actual incarcerative sentence, often attach automatically upon conviction.  Conviction and/or incarceration can impose highly restrictive educational, employment, housing, and civic conditions on an individual, including losing the right to vote.  In addition to the destructive consequences of a criminal conviction to individuals, mass incarceration of people of color wreaks havoc in the neighborhoods in which they reside, resulting in severely impoverished communities.

Section III describes the historic impact of the federal “War on Drugs” and New York’s Rockefeller Drug Laws on the mass incarceration of Capital Region people of color.  In 2002, Albany County had one of the highest drug crime prison admission rates in the entire country, and one of the most racially disproportionate rates.  More recent data from 2011 indicate that Albany County maintains its dubious distinction of having comparatively higher (and more racially disparate) prison admission rates than other jurisdictions in the state.

Section IV examines the relationships between the police department and the community in the cities of Albany, Troy and Schenectady.  All three departments have expressed a commitment to “community policing,” and the extent to which each department has operationalized this commitment is assessed.

Section V considers the Capital Region statistics in the context of “The New Jim Crow” movement, which asserts that mass incarceration serves to maintain a racial caste system that denies education, employment, housing, and voting rights to those who carry the label “felon,” in much the same way that the post-Civil War Jim Crow laws denied rights to blacks.  Lastly, Section VI provides recommendations for change.

Read Robert Gavin of the Times Union article on Dr. Green’s report here: Report Shows Disparity in arrests of minorities

Center for Law and Justice Statement Regarding the Death of Nah-Cream Moore

                                                                                                        Alice P. Green, PhD.

1/6/12

In this hour of profound sadness over the loss of one of our young people, the City of Albany finds itself at a critical juncture:  will we pursue a path of renewed commitment to forging a mutually respectful and meaningful partnership between our citizens and the police department charged with protecting us, or will our undeniable grief and outrage condemn us to the loss of significant progress made in the battle for justice for people of color in the Capital District?

Our heartache and anger over the shooting death of Nah-Cream Moore are absolutely natural and appropriate responses, and those responsible for this tragedy must be held accountable.   At the same time, however, the citizens ofAlbanymust seize this opportunity to build upon recent progress in police/community relations to ensure that we never again lose one of our own at the hands of law enforcement.

For nearly three decades, the Center for Law and Justice has monitored and addressed law enforcement excesses regarding people of color in the Capital District.  Never has the Center been more hopeful for positive change than it has been these past two years, since the Department’s commitment to community policing has exceeded mere rhetoric.  The Department has actively solicited the community’s input regarding police department policies and practices, and has worked diligently to dispel the “us-them” mentality of prior police administrations.  The great expectations engendered within our community by the police department’s transformation over the last year and a half, have made the events of December 29th all the more difficult to understand.

Albany’s Police Chief has promised an extensive internal investigation, as well as an independent investigation by the District Attorney’s office, to address all of the community’s concerns regarding the shooting of Nah-Cream Moore.   Because of the Department’s considerable advancement toward true culture change, due in large part to the community’s meaningful involvement, we believe that once given the opportunity to review all the facts of this incident, the Department will answer the community’s questions.  Furthermore, we are hopeful that the Department will take appropriate action to address any police department failings — be they misconduct by individual officers and/or departmental shortcomings — that may have contributed to the tragic death of Nah-Cream Moore.  The community will have an opportunity to review reports issued and hold the Department accountable for the actions it took during the encounter with Nah-Cream.

Both the police department and the community now face a daunting challenge in forging the partnership necessary to prevent such tragedies in the future — how to transcend this unfortunate incident in the face of misinformation promulgated by some in the local media, and others.   Inflammatory rumor-mongering by some in the local news media, and erroneous and incomplete news report have only heightened community tensions.  It appears, sadly, that some in the media are part of the problem rather than part of the solution.

So what isAlbanyto do now?  Two elements are necessary to move forward toward the police/community partnership envisioned and articulated by both the Department, under the leadership of Chief Krokoff, and community members:  truth, and trust.  First, we need the truth: it is absolutely imperative that the Chief provide the community with all the information available to him regarding the death of Nah-Cream Moore, including the circumstances leading to the encounter, the behavior of young Mr. Moore when confronted by the police, and the police officers’ responses.  Truth is rarely uncomplicated, and the community should be prepared to be patient while the police department and the District Attorney conduct their respective investigations.  At the conclusion of the investigations, all responsible for this tragedy should be held accountable.

Second: we need to develop mutual trust.  Soon after Nah-Cream Moore’s death, Chief Krokoff implored the community to work with him.  We in the community do want to work with him to ensure everyone’s safety, especially our young people.

Based on the police department’s welcomed move towards transparency and its strong commitment to real community policing, the Center is prepared to trust that the Department will be nothing less than truthful and forthcoming regarding the death of Nah-Cream Moore.

In the coming weeks, truth and trust will helpAlbanyrecover from this tragedy.  For today, though, we mourn the death of young Nah-Cream Moore, and hope his tragic passing spurs a unified quest for a peaceful, violence-free existence for us all.