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New York State Budget Proposals: Support and Opposition from the Center for Law and Justice  



***FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE***

For media inquiries, contact: 

Dr. Alice Green, Executive Director | 518.466.0431or alicecflj@gmail.com 

Ta-Sean Murdock, Director of Operations | 518.614.6841 or taseanmurdock@cflg.org 

 

April 18, 2024, Albany, NY - In the interest of ensuring equal, fair, and just treatment for every member of our community and alleviating the toll mass incarceration exacts from the community, we at the Center for Law and Justice present our recommendations on various budget proposals pending in the New York State Legislature. Our recommendations prioritize the plight of our low-income and disadvantaged community members. 

 

Proposals Supported by the Center for Law and Justice: 

 

·                     Increasing legislative oversight of the “Humane Alternatives to Long-Term (HALT) Confinement Act” 

 

We support the proposal to increase legislative oversight of HALT funding and require the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) to submit retroactive and anticipated expense reports. While the HALT program has succeeded in reducing the use of isolation in New York State’s Correctional Facilities, full implementation of the law has not been achieved. Failure to fully implement provisions which ban isolating individuals with serious mental illness and require minimum hours of out-of-cell programing necessitate a more efficient funding plan to implement the law. It is the position of the Center for Law and Justice that full implementation will lead to better outcomes for incarcerated individuals, their families, and the community as a whole.  

 

·                     Implementing a Correctional Facility Visitor Transportation Program 

 

We support the proposal to provide funding for a program providing cost-free transportation for visitors to DOCCS facilities. The proposal would provide transportation from the City of New York, Rochester, Syracuse, Buffalo, and Albany on a bi-monthly schedule. In future years, pending the success and ridership of this program, we may encourage the expansion of this program to more locations on a more frequent basis. 

 

·                     Providing Additional Raise the Age Funding 

 

We support a proposal to provide an additional $250 million for programming to support juvenile justice reforms associated with implementation of the Raise the Age statute, which raised the age of criminal responsibility from 16 to 18. We further encourage the Legislature to reform how Raise the Age funds are distributed to ensure that localities can receive funding in a timely manner and achieve full implementation of the law. Streamlining the disbursement of funds and providing additional funding will help shore up failures in the juvenile justice system recently detailed in a report from the office of NYS Comptroller DiNapoli. 

 

·                     Enacting the “Ending Predatory Court Fees Act” 

 

We support the inclusion of language enacting the Ending Predatory Court Fees Act. The proposal would end various practices which place an unequal and unfair burden on low-income individuals and communities of color by: eliminating incarceration as a remedy for failure to pay a fine or surcharge, eliminating mandatory minimums throughout the penal and vehicle and traffic law, prohibiting the collection of fines or surcharges from the commissary of incarcerated persons, and requiring that courts conduct an assessment of a person’s financial situation prior to the imposition of a fine. This proposal must pass in order to begin the process of dismantling a system which sets up people involved in the criminal justice system for failure and conditions individual rights on the economic status of the individual.  

 

·                     Creating an Office of Civil Representation 

 

We support the proposal to create a new Office of Civil Representation to provide legal assistance for individuals experiencing homelessness or at risk of losing their housing. Working in the community, we see many cases where a person is concerned about the stability of their basic need for housing, and often the legal process is prohibitively expensive and complicated for individual clients to navigate on their own.  

 

·                     Enacting the “Challenging Wrongful Convictions Act” 

 

We support the inclusion of the “Challenging Wrongful Convictions Act” and funding for its implementation in the State budget. The bill would expand grounds for the justification of a motion to vacate judgment. This bill would also allow individuals to submit a motion to vacate judgment based on the decriminalization of the prior charge, an important remedy for the unfair treatment of individuals, particularly people of color, pertaining to the discriminatory enforcement of drug laws. 

 

·                     Providing Funding for Formerly Incarcerated Individuals at Risk of or Experiencing Homelessness and Funding for Individuals with Mental Illness in the Criminal Justice System 

 

We support a proposal to provide $125 million in funding for this issue as it is necessary to ensure that individuals transitioning from the criminal justice system to the community have the resources necessary to take care of themselves and find their place in the community. We further support funding for programs and housing for individuals with mental illness involved in the criminal justice system. 

 

Proposal Opposed by the Center for Law and Justice 

 

·                     Governor Hochul’s Plan to Combat Retail Theft  

 

We oppose the proposal to create a dedicated “Smash & Grab” Police Unit to combat retail theft rings, adjust the definition of larceny in order to increase penalties on successive thefts, and raise the penalties for assaulting a retail worker. Poverty, mass incarceration, and the denial of basic needs heavily influences criminal behavior; increased penalties and policing is not the answer. To quote Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie “I just don't believe raising penalties is ever a deterrent on crime.” The Center for Law and Justice hopes to work with stakeholders to craft and implement preventative strategies and alternatives to incarceration. 

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