Manhattan, NY – In an effort to make the courtroom experience more pleasant for accused criminals, New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio’s Office of Criminal Justice has decided to reward defendants with gift cards in exchange for their reviews of the court and its affiliated personnel, the New York Post reported on Sunday.
Through the $800,000 taxpayer-funded program, offenders who respond to a 144-question survey about the Manhattan Criminal Court will each be paid with a $15 Dunkin’ Donuts gift card.
The questionnaire provides defendants with the opportunity to rate judges, prosecutors, courthouse security, and jail transport officers, and asks them how confident they are in regards to police and the criminal justice system.
Offenders are asked if the judge apologized to them for any delays, as well as whether or not they were thanked for their patience.
Accused criminals are even asked to weigh in on the building’s temperature, whether or not they knew where they could get a drink of water, and how the courthouse could provide better entertainment in the waiting area.
Much of the survey focuses on courteousness and whether or not employees “seemed happy” to accommodate the defendants.
“Once again, the mayor wants to appease the criminals at taxpayers’ expense,” a New York Police Department (NYPD) source told the New York Post. “Next thing they’ll be giving out Macy’s cards so these perps could do their holiday shopping.”
“There’s a long-standing statement that crime doesn’t pay,” NYPD Sergeants Union President Ed Mullins said. “We’ve now proved it does. It now pays for a $15 Dunkin’ Donuts card. Maybe we can give them confiscated firearms, too.”
“Where is this coming from? We’re all singing Kumbaya together?” he continued. “Maybe it’s time we process criminals over tea and biscuits.”
The survey comes amid Mayor De Blasio’s attempts to increase non-jail sentences in order to close the prison at Rikers Island, The Washington Free Beacon reported.
De Blasio has also rewarded inmates at Rikers with pizza parties in the recent past.
According to the New York Daily News, Manhattan Criminal Court judges have already been told to avoid legal jargon and to refer to individuals by their names rather than as “the defendant.”
The judges were also told to greet people as they come into the courtroom.
Beginning in 2018, judges, clerks, and court officers are expected to receive “courtesy training” in order to better serve accused criminals, the New York Post reported.
“If a litigant feels they’re being treated with respect, they have an idea what’s going on…they’re more likely to perceive the process as fair,” said the Center for Court Innovation’s Adam Mansky, who is working with the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice and Office of Court Administration on the gift card reward program.
“They’re more likely to comply with their obligations, come back to court, pay their fine,” Mansky said.
Elizabeth Glazer, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, said that the questionnaire could help to change defendants’ perspectives about the court system.
“Small physical changes can have a significant impact on behavior. If the design of our courts can enhance respect for the law, it will potentially reduce future contact with the justice system,” Glazer said.
Dennis Quirk, head of the New York State Court Officers Association, disagrees.
“We don’t need any training, judges don’t need any training,” he argued. “We all know how to do our jobs, and we already treat people with courtesy.”
“It’s unbelievable. The next think you know we’ll be giving them ice cream cones when they come into court. We treat people courteously every day,” Quick told the New York Daily News. “It’s a waste of time.”
“You want these people not to want this to happen again,” an unnamed high-ranking NYPD officer told the New York Post. “It’s not supposed to be a positive experience to get locked up or get a summons.”