New York, NY – The city of New York plans to hand out gift cards and Mets baseball tickets to offenders as an incentive to get them to show up to their scheduled court hearings.
In addition to early jail releases and eliminating cash bail for hundreds of criminal charges, the city will begin bestowing gifts on some offenders as part of a rewards program, WCBS reported.
As many as 900 inmates are expected to walk out of jail beginning in December. The city’s so-called criminal justice reforms go into effect on Jan. 1, 2020, according to WCBS.
Offenders will be released without cash bail for most misdemeanor charges and multiple felonies, including criminally negligent homicide, drug sales, aggravated assault on a child, and burglary, the New York Post reported.
Critics argued that doling out movie tickets, subway passes, and various store gift cards will reward criminal behavior, but New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said that the incentive program will be a success, according to WCBS.
“In a world where we want speedier trials and we want the justice system to work, if small incentives are part of what actually makes it work, then that’s a smart policy,” de Blasio told WCBS on Wednesday. “It’s not something we developed. It’s something that has been worked on by experts over time and proven to work and proven to be a good investment.”
As confident as the mayor may be in the plan, many of those who have actually worked with offenders disagreed.
Staten Island District Attorney Michael McMahon said the program is part of a “deranged mandate,” the New York Post reported.
“We are reaching the point of the absurd when those who are accused of serious offenses are free to roam the streets or even rewarded with gifts while the rights of victims continue to be ignored,” McMahon railed.
District Attorneys Association of the State Of New York President David Hoovler said that citizens should “brace themselves” for the onslaught of “lawbreakers who will be immediately back on our streets to re-offend without any meaningful supervision.”
“We’re going to have a major public safety issue on our hands,” bail bondsman Ira Judelson told WCBS. “It’s basically like going to school without a principal, without guidance counselors, without teachers and let students be in school and say ‘fend for yourself.’”
New York Police Commissioner James O’Neill has repeatedly expressed his concerns about eliminating cash bail, WCBS reported.
“We need to make sure there are consequences for criminal behavior,” Commissioner O’Neill said. “I have real concerns.”
New York Assemblyman Mike LiPetri called the program a “travesty of justice,” WCBS reported.
“These are criminals in our communities who have solicited sex from children,” LiPetri argued. “These are criminals who solicited drugs in our neighborhoods, such as heroin, opioids, fentanyl.”
Nick Langworthy, leader of the New York Republican Party, said that the entire reform plan is “downright dangerous,” the New York Post reported.
“It’s absolutely an embarrassment to have this rush of release of prisoners with no additional protections,” Langworthy said. “And the chief architect is [New York Governor] Andrew Cuomo. Cuomo owns this.”
On Monday, Cuomo claimed he had no knowledge about the state Office of Court Administration’s (OCA) plan to release nearly 1,000 inmates beginning in December.
“We have no knowledge of either OCA or the city’s plan regarding early releases in their local jail system,’’ the governor’s spokesperson, Jason Conwall told the New York Post. “The legislature passed, and the governor signed, landmark criminal-justice reforms last year, and we expect them to be implemented appropriately and effectively.”
Conwall refused to comment regarding whether or not Cuomo supports the rewards programs and early jail releases.
Critics said they found it hard to believe that Cuomo – who appointed the OCA’s chief justice – had no idea about the releases.
“Who appointed the head of OCA?” State Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb asked the New York Post. “It’s hard to imagine someone who once claimed ‘I am the government’ isn’t aware of what state agencies are doing.”