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Thursday, January 31, 2008

Prostitution Arrests: What Happens At The Courthouse?

Here at Bronx Community Solutions we're developing a new initiative to change the way that prostitution cases are handled. In the pilot phase of our project we've been partnering with officers from the NYPD to conduct street outreaches at the times and locations that prostitution activity is heaviest, in an effort to get to know the individuals and attempt to engage them in services.

Prostitution cases are a difficult challenge for the court system. The underlying issues are often complicated, and many defendants go right back to offending behavior when the get out of the system. For a neighborhood, being known as a prostitution area is demoralizing, and seeing a known prostitute get arrested and then go right back out on street is discouraging.

In order to better understand the issue, we thought we would analyze the way that these cases are currently handled by the court system. We wanted to answer several questions: "What Are the Ages of Prostitution Arrestees at Time of Arrest?" "Which Commands Make the Majority of Prostitution Arrests?" "What Types of Dispositions Do Prostitution Cases Receive?" "What Types of Bronx Community Solutions Sentences are Imposed?" "How Long are Jail Sentences For Prostitution Offenses?" "What Penalties Are Imposed for Failure to Complete Bronx Community Solutions Mandates? To see our findings, Read More.

To get a good snapshot we analyzed all the cases from six month period. We identified 342 arrests for prostitution charges in the Bronx between March 5, 2007 and September 22, 2007. Out of those arrests, a total of 255 individuals were identified (43 of whom were arrested more than once during this period). Additionally, at least 56% of these individuals are likely to have a substance abuse issue, based on the charges of their previous arrests and 39% where designated as Operation Spotlight persistent misdemeanor offenders (were the information was available). By analyzing court records, Bronx Community Solutions staff learned the following information.

What Are the Ages of Prostitution Arrestees at Time of Arrest?

Which Commands Make the Majority of Prostitution Arrests?

What Types of Dispositions Do Prostitution Cases Receive?

What Types of Bronx Community Solutions Sentences are Imposed?

How Long are Jail Sentences For Prostitution Offenses?

What Penalties Are Imposed for Failure to Complete Bronx Community Solutions Mandates?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Graffiti Tamed? New Exhibition in Chelsea

This feature from today's Daily News, profiling a new exhibit of graffiti art at a gallery in Chelsea illustrates how complicated the issue of graffiti is for communities and the courts. The new exhibit includes the work of both graffiti 'legends' and rising stars in the world of graffiti art.

For a discussion of highlights in the Daily News article, and links to some related items Read More.

Here at Bronx Community Solutions, we've learned a little bit about the issue. Some of our community partners have urged us to make use of hip-hop and youth culture for the difficult task of reaching young people involved in the justice system. On the other hand, others have shared their opinion that anything that condones or legitimizes graffiti encourages criminal offending. You can view a collection of our blog posts on the topic here.

The stated goal of the exhibit is "getting visitors to question whether graffiti is any more invasive than the barrage of ads they face on streets and subways every day. And what would the Big Apple be without its graffiti?" At the same time, the issue of graffiti and the criminal justice system seems to be implicit in any coversation with graffiti artists.

'Taboo', a graffiti writer who does not provide any other personal information (because of the nature of his illegal activities) explains some of his contact with the law, and the lack of impact that the experience seems to have had on his artistic risks:

"I've gotten arrested. They took me down to central. It sucked, but I was out painting again the next night. I do this because I enjoy doing it, and I'll stop when it ceases to be fun."

At the same time, the experience of other graffiti artists highlights the impact that involvement with the criminal justice system can have on their lives, and the 'legit' options that exist for artists who don't want to risk further involvement with 'the system.'

"Johnny Alamo, aka CLARK and FLY I.D. started chalking his name on the street when he was 8. "From that point on, I haven't stopped," he says. He graduated from chalk to markers to spray paint, doing subways, rooftops and alleys before getting arrested just over five years ago. "That rehabilitated me," says the 38-year-old Bronx father. "I paint community murals, backdrops. With my work, I can inspire people of all ages."

The question of the legitimicy of graffiti as 'art' is an ongoing debate that will likely not be resolved in the near future. It is up to the public to decide for themselves if they will embrace or denounce the art form, and up to graffiti writers to weigh the risk of involvement in the criminal justice system when deciding where to display their artistic endeavors.

The Fight Against Street Harrasment

My latest article, "The Fight Against Street Harassment," is available at the Gotham Gazette. You can read the article here. Says Councilman Peter Vallone: "It's a struggle for government to regulate public space, because you almost always capture people acting innocently." Recent legislation raised the fines and jail sentences for repeat offenses of public lewdness. My article explores the role of government, public outrage, and the internet (including the very popular website "Holla Back") in addressing bad behavior in public places like subways.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Revitalizing Downtown Newark

I thought this article had good information on plans for more development around the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, on the Passaic River in the heart of Newark: Planning for Newark’s Next Big Step: An Apartment Tower Near the Arts Center

The State Of The City

Mayor Michael Bloomberg gave his "State of the City" address yesterday. There's coverage in the New York Times here, opinion by Clyde Haberman here, and complete transcript here. The most interesting items in his address from my perspective were a proposal to implement a 'Digital 911' by this summer, allowing New Yorkers to send digital photos to the police from their cell phones, and his pledge to make 311 data more accessible, online.

Governor Spitzer also gave his "State of the State" address recently. The New York Law Journal thinks that the Governor failed to address issues related to the judicial arm of state government: Spitzer Ignores Court Issues In State of the State Message

Finally on the national level, Errol Loius took the leading presidential candidates to task yesterday in his Daily News editorial "It's a big mistake to forget cities" He lists issues none of the candidates have been addressing: mass transit, public housing, rebuilding New Orleans, prisoner reentry, and homeless. He even manages to work in a reference to Million Dollar Murray.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Opinion: Community Court Could Help Address L.A. Homeless Problems

A recent editorial in the Los Angeles Business Journal argues in favor of a Community Court for the Skid Row area. You can view the full article here.

This blog recently highlighted articles on life in Skid Row from GOOD Magazine and the New York Times, and an interesting mapping tool that shows the changing homeless population in the area over a sixth month period. Get those links here and here.

Also related: the Manhattan Institute recently published this article, and, according to their website, hosted a conference January 17, 2007 in downtown Los Angeles entitled "Policing Skid Row."

New Strategy in Nassau County

My editorial today in Newsday profiles a promising law enforcement strategy being testing in Long Island's Nassau County. It applies a formula that's been successful in other jurisdictions: single out the small number of hard-core offenders at the heart of the problem, apply the threat of certain punishment, then enlist members of the community as partners in convincing offenders to end that life by offering them jobs and other social services and establishing community norms against offending behavior.

Monday, January 14, 2008

New York's Falling Crime Rates

New York City recently closed the books on another year of historically low crime rates. Homicides, the most important statistic, fell below five hundred city-wide for the first time in forty years, since the city began keeping official records. For coverage, Read More.

Experts debate the causes of New York's consistent decrease in crime: improved levels of economic opportunity and reduced poverty, zero-tolerance, "quality of life" or "broken windows" policing strategies, results-oriented accountability through programs such as Compstat, or the decline of the crack epidemic. Whatever the cause, it's clear that city leaders intend to capitalize on the gains acheived and attempt to push the crime rate even lower. The Mayor and Police Commisioner Ray Kelly recently announced that a fresh batch of Operation Impact recruits will be deployed to ten high priority precincts, including three in the Bronx, the 44th in Highbridge, the 46th in Morris Heights, and the 52nd in Kingsbridge.

While crime rates in all categories are down city-wide, some pockets of persistantly high crime rates remain. Meanwhile, some observers wonder if crime is being pushed from the rapidly gentrifying core of the city to parts of the outer boroughs, suburbs, and upstate towns.

Lots of news coverage has been devoted to the subject. This New York Times piece, When Crime Was Always On Our Minds, contemplated changes to the city's pyche since the days of Bernard Goetz.

This Daily News piece gave Bronx-specific coverage. "When you get a grip on crime, you see neighborhoods change for the better. And you're starting to see it happen." For the Bronx, crime rates have dropped in most categories, although petty larceny, especially identity theft, is up slightly.

New York Magazine devoted their cover article last week to the historic drop in crime. You can view all the feature articles here. Nowhere else in New York City has seen a steeper drop in crime than Washington Heights and Inwood.

In his book Murder in America, Roger Lane of Haverford College puts a historical perpective on crime rates. Murder rates are the most reliably comparable statistics across different times and cultures, because unlike other types of crime almost all homicides, with only a few exceptions, are sure to be considered a crime and reliably reported by victims, the community, and the authorities.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Private Cash Sets Agenda for Urban Infrastructure

As part of a continuing series examining the effects of the growing concentration of wealth, the New York Times reported Monday on the situation in New Haven, Connecticut. Read More...

"In the case of New Haven, once the recipient of more federal dollars per person for urban renewal than any other city, private investment now far surpasses public outlays."

"Philanthropic spending adds mainly to the nation’s stock of hospitals, libraries, museums, parks, university buildings, theaters and concert halls. Public infrastructure — highways, bridges, rail systems, water works, public schools, port facilities, sewers, airports, energy grids, tunnels, dams and levees — depends mostly on tax dollars. It is hugely expensive and the money available, while still substantial, has shrunk as a share of the national economy."

To read the full article, click here.

Monday, January 07, 2008

New Community Justice Projects

Community Justice advocates should take note of developments in Great Britain, where the first community court for Wales will be opening later this month. In an apparent elaboration on programs developed at the Salford project, "residents will be able to suggest suitable punishments for minor offences." You can view an article on the project here: "Residents Get a Say on Punishments."

From Canada, here's an interesting editorial on the new Vancouver project slated to open later this year: "Legal system being asked to provide what it can't: Community court opening this year is needed because social net is so frayed."

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

The Blogosphere

Under the headline "Legal blogs mixing potshots with real progress" (subscription req'd) the National Law Journal reported that a presiding Judge in Broward County, Florida recently resigned over scandals mostly reported in a blog started by criminal defense lawyers fed up with the way things were being run in the courthouse, along with a handful of other blogs focused on law in south Florida. Supporters credit the blogs with providing valuable information about inner workings of the court system, and bringing change. Critics say the blogs can be venues for inaccurate information and unsubstantiated personal attacks.

Lawyers and criminal justice professionals have finally hit the blogosphere in force, just like almost everybody else. For a sample of some of the law and criminal justice blogs online as well as some other related websites, Read More. Special thanks to Alan Hui-Bon-Hoa of the Center for Court Innovation for assistance compiling our list. Do you have one to add? Just post a comment.

A Public Defender
Protecting the right to effective assistance of counsel. Written by a public defender in Connecticut, this blog was recently recognized by the CT Law Tribune as one of the dozen who made a difference in 2008: An Anonymous Voice With An Attitude.

A Public Defender's Life in Alaska
The life of a Canadian living in Alaska and practicing law for the Public Defender Agency. Family, the Outdoors and how America is slowly going downhill are all frequent topics.

Abolish the Death Penalty
Our mission is to put a human face on the debate over capital punishment.

Crime, Justice & Society. UK focus.

Above the Law
Billed as a legal tabloid, it's geared towards associates at the big corporate firms.

The American Constitution Society for Law and Policy Blog
News and commentary.

Appellate Law & Practice
A blog devoted to appellate law and advocacy maintained by group of federal law clerks and appellate lawyers.

Austin Criminal Defense Lawyer
Viewpoint of Criminal Defense lawyer in Austin, TX.

Blawg Directory
By the ABA Journal is the most authoritative directory of law-related blogs.

Capital Defense Weekly
This site provides national coverage of case law, legislative and political developments concerning death penalty litigation.

Center for Court Innovation. "Random Notes From the Desk of Greg Berman." This blog contains news about the Center for Court Innovation, a public-private partnership that works to reduce crime, aid victims and improve public trust in justice.

Corrections Sentencing
Great blog maintained by Michael Connelly.

Court Community Service (CCS) Founded in 1985 with a grant from the Cleveland Foundation, CSS serves as an administrative arm of the courts within Cuyahoga County, to "manage an efficient system of quality alternative sentencing options responsive to the needs of the courts and the community."

Courthouse News Service
A news wire for lawyers about new appellate rulings, new legislation and new civil cases from the federal and state courts.

Crime & Consequences
This blog discusses criminal law topics including: notable federal and state cases, new studies on criminal justice policies, and other news, maintained by the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation.

Criminal Defense in Travis and Williamson County: Reality 101
By attorney Keith Lauerman.

The Criminal Justice Journalists’ News Center
Criminal Justice Journalists (CJJ) provides the Crime & Justice News (CJN) news report and news center site containing our database of CJN stories along with other information resources, maintained by John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

Criminal Justice Online
Providing criminal justice practitioners, students and academics with online information and resources, maintained by Lieutenant Raymond E. Foster, LAPD (ret.)

Stories about criminal defense news nationwide, including an extensive blog-roll of criminal defense and regionaly focused blogs, as well as many observations from the author's own experience as a criminal defense attorney in Virginia.

Publishes summaries of news items about criminal law stories of interest and scholarly research. Maintained by Mark Godsey, Associate Professor, University of Cincinnati College of Law, and Michele Berry, Associate at Gerhardstein & Branch.

Crown Heights Community Mediation Center Blog
This site is chock full of news, goings-on, and resources. If you have an interest in the diverse communities of Central Brooklyn, community mediation, or a day in the life of a neighborhood storefront resource center, but sure to check it out.

Diary of a Police Officer
Observations and accounts of life as a police officer.

Views criminal defense at the juncture where it meets technology. Entries summarize news in forensics, law enforcement practices, and other defense related technology subjects. The topic categories include cybercrime, DNA, DUI, fingerprints, junk science, and more. Maintained by Robert Perez, Criminal Lawyer and Computer Technologist.

Defending People
Houston Criminal Defense Lawyer Mark Bennet.

Law, news, and thoughts on juries and jury trials.
On the fringes of the public sphere.

DUI Blog
This web log is devoted to monitoring developments in DWI law across the country. Maintained by Lawrence Taylor, Attorney.

Fight 'Em 'Til We Can't
A blog focused on Montana Criminal Defense.
A supplement to Search and Seizure, this blog publishes summaries of notable cases nationwide.

Grits for Breakfast
Welcome to Texas justice: You might beat the rap, but you won't beat the ride.

Holla Back NYC
An online forum for visitors, mostly women, to post photographs and stories about their experiences being groped, catcalled or otherwise sexually harassed in public.

How Appealing
The Web's first blog devoted to appellate litigation.

Author of a notable and controversial memoir about the Bronx Courts by the same name (and, to our dismay, not too keen on Bronx Community Solutions), David Feige expresses his outrage about the absurdity and injustice of it all.

It's Not About The Badge
A 30 year old Detention Deputy in rural Minnesota.

Innocence Blog
This web log publishes news about Institute cases, legislative action and other new developments from around the country concerning innocence claims and wrongful conviction. Maintained by Innocence Institute of Point Park University.

Official blog of the Los Angeles Police Department. News, crime reports and trends, photos.

Law and Disorder
A veteran police officer living in Iowa, with links to several other "cop blogs".

Law of Criminal Defense
This website provides updates concerning ethical issues related to criminal defense. John Wesley Hall, Jr., Attorney.

The Manhattan Institute
On their website and in their publication City Journal, this is a premier conservative think tank on urban issues, with a New York-centric outlook.

Moving Justice Forward
A blog chronicling the San Francisco Superior Court’s Collaborative Justice programs.

Mr. Police Man
Thoughts and observations from an 8-year veteran, on the job in California, USA. Several good links to other police related blogs.

Nograf's Blog
The interesting blog of

Objective – Justice
The first law student blogger to be cited by the federal courts in an opinion.

One Man and His Plod
Blog of a police officer in the U.K. who says this about his job: "Front Line Police Officer = Law Enforcement! Not - social worker, parent, medic, locksmith, paperwork monkey, punchbag, taxi and stats gatherer".

Prevention Works
A blog by the National Crime Prevention Council.

The Policeman's Blog
One British police officer's "Journey into the mad, mad world of the British underclass and the Public sector, where nothing is too insane for it to be written down and copied in triplicate."

Police Executive Research Forum
Not technically a blog. This is the website of the national membership organization, a leader in research and public policy advocacy in the area of police tactics.

Public Pretender
A public defender in Stillwater, MN.

The Real Cost of Prisons
News, commentary and analysis on prisons: government proposals with the aim of stemming overcrowding and recidivism; inmate living conditions and changing demographics; sentencing issues.

Poet/Public Defender.

Sentencing Law and Policy
Maintained by Law Professor Douglas A. Berman.

Supreme Court of the United States Blog.

Tales of a Public Defender Investigator
An interesting blog by an investigator about his thoughts and the work he believes is his life's calling.

That Lawyer Dude
Maintained by Anthony Colleluori.

The Rural Bus Route
Well-loved blog by a public defender in North Dakota, although mostly focused on general topics.

Thinking Outside the Cage
Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition.

Sex Crimes
Reporting on the latest developments in sex offense laws, sentencing, registration acts, and civil commitment issues. Maintained by Rayburn Yung, Attorney.

Intended for a wide audience, this blog is described as the on-line source for liberal coverage of crime-related political and injustice news. Maintained by Jeralyn Merritt, Defense Attorney.

UK Criminal Justice Weblog
Rethinking Crime and Punishment. The latest news about criminal justice issues from around the UK, drawn from media websites, government sources and criminal justice organizations. Maintained by the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies.

A criminal defense attorney answers the question: what's my exposure? From Charles A. Ross Associates, a Manhattan-based law firm.

White Collar Crim Prof Blog
This site provides news and summaries about case law and legislative developments in federal crime, specifically white collar offenses. Maintained by Peter Henning, Professor of Law, Wayne State University.

You Don't Make Friends With Salad
Criminal Law, Austin-based.