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Thursday, September 18, 2008

More Criminal Justice Blogs

Yesterday I had the chance to chat for a little while with a guy named Benjamin Chambers, who is preparing to launch a blog for the Reclaiming Futures campaign at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. We talked about blogging on public policy and the field of criminal justice innovation (in this case, juvenile justice innovation in particular). He suggested a few great blogs he's come across that I hadn't found yet, so I thought I would post links to them here.

Prevention Action is focused on research.

Public Criminology is well written and well visited. Not to be missed: this post really hit a nerve. Almost a hundred people shared their views and their stories about the challenge of seeking employment for ex-offenders.

Juvienation is a comprehensive source for news, discussion and resources on the topic of the juvenile justice system (sadly, after one year and 388 posts, it's now on hiatus, but the archives are still a wonderful resource).

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Major developments on homelessness

Monumental shifts in government policy on the issue of homelessness were announced this week at both the federal and New York City level.

"For more than 20 years, federal housing law has counted as homeless only people living on the streets or in shelters. But now the House and the Senate are considering an expansion of the definition to include people precariously housed: those doubled up with friends or relatives or living day to day in motels, with money and options running out." Click here for the full report in the New York Times.

"New York City agreed on Wednesday to codify standards for how homeless families seeking shelter should be treated in exchange for freedom from long-running judicial oversight that has led to millions of dollars in fines and has dictated much of the daily functioning of the city’s shelters." Click here for the full report.

View a timeline of the twenty-five year legal battle (click to enlarge):



This article from the New York Times captures the story of people on the edge of homelessness... to read more.

José Luis Silvera, 41, was happy to be putting New York behind him. He was down to his last $10 and had no clue where he would be sleeping next.

But at least he had his ticket and was heading to South Florida, the place where he had scored his life’s signature victory: On April 26, 1994, after leaving Cuba on a makeshift raft and floating for 17 days across the Florida Straits, Mr. Silvera was plucked by a ship from the ocean near Miami Beach and delivered to the American government, which allowed him to stay, opening the American chapter of his life.

“It was too beautiful, man,” he recalled. “The sea noise, the water. Very, very beautiful, man.”

Mr. Silvera, a wiry man who was one of the first passengers off the bus at every stop, fresh cigarette in hand, said that even though he was a legal United States resident, all of his official identification was either lost or expired. He produced a bundle of documents wrapped in a black plastic bag, including a photocopy of his Social Security card and an expired New York State commercial driver’s license — he was once a truck driver, one of his many jobs in recent years.

He spoke vaguely about past drug and alcohol abuse, and about serving some prison time for an assault conviction. He knew a couple of people in Miami Beach, and planned to call on them, though he admitted that they had no idea he was coming.

“In my way, I’m too free,” he said, and grinned.

Dawn broke near the Georgia-Florida border and the passengers stopped for breakfast outside Jacksonville. Then the bus began to drop off riders: Orlando, West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale.

Mr. Silvera, down to his last 50 cents, worried aloud about how he was going to get to Miami Beach from La Cubana’s office in central Miami. When the drivers said they would take him, Mr. Silvera was ecstatic. “I made the ride with $10!” he exclaimed, pumping the air with his fist. “I’m very lucky!”

The towering oceanfront condominiums of Miami-Dade County hove into view and the traffic thickened. The passengers gathered their belongings and, in silence, marshaled themselves for the challenges that lay beyond the bus’s door.


For decades, New York and Miami have been the capitals of Latino life on the East Coast, linked by culture, business, extended families and a superhighway, I-95. People have flowed easily between the two hubs, and for 30 years, the Omnibus La Cubana bus line has been the transportation of choice for many.


La Cubana's passengers pay a minimum of $159 for a one-way fare. An airplane ticket can often be had for less. But if La Cubana's riders are any measure, the bus is a good deal for those who fear flying, can't find affordable train fares or don't have the government identification to pass airport security -- a problem for illegal immigrants and some legal ones.

For the full article in the NYT, click here

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Bronx News

According to the Daily News, a power struggle for control of the Bronx County Democratic organization is looming after a rebel faction trounced the party establishment in several primary victories this past Tuesday. According to the News, "Rivera's grip on the party is under challenge from a group of Assembly members and state senators who charge that his nepotism and a general exclusion of all but Puerto Ricans from party largesse forced them to rebel." Here's the full article with details.

Also, the Bronx District Attorney's Office announced the arrests and indictment of nineteen reputed members of the King of Castle Organization on multiple counts of conspiracy to sell narcotics, commit murder, attempted murder, robberies and other acts of violence in connection with a one million dollar ($1,000,000) a year heroin and crack cocaine ring which operated primarily in and around the Castle Hill Housing Development. Some of the defendants also belong to “Sex, Money, Murder”, a group affiliated with the “Bloods.” Two of the accused are rap singers who were recently featured in the August 26th issue of Billboard Magazine.

To read the full press release, click here.

September 10, 2008

GRAND JURY FILES CONSPIRACY, MURDER, DRUG TRAFFICKING AND
OTHER CHARGES IN CONNECTION WITH GANG RELATED ACTIVITY AT THE
CASTLE HILL HOUSING AUTHORITY DEVELOPMENT

Bronx District Attorney Robert T. Johnson announced today the arrests and indictment of nineteen reputed members of the King of Castle Organization on charges ranging from conspiracy to sell narcotics to murder and other offenses. Some of the defendants also belong to “Sex, Money, Murder”, a group affiliated with the “Bloods.” Two of the accused are rap singers who were recently featured in the August 26th issue of Billboard Magazine.

The grand jury returned a 100 count indictment charging all but two of the defendants with multiple counts of conspiracy to sell narcotics, commit murder, attempted murder, robberies and other acts of violence in connection with a one million dollar ($1,000,000) a year heroin and crack cocaine ring which operated primarily in and around the Castle Hill Housing Development. The two defendants who were not implicated in the ongoing conspiracy were charged with the possession and sale of narcotics on one occasion on August 28, 2008.

Mr. Johnson said: “This indictment is the result of a 16-month long investigation that relied heavily on information obtained through intensive surveillance, court approved wiretaps on 23 separate telephone lines, and other investigative techniques. During the course of the investigation we seized eleven semi-automatic handguns and revolvers, over a kilo of cocaine in both crack and powder form, 130 bags of heroin, marijuana and more than $63,000 in cash. We also obtained information from the wiretaps that resulted in arrests in several unsolved shootings including a homicide.”

Late Tuesday afternoon, authorities began executing arrest warrants for defendants named in the indictment. Most were taken into custody without incident and additional arrests are expected. Eighteen of the nineteen defendants were arraigned on Wednesday before Acting State Supreme Court Justice Steven Barrett in Part M-60 and ordered held without bail. One defendant, a rap artist who was arrested late Wednesday afternoon, is to be arraigned tomorrow, September 11, 2008 in Part M60.

Excluding the two individuals not charged in the conspiracy, all of the other defendants are facing a maximum sentence of up to life imprisonment if convicted of Conspiracy in the 1st degree, a Class A-1 felony offense. It is alleged that these gang members, “acting-in-concert”, conspired to use children under the age of 16 to sell illegal narcotics and make deliveries to customers. Lesser counts of Conspiracy in the 2nd and 4th degrees, Class B and E felony offenses, have also been filed. Conspiracy in the 2nd degree is punishable by a maximum sentence of up to 25 years imprisonment.

The indictment also charges various defendants with specific counts of Murder in the 2nd degree, Manslaughter in the 1st degree, Attempted Murder in the 2nd degree, Assault in the 1st and 2nd degrees, Robbery in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd degrees, Attempted Robbery in the 1st and 2nd degrees, Burglary in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd degrees, Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the 2nd degree, Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th degrees, Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance in the 3rd degree, and Reckless Endangerment in the 1st degree. The most serious of these felony offenses are punishable by maximum sentences of 25 years to life imprisonment for murder, 25 years imprisonment for Manslaughter in the 1st degree, Attempted Murder, Assault in the 1st degree, Robbery in the 1st degree, Burglary in the 1st degree, and related offenses.

Khalil Harris (aka Dolla), 26, is alleged to be the head of the King of Castle Organization. Harris, of 280 East 161st Street, the Bronx, has been charged with multiple counts of Conspiracy in the 1st and 2nd degrees in connection with criminal activities that occurred during the ongoing conspiracy from September 5, 2003 through September 4, 2008.

Harris’ two younger brothers have also been indicted. The grand jury charged Hassan Harris (aka Hocus), 25, with Assault in the 1st and 2nd degrees and related gun possession offenses in connection with a shooting incident on August 29, 2007. Four people, including three innocent bystanders, were wounded when Harris allegedly opened fire on a man who was involved in a turf dispute with the King of Castle Organization. The shooting occurred on the street near Park Avenue and 182nd Street. Shariff Harris (aka S-One), 23, has been charged with multiple counts of Robbery and Burglary in the 1st and 2nd degrees in connection with crimes tied to the alleged conspiracy by the drug gang.

Khalieh McMorris (aka 2-5), 20, has been charged with Murder in the 2nd degree in the shooting death of Russell Allen on February 23, 2008 and Attempted Murder in the 2nd degree in shootings that left two men, Erin Hall and Scott Torres, seriously wounded on February 1, 2006. All three shootings involved turf disputes with alleged rival drug dealers who were not affiliated with the Kings of Castle Organization. Allen was shot to death in a 4th floor hallway at 575 Castle Hill Avenue while Hall and Torres were shot multiple times as they sat in a car parked in front of 575 Castle Hill Avenue.

The investigation was conducted by the Bronx DA’s Gang Prosecution / Major Case Bureau with assistance from the New York City Police Department, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, and the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. District Attorney Johnson thanked members of all of the participating agencies for their cooperation and hard work that resulted in this indictment.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant District Attorneys Veronica Guariglia and Adam Oustatcher of the Gang Prosecution / Major Case Bureau.