Cynthia Nixon Unveils ‘Justice For All’ Platform
Cynthia calls for bold changes to dismantle mass incarceration in New York
NEW YORK, NY — Democratic candidate for governor Cynthia Nixon today released her “Justice For All,” her bold plan to dismantle New York’s system of mass incarceration and create a fairer justice system.
“Everyone deserves to be treated equally under the law and to feel safe in the places they call home. But right now our justice system criminalizes communities of color and the impoverished, filling our prisons with people who don’t belong there,” said Cynthia Nixon. “We have a justice system designed to target and criminalize communities of color and the poor. We need a new system.”
Cynthia’s “Justice For All” plan prioritizes decarceration, decriminalization and targeted reinvestment in communities that have been devastated by a criminal justice system that is biased and unrelenting every step of the way.
New Yorkers first interaction with our policing system begins with the police. Policing should prioritize safety, justice and equality. It should not be an excessive presence in people’s lives based on the color of their skin or their socioeconomic status, and must be accountable to all communities.
Cynthia is calling for to make police departments more transparent and accountable to the communities they serve. As Governor, Cynthia would repeal statute 50-A and make police misconduct records publicly available and press for policy that ensures law enforcement around the state releases the names of officers involved in shootings or killings of civilians within 48 hours of the incident.
Cynthia will also enact legislation that ends harmful and needless arrests for low-level, ticketable offenses. These infractions can include sitting on the steps of a subway platform can include jumping a turnstile,being in a park after hours, carrying an open container, or selling loose cigarettes.
On any given day, 25,000 New Yorkers are held in county jails across the state. Nearly 70% of the people in these jails are being held simply because they cannot afford bail. Eighty percent of the New Yorkers being held pretrial – for months or even years while legally innocent – are black or Latino. New York spends $42 million per year to jail misdemeanor defendants held on bail amounts of $1,000 or less. New York’s bail-driven pretrial system creates one legal system for low-income people of color and an entirely different one for wealthy white people who can buy their freedom.
Cynthia’s plan calls for a radical reform of our pretrial system by eliminating cash bail, ensuring the right to a free trial, and enact discovery reform so that the defense isn’t blindfolded to evidence that the prosecution intends to use in the court of law.
In 2017, New York became the 49th state in the nation to raise the age of criminal responsibility from 16 to 18. While Governor Cuomo touted this as historic achievement for New York, the truth is that his Raise the Age law continues to place too many young people in the adult criminal justice system and does not adequately address the urgency by which children must be diverted from an unforgiving and relentless criminal justice system.
Cynthia will expand Raise the Age (RTA) so that all youth under 18, including those charged with felonies that are now exempted from RTA, are treated as children and sent to family court for all offenses. She will also increase the age of adult criminal responsibility in steps up to age 21, in recognition that adolescent brain development continues into the mid-20s.
Rikers Island, the state’s main jail complex is known across the world for its horrific conditions and poor treatment of New Yorkers who are incarcerated and their basic human rights. Some 75% of people detained on Rikers are held pretrial at a cost of over $270,000 per person. 88% of people held there are people of color.
Cynthia believes that Rikers Island jail must also be closed on an expedited time frame. Ten years is too long to wait to close this chapter in our state’s history.
Commutations and Pardons
According to the ACLU, nearly 60% of people in women’s prison nationwide have a history of physical or sexual abuse. For many survivors, the experiences of domestic violence, rape, and other forms of gendered violence pushed them into the criminal justice system. Most unjustly, it is exactly survivors’ history of defending themselves from physical and sexual abuse that results in the incarceration of such a large number of survivors.
Governor Cuomo has virtually unlimited power to grant commutations. However, he has implemented wholly arbitrary guidelines that severely and needlessly limit people’s access to clemency. Cuomo has granted only 12 commutations since 2011, and only two in 2017. By contrast, Governor Jerry Brown of California issued 52 pardons and 12 commutations in a single day. As Governor, Cynthia will pardon and commute the sentences of survivors of domestic violence, rape, and other forms of gendered violence, who were or remain incarcerated for their self-defense. All survivors of gendered violence deserve support, not incarceration.
The number of older people (individuals over the age of 50) incarcerated in our prison system is increasing every year — even as the total prison population is falling. While the prison population in New York state decreased by 27% between 2000 and 2016, the number of older people incarcerated more than doubled from 4,706 to 10,337 people.
Over 20% of the prison population is aged 50 or older. This demographic, especially those who have been convicted of the most serious crimes, have the lowest recidivism rates of any age cohort, posing little, if any risk to public safety. Cynthia would permit the Board of Parole to evaluate all persons over the age of 55 who have served at least 15 years in prison for possible parole release.
From 2015 to 2016, prison admissions for parole violations increased by 21.4% and nearly half (47%) of all parole exits in New York State were to reincarceration, substantially higher than the national average failure rate of 28%. As Governor, Cynthia would support passing reforms to post-release parole to finally free people from an unforgiving cycle of mass incarceration.
As Governor, Cynthia would legalize marijuana, pass legislation that will seal and vacate people’s records of marijuana possession or sale, and implements models similar to those created in places like Oakland and Massachusetts that provide licenses and economic opportunities in communities most impacted by the War on Drugs.