FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 26, 2017
Contact: Thomas Meara | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org | Phone: (718) 309-3506
Without Speedy Trial Reform, People Will Continue Being Unnecessarily Detained Pre-Trial for Intolerably Long Periods
ALBANY, NY – On March 27, 2017 Akeem Browder is joining advocacy groups and community members in Albany to push lawmakers to reform our pre-trial detainee system and pass “Kalief’s Law.” Groups attending the advocacy day include the Katal Center for Health, Equity and Justice, JustLeadershipUSA, VOCAL-NY, Bronx Defenders, Legal Aid Society, Brooklyn Defender Services, New York Working Families Organization, public defenders, criminal justice reform advocates, and more.
Our current criminal justice system is broken. In New York City alone, nearly 80% of the people in jail are detained pre-trial – they are not yet convicted of any crime. Yet severe court delays and a lack of speedy trial reform leads to people spending months and years in jail, just waiting for their day in court.
Speedy trial reform has strong bipartisan support in Albany – Assembly bill A-3055A sponsored by Assemblymember Aubry, known as Kalief’s Law, would dramatically improve trial processing times in New York. The Assembly passed the bill 130 – 0, with Democrats and Republicans agreeing it was the right step for reform. Now the bill is waiting action by the Senate and Governor – and is in discussion in the state budget negotiations.
“If the city, state, or local officials aren’t willing to make a change that’ll reflect the kind of change New Yorkers really want, then we must be a stronger voice of advocacy and leadership,” said Akeem Browder, Brother of Kalief Browder. “We can’t let the Kalief Browders of the world go unheard and uncared for in another senseless tragedy. We must pass Speedy Trial Reform and Raise The Age now!”
Kalief Browder spent nearly three years on Rikers Island for allegedly stealing a backpack. He traveled back and fourth to court thirty-three times, and each time were not ready to try the case. Kalief fought to recover his life, but the traumatic experience had taken its toll, and he committed suicide.
Kalief’s story is not unusual. In fact, in mid-2015, approximately 1,500 people had been sitting on Rikers for over a year, pretrial – they have not been convicted of the crime they are charged with, they are simply waiting for their day in court.
“New York’s pre-trial system is a disgrace, but a solution exists,” said Melody Lee, Co-Founder and Director of Strategy & Camapigns at the Katal Center for Health, Equity and Justice. “The Assembly passed legislation with bi-partisan support, 130-0, that would address this problem. Speedy trial legislation is not a Republican or Democratic issue – it’s a constitutional right. We urge the Senate to take action to pass legislation that will fix our broken system – immediately.”
“Right now, thousands of New Yorkers are stuck on Rikers Island and in other jails around the state — not because they’ve been convicted of a crime, but because they can’t get their day in court. In many cases, the length of their pretrial detention is unconscionable,” said Glenn E. Martin, President and Founder of JustLeadershipUSA. “When I was a young man, I waited on Rikers for an entire year and was transported back and forth to court 16 times before I was finally compelled to take a plea to avoid further “bullpen therapy” — the vicious cycle of violence that still characterizes Rikers Island. We urge the Senate and the Governor to follow the lead of the Assembly on this issue to make the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution’s promise of a speedy trial a reality in New York.”
Katal works to strengthen the people, policies, institutions, and movements that advance health, equity, and justice for everyone. As a strategy hub and collaborative partner, Katal deploys expertise in organizing, advocacy, leadership development, and research to help secure practical and lasting change. Katal takes its direction from those most impacted by the harms we work to transform.
JustLeadershipUSA is dedicated to cutting the US correctional population in half by 2030. Mass incarceration is the most significant domestic threat to the fabric of our democracy. The reason for such high incarceration rates is not serious crimes but misguided policies such as mandatory minimums, three-strikes laws and reductions in the availability of parole and other early release mechanisms. Through targeted advocacy, strengthening leadership and membership support, JustLeadershipUSA believes a decarcerated America is possible. JLUSA empowers people most affected by incarceration to drive policy reform.