No Equal and Exact Justice | A PROP Court Monitoring report

On April 1, 2016, the Police Reform Organizing Project (PROP) will release No Equal and Exact Justice, the follow up to its 3 court monitoring reports — Broken Windows Policing: A True Tale of Two Cities (July 2014); Everyday: NYC’s Cops and Courts Inflict Harm and Hardship (October 2014); and 90%: The Harm Continues (December 2015) — which presented the continued findings of the organization’s court monitoring efforts.

In preparing No Equal and Exact Justice, PROP representatives observed and recorded proceedings in 16 NYC arraignment parts involving nearly 530 cases, and interviewed defendants as well as the public defenders who practice in those parts. By identifying the most prevalent types of arrests coming through the criminal justice system and the individuals charged for those infractions, PROP effectively assessed the NYPD’s everyday practices and has concluded that the NYPD continues to engage in an aggressive application of a type of “broken windows” policing that does serious harm to selected communities in our city.

Here is a summary our court monitoring project’s most recent findings, as reported in No Equal and Exact Justice:

  • From October 26th, 2015 through March 18th, 2015, PROP recorded information on 529 cases presented in Manhattan and Brooklyn arraignments parts. Of those, PROP recorded the outcome of 498 cases.
  • Of the 529 cases seen, 463, or 87.5%, of defendants were people of color.
  • Of the 498 outcomes recorded, 479, or 96.2%, of defendants walked out of the courtroom.
  • Of the 2 court visits that PROP was able to time, the average amount of time that the court spent on each case was approximately 2 minutes, 7.5 seconds. The longest case lasted 6 minutes, 16 seconds. The shortest case lasted 26 seconds.

Here is a summary of the findings of PROP’s four court monitoring reports:

  • From June 3, 2014 through March 18, 2016 PROP recorded information on 1880 cases presented in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Bronx, and Queens criminal courts.
  • Of the 1880 cases seen, 1710, or 91%, of defendants were people of color.
  • Of the cases that PROP was able to time, the average amount of time that the court spent on each case was approximately 2 minutes, 8.75 seconds.

As stated in No Equal and Exact Justice’s introduction: “Everyday New York’s district attorneys aggressively prosecute cases against black and brown people for engaging in mainly innocent or innocuous activities. Everyday our city’s courts devote considerable resources to the administration of injustice, applying sanctions in hundreds, if not thousands, of cases where the charges involves, at worst, petty infractions and where the defendants are almost always people of color, some of whom live on the margins of society.

We called this report No Equal and Exact Justice to contrast with the noble principle etched on the outside of Manhattan’s Criminal Court building: “Equal & exact justice to all men of whatever state or persuasion,” said PROP director Robert Gangi. “As documented in PROP’s report, the actual activities in that building make a mockery of those high-sounding words. Because of their daily encounters with law enforcement, again as documented in PROP’s paper, claims to equal justice ring hollow to the ears of New Yorkers of color & of anyone else who cares to listen. Indeed, a central purpose of our efforts at PROP is to cast in sharp relief the wide gulf between the abusive & unjust practices of the criminal justice system of our country, our state, & our city & the eminently worthy & foundational principles that Americans & New Yorkers want to believe that their society & government are based on. Perhaps, upon understanding that harsh & unwelcome reality, the public will bring the urgently needed pressure to bear on our policy makers to fix our broken & biased criminal justice system & to create a safe, equitable, & inclusive society for all people, regardless of state or persuasion.”

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