stop-and-frisk

  • February 21, 2013

    by Jeremy Leaming

    Thanks to scholars like Michelle Alexander, Americans and policymakers are increasingly questioning the effectiveness the nation’s system of mass incarceration and taking note of its great harm to certain populations of Americans.

    In this ACS Book Talk, Alexander, a former ACLU attorney and now a law professor at Ohio State University, explains how mass incarceration has disproportionately targeted African Americans. She wrote that more “African Americans are under correctional control today – in prison or jail, on probation or parole – than were enslaved in 1850, a decade before the Civil War began.”

    The widespread use of solitary confinement in our nation’s prisons is also coming under greater – and long overdue – scrutiny, as noted in this ACSblog post, which highlighted a 2011 statement from the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture that blasted solitary confinement as “a harsh measure which is contrary to rehabilitation” that “can amount to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.”

    The conservative columnist George F. Will is also weighing in on the matter, noting in a Feb. 20 piece for The Washington Post that “tens of thousands of American prison inmates are kept in protracted solitary confinement that arguably constitutes torture and probably violates the Eighth Amendment prohibition of ‘cruel and unusual punishment.’”

    Will cites federal law on torture barring “conduct ‘specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering.’” He notes what others have long known, that “severe mental suffering from prolonged solitary confinement puts the confined at risk of brain impairment.”

    Although solitary confinement was once considered a humane tool for rehabilitation, it is now widely considered debilitating, creating inmates who are unfit for social interaction.

    “Americans should be roused against this by decency – and prudence,” Will writes.

     

  • July 27, 2012

    by Jeremy Leaming

    The New York City Police Department’s numbers on its stop-and-frisk policy tell a damning story of city authorities unconcerned about civil liberties or racial profiling, and how its policy adversely affects numerous communities.

    But a new report adds to the bleakness of the story. That report from the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) fills out the already tawdry tale with the “human stories behind the staggering statistics and sheds new light on the breadth of impact this policy is having on individuals and groups, in neighborhoods, and citywide.”

    The statistics, which CCR helped disclose, reveal that in 2011, NYPD officers stopped more than 680,000 people, 84 percent of them were black or Latino. Moreover, 88 percent of the stops produced no arrests.

    A Pace University law professor told The New York Times that people “are starting to wonder: ‘What’s really going on here? Is this a racial policy?”  

    The numbers say it most certainly is. Yet the city’s long-serving mayor is adamant that the policy saves lives, prevents crimes. But Michael Bloomberg’s rhetoric remains just that, especially when the vast majority of stop-and-frisks produce no arrests.

    And in May, U.S. District Court Judge Shira A. Scheindlin permitted a class-action lawsuit against the city’s frisking policy, saying she was seriously concerned about officials’ “troubling apathy towards New Yorkers’ most fundamental rights.”

    Scheindlin also noted that the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment bars government, including the NYPD, from conducting unreasonable “searches and seizures.” Moreover, she pointed to the Constitution’s 14th Amendment barring government officials from depriving individuals of liberty, including their equal protection rights.

    The NYPD seems to have trouble understanding or working within constitutional parameters. The judge noted that between 2004 and 2009 the NYPD stopped and frisked a lot of people, 50 percent of them black, 30 percent Latino.

    From a series of interviews of people who have been stopped and frisked in the city, the CCR report reveals a policy targeting communities of color, the homeless, low-income people, among others.

  • July 12, 2012

    by Jeremy Leaming

    New York City’s leaders, most notably its billionaire mayor, are bent on supporting a stop-and-frisk policy that according to the police department’s own numbers overwhelmingly target minorities.

    Mayor Michael Bloomberg continues to defend the policy, which allows police officers to stop-and-frisk people in the city on suspicion of criminal activity.

    Recently Bloomberg took to a church in Brooklyn to trumpet the policy, saying, “We are not going to going to walk away from a strategy that we know saves lives.” And although he went on to claim city officials would strive to carry out stop-and-frisk “properly,” he has also denigrated Philadelphia’s efforts to reform its frisking policies. “Why would anyone want to trade what we have here for the situation in Philadelphia – more murders, higher crime?” he said in May.

    But numbers regarding stops and frisks show that the policy hardly deters crime, let alone saves lives. According to statistics from the New York Police Department more than 680,000 people were stopped in 2011 and in 88 percent of the stops no arrests were made.

    The numbers do, however, show that racial profiling is taking place. Of the nearly 686,000 people stopped last year 84 percent of them were black or Latino, The Times reports. Pace University law professor Randolph M. McLaughlin told the newspaper, “People are starting to wonder: ‘What’s really going on here? Is this a racial policy?”

    Noting that courts are increasingly assessing stop-and-frisk tactics, McLaughlin added, “And judges read newspapers too.”

    In May, U.S. District Court Judge Shira A. Scheindlin permitted a class-action lawsuit against the New York Police Department’s policy, saying she was seriously concerned about officials’ “troubling apathy towards New Yorkers’ most fundamental constitutional rights.”