Mayor-elect Eric Adams has vowed to restore the NYPD’s plainclothes anti-gun unit, as well as to push the Legislature to fix the no-bail law to let judges send dangerous perps to jail. But far more needs doing, all across the criminal-justice system, after years of ill-conceived reform.
Rethinking the Raise the Age law, or at least its implementation, heads the longer list. As The Post reported this weekend, law-enforcement insiders say the “reformed juvenile-justice system is proving deadly to those it purports to protect: teenage offenders from the city’s most at-risk communities.”
Raising the age of criminal responsibility to 18 has produced a “catch and release” cycle that teaches young offenders they can break the law with impunity — leaving them to keep offending at more serious levels until someone winds up shot and/or dead, with the perp’s life also ruined.
The law envisioned a system of support and supervision for under-18s caught on the wrong side of the law, but that hasn’t materialized — or, at least, the private contractors paid to do much of the work are pocketing the cash without doing their job.
And the privacy provisions of Raise the Age limit judges’ knowledge of the teen’s priors, so that the Family Court jurists who hear nearly all cases can’t spot a kid who needs more than simply mercy.
Take Tyree Malone, 17 and allegedly a member of the brutal Bronx-based JackBoyZ crew. He’s now charged in this summer’s gun murder of Dandre Johnson, 24. Before that, he had at least three gun arrests in less than a year — three lost chances to put him on a better path.
Or Ramon Gil-Medrano, allegedly in the 800YGZ gang, and just 16 when he was executed in a retaliatory gang hit in July. He had at least two arrests for criminal gun possession in the prior year, and was wounded in another gang-linked hit in July 2020.
Knowing that under-18s face no legal consequences if caught, gangs use them as foot soldiers. The result: City teens have been involved in 357 shootings this year, the most since 2015 — including 126 as victims. Fourteen with prior gun arrests have been shot, five to death.
But state lawmakers are far from the only villains here: Mayor Bill de Blasio has conceded reality by reinstating solitary confinement at Rikers.
When he banned it back in June, de Blasio blathered, “We have reoriented our correction system to value human life and rehabilitation.” Next came a massive influx of violence against corrections officers and inmates alike.
The mayor blames only the staff-shortage crisis for his emergency order, which he has to renew every five days, suspending nine rules on solitary, including one against locking inmates in their cells 24/7.
In reality, careful use of solitary is vital to keeping order in jails. As Joseph Russo, president of the Assistant Deputy Wardens and Deputy Wardens Association told The Post, “Since this effort of being kind and considerate to violent criminals and gang members began, it has been clear that it does not work. It has not made us safer; it has not produced any positive results.”
Bigger-picture, the next mayor will also need to figure out how to fix Rikers: Even if he wants to replace it, de Blasio’s plans for new jails are a pipe dream that don’t even allow for sufficient holding capacity — and would be years away even if they got built.
Adams will also have to address the larger crisis of NYPD morale, which has retirements far above normal levels even as communities across America hire away younger Finest: The modest Florida city of Lakeland by itself has poached a dozen of the city’s cops, in good part by recruiting as a place where they’ll be respected, not besieged.
State and city politicians have spent at least half a decade knocking a host of holes in New York’s criminal-justice system: Fixing them, especially with an eye on the legitimate issues that drove the reforms, is going to take not just a new mayor but a statewide movement.
Every office-holder needs to know the public is sick of soaring crime and will hold them to account at the polls.