Senator Jesse Hamilton (center) w/ advocates. Photo Credit: Office of Senator Jesse Hamilton

On July 25, Senator Jesse Hamilton and Assemblywoman Tremaine Wright hosted a press conference with public defenders and criminal justice reform advocates on legislation to decriminalize turnstile jumping at the Franklin Ave Subway Station in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.  Legislation they introduced  would make turnstile jumping a civil matter, resulting in a potential fine and not a potential arrest, imprisonment or criminal record.

People of color represent 92 percent  of turnstile jumping arrests.  The effort on turnstile jumping represents part of a broader initiative to end broken windows policing and the resulting harms caused to immigrant communities. Research shows that broken windows policing inadvertently puts a target on undocumented immigrants and increases their risk of detention and deportation.

Under President Donald Trump’s immigration policies, undocumented immigrants with a criminal offense, regardless of the severity, are priorities for decoration. In New York, there’s an estimated 200,000 Haitians living in the city. According to advocates, the number doubles to 400,000 when undocumented Haitians are taken into account.

“With thousands, if not tens of thousands, of immigrant New Yorkers now at risk of deportation, it is urgent that Mayor Bill de Blasio take real action to protect immigrant New Yorkers from possible deportation under Trump,” Council Member Rory Ranchman wrote in a op-ed published in the Gotham Gazette. “All told the risk of arrest for immigrant New Yorkers for fare evasion is all too real. And for undocumented immigrants, any interaction with the criminal justice system, even for a minor offense like fare evasion, can result in deportation.”

Last year, the City Council passed legislation that would subsitute civil penalties for criminal enforcement for certain quality of like crimes like public drinking and littering, however the package of bills did not include fare evasion, which is a state offense.

“We need to radically rethink our approach to policing and crimes of poverty. This measure on turnstile jumping takes a step in that direction and brings us closer to dismantling broken windows policing. Our laws need to approach our fellow New Yorkers with more compassion and humanity, especially in at-risk communities,” Hamilton said.  “Shifting from criminal to civil action means nearly 30,000 fewer New Yorkers will face the nightmare of an arrest, potential for a criminal record, loss of housing, or even deportation. We must lift that daunting burden placed on our fellow New Yorkers over $2.75. These are our friends and neighbors, these are people who may just be trying to get to school, or to work, or to a doctor’s appointment. I look forward to working with advocates for justice reform, for civil rights, and for better community-minded policing, and working with colleagues and all conscientious New Yorkers to pass this bill.”

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