NYPD, Media Outlets Cruelly Dehumanize Man, Fearmonger About Bail Reform

Law enforcement officials dehumanized a New Yorker in a series of depraved news articles and social media posts about a man arrested multiple times in the city’s transit system.

Fact Check: False, Cruel

The Briefing

Law enforcement officials dehumanized a New Yorker in a series of depraved news articles and social media posts about a man arrested multiple times in the city’s transit system. The articles fearmonger and lie about bail reform, and prove the point that law enforcement does not care about judicial discretion, New York law, or any other buzzwords related to bail reform, only about jailing more New Yorkers. NYPD did not do its homework, naming the wrong judge and wrong DA in its critical posts. Above all, law enforcement’s attacks on the man are cruel and serve to obfuscate NYPD’s own ineptitude and ineffectiveness.

All law enforcement wants is more people in jail

Prosecutors asked for bail in this case, and a judge used their discretion to release the man on his own recognizance. This case has nothing to do with bail reform. Rather, it is about judicial discretion. Law enforcement appears to love judicial discretion when it means more people in jail, and hate judicial discretion when it means more legally innocent people retain their freedom while fighting an open case. The common denominator is that law enforcement wants more incarceration for vulnerable New Yorkers.

The reality is law enforcement does not care about bail reform, judicial discretion, or any other buzzword related to pretrial justice. What they care about is more pretrial incarceration, and they will continue to move goalposts and make any argument, logical or not, to further that goal.

Law enforcement uses – and news outlets repeat – inflammatory language to portray the man in the article as a threat to society at large. Yet the man is not charged with any violent felonies and appears to need money to meet basic needs. Law enforcement’s decision to cause a scene about this case says more about our failed approach to public safety than anything else.

Multiple arrests for the same alleged low-level offense indicate a person’s basic needs are not being met, not that the person should be jailed, likely on unaffordable bail. A person’s repeated contact with the criminal legal system is a sign of the system’s failure, not, as the Post suggests, a sign of the need for increased contact. 

In a similar incident from 2020, where a man’s 137-case-long history was exploited to discredit bail reform, Dr. Ross MacDonald, the chief medical officer for healthcare services in New York City jails, noted that if 137 arrests would not deter this man, the 138th wouldn’t either. Each arrest costs thousands of taxpayer dollars while doing nothing to address the probable root causes of such behavior: unstable housing, substance use disorders, mental illness, cognitive impairment, and/or trauma. The cost — calculated in 2021 and likely higher now – of incarcerating someone at Rikers, where violence, death, and despair is commonplace, rose to $1,525 a day, or over $550,000 a year.

As Dr. MacDonald explained, “The money spent on 138 arrests could have paid for permanent supportive housing about 110 busts ago, but here the media advocates for a return to a policy that is literal insanity—expecting the 139th or 140th to be the one that fixes his problem.”

Beyond their cruelty, these articles distract from law enforcement waste

At its core, these articles and social media posts are cruel. It is one thing to spread fear and misinformation and bully judges into putting more people in jail. It is another thing for police leaders to demonize and dehumanize a vulnerable person who would undoubtedly benefit from compassion and resources rather than incarceration at massive taxpayer cost. 

Stories like these – generated by police and breathlessly regurgitated by complicit media outlets – distract from the fact that more policing, prosecution and prisons do not make us safer. On the same day PIX 11 and the New York Daily News repeated the dehumanizing language police use to describe the man in the story, a Legal Aid Society report found that NYPD has paid out over $500 million in misconduct suits over the past six years, and $115 million in 2023 alone. Imagine a world in which half a billion dollars – plus the billions spent annually on Rikers, primarily a pretrial detention facility – could be allocated to resources that actually create safety and allow communities to thrive.

Story Link

Stories in PIX11 and the New York Daily News

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