Gotham Gazette: Real Criminal Justice Reform Requires Standing Up to Fear-Mongering

“Nearly five years ago, Jerome Murdough, an African-American Marine Corps veteran, died on Rikers Island due to a combination of injustice, inhumanity, and medical neglect. Afflicted by homelessness and mental illness, Murdough tragically passed away when temperatures in his cell reached 100 degrees – heat that was contraindicated with his medicine – and he baked to death. The reason for this death sentence: He was cold one night and sought shelter in a public housing stairwell, where he was arrested for trespassing and jailed on $2,500 bail.

All across the country, in response to tragic injustices like those faced by Jerome Murdough, the movement to end mass incarceration is making real gains. After decades of oppressive policies, many policymakers are pursuing real solutions to shrink jail and prison populations and challenge the racial disparities that define the criminal legal system.

Reformers may have the momentum, but that doesn’t mean that the pro-mass incarceration lobby is finished. The lobby includes regressive prosecutors and sheriffs, as well as bail bonds companies that profit from the status quo. In New York, it looks a lot like they’re just getting started again, and their tactics are likely a preview of what we’ll see across the country as people demand more reforms.”

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