The Bronx Defenders launched The Fundamental Fairness Project in fall 2012 as an extension of the work done by the Marijuana Arrest Project.
The Project addresses the ways in which the process has become the punishment for huge numbers of people caught in the web of the criminal justice system and aims to make interactions with the courts less onerous, more efficient, and ultimately more meaningful for our clients. It aims to give clients charged with low-level misdemeanors a meaningful opportunity to challenge police misconduct and have their day in court.
In May 2013, the Project released a report ‘No Day in Court’ that shows that people who are unconstitutionally arrested for marijuana possession every year are consistently denied meaningful access to justice in Bronx courts. The findings have serious implications not just for marijuana cases, but for the tens of thousands of misdemeanor and felony cases that wind their way through the Bronx criminal courts every year. No Day in Court is a follow-up to a 2012 report by The Bronx Defenders that found that over a third of misdemeanor marijuana possession charges in the Bronx were “manufactured” by NYPD officers who falsely charged clients with possessing marijuana in “public view.”
In December 2014, the Project released a second report, ‘The Hidden Tax: Economic Costs of Marijuana Enforcement in the Bronx and New York City.’ Based on data collected from 167 interviews of people arrested for low-level marijuana possession in the Bronx, the report found that the City’s marijuana enforcement policies and practices cost the residents of the Bronx, and New York City more broadly, millions of dollars a year in fines, court fees, and lost wages, in addition to countless missed days of work and appointments, school absences, and childcare complications. These costs and disruptions act as a hidden regressive tax on the residents of low-income communities of color and present another obstacle to economic opportunity and financial and social stability.