Church and Heumann Critique Paper.docx

Church and Heumann Critique Paper.docx - Gabrielle H Austin...

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Gabrielle H. Austin Church and Heumann Critique Desperate times call for desperate measures, or at minimal, some monetary incentives. Let us rewind back to New York City in 1983, when jail overcrowding and the time spent in detention by defendants with felony cases pending disposition was exceptionally high. New York City has five district attorneys, one for each county (Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens and Staten Island), and one Special Narcotics Prosecutor. Speedy Disposition refers to all of the officials as the six district attorneys. The following discusses the Speedy Disposition Program in detail to help grasp a better understanding of its successes and failures. Prior to the Speedy Disposition Program, the City’s pretrial detainee crisis had been an ongoing problem for well over a decade. Special attention was paid to jail overcrowding after several lawsuits in 1970, resulting in a ceiling which limited the number of prisoners that could be held at any one time in city jails (Church, 1992, p. 21). The City defended their situation by arguing that they had little control over the State’s processing time, therefor, reducing the number of pretrial detainees was a near impossible task to manage on their own. These arguments strongly influenced the methodology of which the SPD program focused on the reform of district attorney procedures as opposed to the Supreme Court. In response to the substantial jail over-crowding in New York City, research was conducted to better understand the root of the problem. Studies indicated that significant increases in the jail population was not a result of higher crime rates or to increases in arrests and accompanying increases in the number of pretrial admissions, but the increase in the average length of pretrial detention (Church, 1992, p. 23). Calculations had shown that over a quarter of the total inmate population consisted of detainees of six to twelve (or more) months. These
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studies confirmed the need to place urgency on disposing older pending cases. Research also discovered that the primary cause of jail overcrowding in New York City at that time was directly linked to an increase in the time spent in detention by defendants with felony cases pending disposition in the City’s Supreme Court. For reasons unknown, New York City’s courts were extraordinarily slow in regard to processing felony cases (Church, 1992, p. 23-24). Further analysis of urban courts throughout the country showed that it was possible to speed up court processes, as many other areas shared comparable high and serious caseloads, but produced much faster processing times. Recognizing that New York City was not in a position to direct the Supreme Court, the City turned to the prosecutors for assistance in dealing with the issues at hand. More specifically, the City focused its reform efforts towards the District attorneys of New York City. After investigating research on policy reforms concerning similar problem areas, the City determined the best motivation for the District attorneys was through monetary incentives. These budgetary
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