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Prisons and gentrification always seemed like two disconnected terms to me. That was until I learned from “When Brooklyn juries gentrify, defendants lose” by Josh Saul about gentrification in Williamsburg and how it affected the jury. I understood the concept of chain reaction in this situation. When a neighborhood (such as Williamsburg) becomes gentrified the jury drastically changes due to a significant decrease in the minority. Jury members become more alike and there is a lack of variety. When the jury changes the overall judging is affected. The new people who settle in the neighborhoods are not familiar with its history, with the way things work, with the common crimes, and the type of people. They are not biased in a way, but that results in verdicts or settlements very different from the ones made prior to gentrification.
“Fare evasion arrests surge in recent years, making it among city’s top offenses leading to jail: Daily News analysis” by Barry Paddock and Sarah Ryley and “Daily News analysis finds racial disparities in summonses for minor violations in ‘broken windows’ policing” by Sarah Ryley, Laura Bult, and Dareh Gregorian both opened my eyes to the discrimination that occurs in my own city. I did not expect that between 2001 and 2013 81% of 7.3 million people who receive violations were black and Hispanic. After looking at the different statistical data presented by the articles it was clear that black and Hispanic male teenagers are targeted the most, commonly charged and jailed for small things such as jumping the turnpike or having loud music. Both articles also mentioned the broken windows policy, which is a criminological theory implemented in 1982 and meant to prevent serious crimes by being more attentive and harsh in punishments for small crimes such as vandalism or drinking in public. However, this policy did not prove to be significantly effective over the many years. On the other hand, it causes a chain reaction. A person can be sent to court and even jailed for something so little as jumping a turnpike. He/she then no longer has a clean record, which will affect the person’s education and job search, as well as tolerance for other potential crimes. If the person can’t find a sustainable job, he/she can not afford a desired lifestyle, place to live, and perhaps to even raise his/her children in an appropriate environment. Therefore when people of color are targeted and sentenced for minor things it doesn’t just stop there, the effect proceeds over and over, affecting more and more people as a result.
The situation with Pedro Estrella reminded me of a time (in high school) when I was coming from work (so it was later than regular school dismissal hours) and used my student metrocard. As I was going up the stairs to enter the platform I heard someone calling for me. When I turned around I saw two police officers running after me on the stairs. They asked me to show them the metrocard that I just used and I did. Following, they asked me to show my ID and dismissed me after confirming that I am still a high school student. However, what would’ve happened if I did not have my ID on me? After reading about Estrella’s story I am not sure. An interesting thing, however, is that I haven’t seen the police officers upon entering the subway station, which means that they were hiding and specifically looking at people swiping (or not swiping) their metrocards. This was not a surprise for me as I’ve seen police officers hide and spy on the turnpikes at train station by my house.
Another encounter I had with police was also in high school. FDNY would set up tables next to the turnpikes and randomly select people at that train station for bag checks. I’ve been chosen about 4-5 times and never really questioned it, but it did make me feel slightly uncomfortable, as if I was suspected of doing something wrong. It is mind bothering to me to think that that’s how minorities feel when they are targeted by police officers, especially when it is clear that there is a bias towards questioning and checking them compared to other races. A random choice by a policeman is unfortunately not so random as statistics tend to show.
I saw a chain reaction effect in every situation described. The video played in class provided a solid background and explanation about why people of color are brought down. The discrimination imposed today is still the echo from mistreatment in the previous years. Government implications such as the broken windows policy or gentrification of neighborhoods are like pills- there are always side effects. If you gentrify a neighborhood then statistics change because people who lived there before can no longer afford the housing. The stereotype that black/Hispanics people are the ones with the highest crime rates can also be a created statistics by the bias decisions of police officers to notice and stop some (black and Hispanic) people and not others (Asians and while). Essentially, the government does what’s best for the majority, but where does that leave minority?
Response: I like that you chose to point out the importance of understanding “who we lock up” and what the goal of the criminal justice is. I agree with the relationships you pointed out concerning the lack of education and high poverty rates and how they lead to higher crimes. It is a chain reaction, starting from a minor thing and potentially leading to a destructed life. However, I don’t necessarily agree with you when you say that “Sociological factors such as these will overwhelm any role “personal responsibility” plays in determining the crime rate of a certain group.” I believe that personal responsibility still plays a major role in the crime committed. Of course, environmental factors play a humongous role in the rate of crime and there is discrimination in arresting black and Hispanic individuals, but I don’t think that this factor overpowers personal responsibility. However, I don’t think that applies to crimes such as jumping a turnpike or public urination. In those cases, discrimination and unfair targeting certainly takes the major role. I enjoyed reading your blog and I really like that you didn’t just say that something needs to get done about the problem, but actually made suggestions that could solve this problem. I believe that community service would indeed benefit the society and not cause a destructive chain reaction in the guilty individual’s life.
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