Archive for the ‘New York City’ Category

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In New York City and other cities around the U.S. violence in schools has grown from being a rarity into a matter of public safety. From the Columbine massacre in 1999 to the shootings at Virginia Tech in 2007, violence in U.S. schools has perpetuated into problems with bullying, stabbings and other crime like behavior.

New York City has been one of the few cities to take action against unsafe environments for today’s youth. Speak Up NYC is a city wide awareness and educational initiative working with the New York City council. The organization was created to provide young people enrolled in schools with the tools needed to build a safe and comfortable academic setting.

Speak UP encourages students to not only stray away from violence in their own lives, but to report any threats made to them or others in their schools and communities. For students who fear for their safety or would rather remain anonymous have the opportunity to call a toll-free hotline to report any acts of violence witnessed.

Speak Up NYC is promoted through New York City’s Cornerstone programs. In these programs, students come together to discuss violence and crime prevention in their communities, both at school and home. The goal of Speak Up NYC is to empower young people to use their voices to prevent unsafe environments of academia. In a city where violence and crime appear in alley ways, on street corners and in school systems, programs like Speak UP are positive outlets for young people to get involved and feel apart of solving the problem of school violence.

“A day which will forever live in infamy. . .” President Franklin Delano Roosevelt proclaimed these words on December 7, 1941 following the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Some will argue that May 1, 2011 will now fall under that category as well. Osama Bin Laden, the well-known terrorist leader of Al-Qaeda was finally brought to justice after a secret mission was launched in Pakistan, which ultimately led to his demise. Cheers of joy rang throughout the United States that night after President Barack Obama officially announced his death. They were, however, heard the loudest in the state most effected by this individual — The Big Apple, otherwise known as New York City. Due to his instrumental hand in the tragic events of September 11, 2001, Osama’s death brought about mixed emotions for some New York-ians. Having the blood of nearly 3,000 people on his hands, it was no surprise that the general feeling running through the veins of Americans that night was pure elation. Finally, after a decade-long manhunt, this awful individual was brought to rightful justice, a fate some say was more than appropriate. There were, however, reservations about “celebrating someone’s death.” Seeing as most people don’t share the same hateful make-up of a person like Osama bin Laden, it was odd balancing act for individuals. Are we rejoicing his death or the long-awaited act of justice? Either way one looks at it, we all have something to be thankful for these days. The mastermind behind the world’s most powerful and influential terrorism groups has been removed. That should bring some sense of security to individuals everywhere, even if only for a short while. The question now becomes: “What next?” Some fear a strong retaliation from his followers while other are optimistic. Regardless, the world has become a better place for the time being and New Yorkers can finally rest with a sense of justice that they’ve been yearning for 10 years now.

Osama bin Laden, the man responsible for thousands of innocent lives

"Twin Towers, just after they've been struck"

A 12-year-old boy in Staten Island, NY has been charged with a felony hate crime after he attacked a female, Muslim classmate and tried to rip off her hijab.

Osman Daramy was reportedly led off school grounds in handcuffs on Wednesday after he allegedly punched and kicked a young 13-year-old Muslim girl. After striking her, Daramy attempted to remove the girl’s hijab, or head covering, while some say he yelled, “Are you a Muslim?” He failed.

The New York Post caught the boy in handcuffs.

According to the New York Post, the girl suffered some bruises and a cut lip.

Daramy is apparently a regular hellion. Sources told the New York Daily News that this is the fourth time in recent months that he has targeted the young girl. Earlier in the week he got in trouble for cutting out a chunk of another girl’s hair. The Post elaborates:

On Monday, Osman raised hell in one class when he ran amok wielding scissors after using them to cruelly lop off a girl’s hair, sources said. But instead of being booted from school or arrested, Osman was merely “suspended in-house,” a teacher said.

Osman’s behavior is so problematic that officials at one point posted a school safety agent in front of that class just “so the teacher could teach,” a staffer said.

Two weeks ago, Osman was present when five other young punks at the school robbed a deliveryman who was dropping off pizza and soda at an after-school study program, insiders said.

The crooks demanded food and cash from the deliveryman before fleeing with just the food, authorities said. They were busted the next day.

“This child is a terror. He goes around terrorizing staff and students,” a teacher at the school told the Post.

The boy‘s mother condemned her son’s actions to the Post. “I know my son is a good boy. He’s a kid, he made a mistake. [But] it’s not right for him to bug anybody for their religion.”

The Department of Education told the Daily News that disciplinary action is pending. His case will be handled in family court because of his age.

Third best. Second runner-up. The bronze medal. Placing third in something is usually an achievement, right? When it comes to the death penalty, however, I beg to differ. New York is currently the state with the 3rd highest amount of executions, trailing only Virginia and Texas. The death penalty has an interesting history in the Empire State. It was initially (but accidentally) abolished in 1861, when the governor at that time, Edwin D. Morgan, outlawed hanging as a means of execution. However, not a year later, this statute was declared unconstitutional and the death penalty was fully restored by 1862.

A Shocking New Addition

3…2…1…Happy New Year! Welcome to 1887. It was in this calendar year, that a committee was organized to devise a new, more “humane” form of execution. Sidenote: that sounds rather ironic—humane way of ending someone’s life. Sounds more like an oxymoron, right?

Alfred P. Southwick, a member of the committee, developed the idea of putting electric currents through a device such as a chair after hearing about how relatively painlessly and quickly a drunken man died due to touching exposed power lines. As Southwick was a dentist accustomed to performing procedures on subjects in chairs, his electrical device appeared in the form of a chair.

The first individual to be executed in the electric chair was William Kemmler, on August 6, 1890. Currents were passed through Kemmler for 17 seconds and he was declared dead, but witnesses noticed he was still breathing, and the current was turned back on. From start to finish, the execution took eight minutes. During the execution, blood vessels under the skin ruptured and bled, and some witness reported that Kemmler’s body set on fire. …How on Earth does that seem humane? Granted, it was a vastly different method than hanging. However, neither seems humane in my opinion. 8 minutes.

It took almost 75 years for the death penalty to reach some level of restriction once again. In 1965, Governor Rockefeller signed legislation which abolished the death penalty except for cases involving the murder of a police officer.

Modern Day Capital Punishment–Death in a Needle

Flash forward to 1995. After years of dormancy, the death penalty took advantage of what seems to be a 9-life existence. Governor George E. Pataki reinstated capital punishment in the state of New York, while adding another form of execution–lethal injection. Facing much opposition, the death penalty was ruled as a violation of the New York Constitution in 2004. Governor George Pataki attempted to file a repeal of this, seeing as it was one of the main points of his political campaign. In 2008, the new governor, David Paterson issued a ruling that required the removal of all the state’s execution equipment, essentially removing the death penalty from New York State.

Since 1977, there have been a total of 598 executions in the United States. A particular staggering figure was the execution of 98 people alone in 1998. Rather humane, hmm?

A mandatory sentence is a court decision setting where judicial discretion is limited by law. Typically, people convicted of certain crimes must be punished with at least a minimum number of years in prison. Mandatory sentencing laws vary from country to country; it is mainly an area of interest only in common law jurisdictions, since civil law jurisdictions usually prescribe minimum and maximum sentences for every type of crime in explicit laws.

United States federal juries are generally not allowed to be informed of the mandatory minimum penalties that may apply if the defendant is convicted, because the jury’s role is limited to a determination of guilt or innocence. However, sometimes defense attorneys have found ways to impart this information to juries; for instance, it is sometimes possible, on cross-examination of an informant who faced similar charges, to ask how much time he was facing. This is sometimes deemed permissible because it is a means of impeaching the witness. However, in at least one state court case in Idaho it was deemed impermissible.

After our discussions in class last week, and this past Monday, I was intrigued by the concept of mandatory sentencing and how they were related to our city of New York. Seeing as I live in New York, it was an added level of interest.

Over 90% of the inmates locked up in NYS prisons today for drug offenses are there because of the mandatory sentencing provisions of two laws that were passed 26 years ago, in 1973. The Rockefeller Drug Laws require harsh prison terms for the possession or sale of relatively small amounts of drugs. For example, the most severe provision of these statutes requires that a person convicted of selling two ounces of a narcotic or of possessing four ounces of same receive a minimum prison term of 15 years to life. The Second Felony Offender Law mandates a prison term for all repeat felons regardless of the nature of the offense or the background or motivation of the offender.

Here are some interesting facts I came across surrounding these two laws:

  • As of December 31, 1998, there were 9,225 drug offenders locked up in NYS prisons under the mandatory sentencing provisions of the Rockefeller Drug Laws. It costs over $295 million per year to keep these offenders imprisoned.
  • As of December 31, 1998, there were 11,458 drug offenders locked up in NYS prisons under the Second Felony Offender Law. It costs over $365 million per year to confine these people in prison.
  • As of December 31, 1998, there were 5,639 people locked up in NYS prisons for drug possession, as opposed to drug selling. Some of these offenders were confined under the Rockefeller Drug Laws, some under the Second Felony Offender Law. It costs about $180 million per year to keep these people in prison.
  • As of December 31, 1998, there were 22,386 drug offenders in the NYS prison system, about 33% of the entire prison population. It costs over $715 million per year to keep these people in prison.
  • Of the 19,453 commitments to the NYS prison system in 1998, 9,063 or 46.6% were for drug offenses. In 1980, 886 drug offenders were sent to State prison, 11% of the total commitments for that year.
  • In 1998, alone, the Second Felony Offender Law — which was amended slightly in 1995 by the governor and legislature — required prison terms for 7,147 low-level offenders, most of whom were minor drug offenders. It costs nearly $230 million per year just to maintain these people in the state’s prison system.

Now, take a look at some facts regarding the actual prisoners themselves:

  • Of all drug offenders sent to NYS prisons in 1997, nearly 80% were never convicted of a violent felony and nearly half were never arrested for a violent felony.
  • Of drug offenders sent to NYS prisons in 1997, nearly 32% had no prior felony convictions and over 17% had never been arrested for a felony.
  • 25% of the drug offenders in NYS prisons were convicted of simple drug possession.
  • 60% of the drug offenders in NYS prisons were convicted of the three lowest felonies – Class C, D, or E – which involve only minute drug amounts. For example, only 1/2 gram of cocaine is required for conviction of Class D felony possession, and 1,242 people are locked up for that offense.

These figures all seem rather expensive, right? Well, the website that I came across also offered some cost-effective alternatives. Let’s take a look:

  • A 1997 study by RAND’s Drug Policy Research Center concluded that treatment is the most effective tool in the fight against drug abuse, finding that treatment reduces 15 times more serious crime than mandatory minimum sentences.
  • Several studies sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse have shown that drug treatment programs, on the whole, are successful in reducing the levels of drug abuse and crime among participants and in increasing their ability to hold a job.
  • There are over 1,500,000 alcohol and substance abusers in New York State. About 270,000, 15% of the total, are served in publicly funded or privately run treatment programs.
  • The cost of keeping an inmate in NYS prison for a year is about $32,000. In comparison, the cost of most drug free outpatient care runs about $2,700-4,500 per person per year; and the cost of residential drug treatment is $17,000-$21,000 per participant per year.

As the snow, now covered in the city’s dirt and pollution melts, and the degrees on our Mac dashboards head toward the 60’s and 70’s, the bad guys (and girls) of New York City prepare for battle, or so the statistics say.

In the summer of 2009, there were 52 homicides in September and 51 in August in New York City. According to the New York Times, the summer months are the prime time for drunks and drug users, the usual suspects, to hit the city streets late at night, targeting their victims.

Scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concluded,”While suicides peak in the spring, homicides swell between July and September.” Steven F. Messner, a criminology professor at the State University of New York at Albany believes that the reason crime increases during these months is because of people’s daily routines change to bar and party settings during the late hours.

Studies show that more victims were killed between midnight and 8 a.m. in recent years. A Times analysis shows that from 2006-2008, 39% of homicide victims were killed during these hours. Time of the week has a great impact on crime rate as well. From 2003-2008, studies show that 36% of all victims were killed on Saturday or Sunday.

In addition, who is killed and who is doing the killing is an important factor in New York City Crime statistics. Women, for example, are less likely to be the killers or the victims in homicides (73 women total in 2008). When a woman was a victim, she was almost always murdered by someone she knew-boyfriend, husband or relative. In 2009, only 8 women were murdered by strangers with no relation of them.

This trend of summer killings is apparent in other cities such as Chicago, Boston and Newark as well. Fortunately, in the last 15 years, homicide rate in New York City has plummeted, but there is still more to be done and prevented in the future.