Injustices In The Criminal Justice System Need To Be Revealed, Legal Aid's Attorney-in-Chief Says In Letter To The Editor In The New York Times Today
FRIDAY, AUGUST 31, 2012

In a Letter to the Editor published in today's New York Times, Steven Banks, Attorney-in-Chief of The Legal Aid Society, said that the underlying problems in the criminal justice system need to be focused on. "Every day in every court in New York City, our front-line Legal Aid staff sees the inappropriate law enforcement conduct that is resulting in a flood of arrests that should have never occurred, largely related to the improper stops and frisks . . . Prosecutions for having your feet on two seats in an empty subway car in the middle of the night, for allegedly trespassing on Housing Authority grounds when you live there or are visiting a sick relative, for having a small amount of marijuana in your pocket that comes into public view when a police officer commands you to empty your pockets and the like have no place in the criminal justice system and divert time and attention from more serious matters. . . the story that needs to be told is about the underlying problems in the criminal justice system [in the Bronx] and elsewhere."




The New York Times
Letters to the Editor
August 30, 2012
Unjustified Arrests

To the Editor:

Re “Report Finds Prosecutions at a Low Rate in the Bronx” (news article, Aug. 22):

As the primary criminal defense provider in New York City, including in the Bronx, we have a unique perspective to offer on the WNYC report that the Bronx district attorney is declining to prosecute cases at a higher rate than prosecutors in other boroughs. Every day in every court in New York City, our front-line Legal Aid staff sees the inappropriate law enforcement conduct that is resulting in a flood of arrests that should have never occurred, largely related to the improper stops and frisks that The New York Times has documented so well.

Prosecutions for having your feet on two seats in an empty subway car in the middle of the night, for allegedly trespassing on Housing Authority grounds when you live there or are visiting a sick relative, for having a small amount of marijuana in your pocket that comes into public view when a police officer commands you to empty your pockets and the like have no place in the criminal justice system and divert time and attention from more serious matters.

Bronx County is typically referred to as the poorest county in the United States, and the story that needs to be told is about the underlying problems in the criminal justice system there and elsewhere. Unfortunately, this particular WNYC report on differing rates in which district attorneys decline to prosecute cases barely scratches the surface of what the real injustices are. We commend The Times, which has — unlike so many others — attempted to shine a light on what is really happening on the ground.

STEVEN BANKS
Attorney in Chief
The Legal Aid Society
New York, Aug. 22, 2012