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POL 217 Fall 2021
Writing Assignment #2
This paper will be due on Blackboard, Tuesday November 30th at Midnight and should be 5 pages, double-spaced. It is worth 15% of your final grade. Your 5 page essay should include a combination of your own ideas, analysis, observations and examples as they relate to the specific evidence and arguments made by Alexander and Pfaff and the DCJS Criminal Justice Case Processing Arrest through Disposition -New York State. Please do not answer these questions as a worksheet, but incorporate most of these questions into a flowing essay.
ONLY USE SOURCES GIVEN: (PDF PROVIDED AND LINKS TO PODCAST ATTACHED AS WELL) It is a total of 5 sources: 3 pdfs, 1 online article, and 1 podcast
1. Read Chapter 1 of Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindedness (New York: The New Press, 2011), 13. (available on Blackboard)
Locate Alexander’s key argument in the book. What is she arguing and why? Write an analytical essay in which you discuss whether you or not you support Alexander’s position on mass incarceration and race. Discuss specific points from the book that address Alexander’s main arguments. What specific steps can we take as a society to address mass incarceration.
2. Read John Pfaff’s “Locked In” first chapter (on Blackboard) and this article https://www.themarshallproject.org/2017/02/09/everything-you-think-you-know-about-mass-incarceration-is-wrong and listen to the following Podcast https://www.courtinnovation.org/publications/john-pfaff-podcast
What does Pfaff argue is the cause of current mass incarceration? What is the role of the prosecutor in driving mass incarceration? What is the standard story? What data does Pfaff use to make his point? What is Pfaff’s critique of Michelle Alexander and the reforms undertaken to date? Is John Pfaff “color blind” or “tone deaf” on race and its role in the criminal justice system?
3. Read “DCJS Criminal Justice Case Processing Arrest through Disposition -New York State” and answer the following questions.
a. First, look at the “Annual Review” chart for New York City, the third on Page 1 of the document (page 4 PDF) – What is happening to the number of felony arrests and prison sentences in New York City between 2017-2019.
b. Then Look at “Table 1 Felony and Misdemeanor Adult Arrests January – December” on Page 2 and look at the New York City and Non New York City Graphs (2nd and 3rd). Look at the total number of felonies for both NYC and non-NYC and pay particular attention to the 2019 numbers for Class A Felony – Not Drug, Class A Felony – Drug, and Violent Felony Offense.
i. Which of these three types of felonies represents the largest number of felony arrests?
ii. What do you notice about the difference between Vehicle Transit Law “VTL” and DWI Offenses and Drug offenses versus Violent Offenses when comparing Non–New York City and New York City?
c. Look at “Table 9A New York State Dispositions of Felony Indictments and SCIs by Top Superior Court Arraignment Charge (Other Felonies)” on Pages 20-21.
i. Pick three crimes (for Example PL 125 – Homicide/related). Look at the rows for “Felony Conviction” or “Dismissed – Acquitted” and state the level of convictions or dismissals state-wide for these crimes. Were you surprised by these findings?
d. Look at “Table 11 Cases Disposed: Trial vs. Non-Trial Felony Indictments and SCIs” on Page 24. How many trials were there in New York City? How many Trials are there versus Non-Trials (pleas or dismissals) per crime. What type of crime is MOST likely to go to trial.
e. Look at “Table 13A New York State Sentences for Non-YO Felony Convictions by Conviction Charge” on Page 30.
i. Of 8,639 total convictions in New York City, how many resulted in a Prison Sentence (>1 year) a jail sentence (<1 year), probation, or others? ii. How does this change based on the crime? iii. Which crime has the lowest percent of persons convicted sentenced to prison? iv. How does this differ between people who have no prior felony conviction versus those that have a prior felony conviction? v. How does this change between New York City and Non-New York City? 4. What to do next? What are your reactions to the DCJS Crime Data? Is there more or less crime than you expected in New York City? How do you feel about the level of convictions versus dismissal? Were you surprised at how many trials there are? What do you think about the sentences that people receive? Are they too tough or too lenient? Assuming that John Pfaff is at least partly correct in that violent crime is driving mass incarceration today, how can we deal with the issue of mass incarceration? What is the best way to prevent violent crime? What role can diversion or alternative actions by prosecutors make in reducing mass incarceration? What is the proper punishment for violent crime once a person has been convicted? Can people convicted of violent crimes be rehabilitated? When is incarceration an appropriate punishment for crime? What role does fear and electoral politics play in mass incarceration? Is there any hope for a cultural shift in the United States away from mass incarceration and a culture of punishment? Address specifically the challenges of dealing with violent crime from the perspective of both defendants, victims, and communities. How can we ensure public safety and uphold justice while reducing mass incarceration?