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Injustice in The New York City Criminal Justice System: Analysis of Broken Windows Policing and New York City Criminal Court

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Racial inequality in the New York City Criminal Courts, only exacerbates and help metastasize the mass incarceration epidemic in the United States. Instead of protecting the rights of the accused, New York City Criminal Court is an institution of injustice, marked by assembly justice, a lack of due process and racial bias. One of the topics discussed is how “Stop and Frisk” has also played a key role; It have made a negative impact in our society based on the inflation of the incarceration rate.

Crime rates will continue to increase because felons have restricted rights and minimum resources. This will continue to cause civil unrest between minorities living in poverty. During my research the following question came to mind; Do racial disparities play a part in the New York City Criminal Courts system? Is this the cause of recidivism in New York City communities?


New York City Criminal Court has preliminary jurisdiction over all arrests made in New York City’s five boroughs (Barry and Lindsay, 2016). It has trial jurisdiction over misdemeanor, and petty offenses where the defendant faces less than one year in jail if convicted. Petty offenses include: misdemeanors, violations, infractions and DAT (Desk Appearance Ticket) arraignments. Although New York City Criminal Court has Preliminary Jurisdiction a district attorney can motion for a case to seek an indictment before a grand jury (Barry and Lindsey,2016).

If successful, the case is transferred to Supreme Court. In New York City’s Criminal Court; there are 107 appointed judges assigned to the Criminal Term of the Supreme Court that handle felony cases (Barry and Lindsay, 2016). In 2015, New York City Criminal Court processed a total of 1,040,446 cases (Barry and Lindsay,2016). However, only 315,760 cases were brought to final disposition and 1,143 trials commenced (Barry and Lindsay, 2016).

Broken Windows Policing and New York City Criminal Court

Broken windows policing: is a strategy of policing practiced since the mid-1990’s, whereby quality of life crimes are vigorously prosecuted by NYPD and the Court. This policy in recent years have shown to be problematic. Mayor Giuliani advocated for reclaiming the public spaces of New York and zero tolerance on low level offenses (Zeidman, 2015). Black and Hispanic are more inclined to be racially profiled than any other race (Zeidman, 2015). With heavy policing on quality of life crimes such as; panhandling, public urination, and drinking in public misdemeanor offenses have soared.

A 2014 report by John Jay College of Criminal Justice revealed that broken windows policing led to a 200% increase in misdemeanor arrests since 1980 (Chauhan, Fera, Welsh, Balazon, & Misshula, 2014). Alarmingly, felony arrests such as murder had a lower rate of 46.9 % (Chauhan et al., 2014). From 1980 to 2013 misdemeanor arrests proliferated through time, however declined in 2010 significantly by a small margin (Gothamist, 2014). Desk Appearance Tickets were used to apprehend and charge an individual with misdemeanors in which NYPD Commissioner Bratton solely depended on (Gothamist, 2014).

The Police Reform Organizing Project surveyed 191 misdemeanor cases in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens. The longest case observed lasted 10 minutes and 37 seconds whereas the shortest case lasted on 7 seconds (Gothamist, 2014).

Stop and Frisk

Stop and Frisk: is an investigatory stop commenced by a police officer based on reasonable suspicion (Zeidman, 2013). During this procedure; police officers are authorized to search or frisk an individual if there is reason to believe there is a weapon in possession (Zeidman, 2013). Nonetheless, an act of a warrantless arrest; this is often practiced as a form of interrogation (Zeidman, 2013). With a heighten presence in police patrol, African Americans are often targeted in poor minority neighborhoods. Young minorities feel humiliated from the experience and do not support the intrusive policy (Zeidman, 2016). On the contrary, police officers are contentious and want to supersede probable cause strictures (Zeidman, 2016).


Not all research requires the collection of new data. Sometimes researchers use existing data sources, such as research and data collected by others. Data most widely used by researchers is gathered by government agencies such as the U.S. Census Bureau, State Agencies and local units of governments. This paper draws on the small body of scholarly literature on New York City Criminal Court. For purposes of this preliminary research assignment an extensive review was conducted.

Specifically, it uses information from law review and journal articles to inform its findings. In addition, it is based on primary data collected during 90 minutes of courtroom observation conducted on conducted on October 7th 2016, at the Criminal Court located in Brooklyn, NY. During courtroom observation, data regarding defendants’ approximate age, race, the offense and disposition were collected on 8 cases.

Collateral Consequences

Stop and Frisk have been used as a crutch to charge the defendant with a low-level offense to use as a way to seek charges on more serious felonious crimes. This cause and effect has Collateral consequences in the long run. Collateral consequences are laws and policies that restrict prior felons from adjusting to the norms of society. These laws and policies can impede the individual social structure and economic advancement. When the “War on Drugs” was implemented (Pinard 2010, p.1214) in 1980, it led to record numbers of incarceration. Once a felon is paroled back into society he is admitted into a reentry program, however resources are limited. These resources do not include obtaining employment – related licenses or federal welfare benefits (Pinard 2010, p.1214). African American men with prior felonies are on the same scale as former slaves.

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Prior offenders are also barred from jury service, military service, and voting disenfranchisement (Pinard 2010, p.1214). If an individual cannot vote, receive benefits, education, or a job then history is destined to repeat itself. This will only fuel an ex- felon to repeat offend. Pinard (2010) compares this to “civil death” a phenomenon that occurred in England during the colonial period (p.1214). The United States borrowed this form of punishment until the 1960’s (Pinard 2010, p.1216). In the twentieth century, the rehabilitation model was created to reform criminal behavior. It was believed that this model can transform an individual to live a productive life as a law –abiding citizen (Pinard 2010, 1216). When the Rehabilitation Era ended in 1970 (Pinard 2010) there was an increase of incarceration rates from 1980 to 2005. This dilemma occurred once the “tough on crime movement emerged (p.1217-1218).

Federal Legislation wanted to reduce recidivism by improving reentry programs and provide employment opportunities (Pinard 2010 p. 1219). Many legal organizations recognized how this invisible system needed to be reformed. In the criminal justice system, collateral consequences are considered as civil penalties not criminal (Pinard 2010, p. 1215). The American Bar Association revealed that collateral consequences effected juveniles the same way as adult offenders. The Juvenile Collateral Consequences Project; created by The American Bar

Association obtained these results of collateral consequences to the juvenile adjudications throughout the U.S. (Pinard 2010, p.1221). In 2006, The New York State Bar Association’s Special Committee on Collateral Consequences of Criminal Proceedings recommended that judges, prosecutors, and attorneys be provided training on collateral consequences.

They believe the defendant should be made aware of these consequences before sentencing or legal proceedings such as plea deals or guilty pleas are issued (Pinard 2010, p.1221). The American Bar Association suggest that under certain circumstances the judge should use their discretion where deem appropriate (Pinard 2010, p.1221). They believe criminal conduct should be taken in careful consideration and judgment should be tailored to the offender before a verdict is made (Pinard 2010, p.1223). This act came into law in 2009 and is known today as the Uniform Collateral Consequences of Conviction Act (Pinard 2010, p.1222). Legislatives created this law to ensure the individual gains a better perspective and relief from legal disabilities.

Pinard (2010) argues that the criminal justice system has enough power or can “bend a little” by granting some leniency towards an individual with a criminal record. If given this opportunity prior felons could live productively (p.1224). Pinard (2010) concluded that the criminal justice system should be held in accountable for the impact that reentry issues has on felons who are trying to adjust back into society. Not only is the individual affected but their families and communities are impacted as well (p.1224). If reentry can be reformed it would give the individual a better outlook on life and become a productive member of society (Pinard 2010, p.1224).

Lack of Due Process

Only .0006% of defendant cases are granted due process and have their cases heard before a judge (Zeidman, pg. 3). Defendants are left without proper council and do not understand the charges they are being held accountable for (Zeidman, pg.3). The Police Reform Organizing Project surveyed 191 misdemeanor cases in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens. The longest case observed lasted 10 minutes and 37 seconds whereas the shortest case lasted only 7 seconds (Gothamist, 2014). New York City Criminal Court illustrates the kind of assembly line justice that criminal law scholars refer to as, “meet ‘em, greet ‘em and plead ‘em” (Zeidman, 2015, p. 3).

Racial Disparities

Research shows that incarceration has a more negative impact against African American men than Caucasian men. Since poor urban neighborhoods are targeted; it creates a disadvantage for young black men (Freeman 1996; Irwin and Austin 1997). Evidence shows incarceration is linked to low wages, unemployment, family instability, recidivism, and restrictions on political and social rights (Western, Kling and Weiman 2000; Hagan and Dinovitzer 1999; Sampson and Laub 1993; Uggen and Manza 2002; Hirsch et al. 2002).

With very little resources this puts minorities more at risk to commit a crime and hence maintain the ongoing cycle of recidivism. Racial disparity in imprisonment is attributed to high black crime rates for imprisonable offenses (Tonry 1995, 79). According to a panel study called NLSY it indicates that black men with low education increased state prison population from 1974-1997. Since Hispanics and Blacks share a large quantity of the prison population, White men incarcerated in prison continues to decline (Pettit, Becky; Western, Bruce 2004). The NLSY chart shows that incarceration rates in prison, decreased between minorities with a higher education than minorities without any education.

The percentage of minorities incarcerated doubled from 1974 and 1999 (Pettit, Becky; Western, Bruce 2004). In 2001, the imprisonment rate surpassed the historic average of 100 per 100,000 to 472 per 100,000 of the resident population study shows (Pettit, Becky; Western, Bruce 2004). Large populations of drug related crime offenders are inadvertently responsible for the U.S. prison boom. With strict drug control polices enforced; a widespread of street sweeps, undercover operations, and aggressive policing increased the rates of arrest (Pettit, Becky; Western, Bruce 2004). Criminal sociologists argued that incarceration can also have a life changing effect on minorities’ perspectives. Criminal desistance is more likely for minorities who have unsuccessfully managed to meet the normal expectations of adulthood (Pettit, Becky; Western, Bruce 2004).

The life course approach challenges the idea that patterns of offending are determined chiefly by stable propensities to crime, that vary little over time, but greatly across individuals (Uggen and Wakefield 2003). Racial threat theories suggest that there is differential treatment in highly populated states by whites (Pettit, Becky; Western, Bruce 2004). Poor minorities are a threat to social structures of society therefore attracts the disproportionate attention of authorities (Pettit, Becky; Western, Bruce 2004). This article proves that the racial-caste system is fueled by minorities that are at a disadvantage. The future of the broken window policing will only keep minorities at an economic disadvantage.

There is very little evidence that shows aggressive policing works. Urban ethnographers argued that increased imprisonment among minorities only drew young black men to commit crimes; such as illegal drug trades because of their criminal history and the collapse of low-skill labor markets (Pettit, Becky; Western, Bruce 2004). Social disintegration in black communities is also associated. The prison boom revamps the lives of many minorities which sends them down a spiral path of ongoing destruction (Pettit, Becky; Western, Bruce 2004). Having a prison record confers a persistent status that significantly influences trajectories (Pettit, Becky; Western, Bruce 2004).

Policy Recommendations

A few policy recommendations I would suggest is that when police officers are conducting a search or seizure body cameras should be wore at all times. This will guarantee officers are monitored, the search will be recorded and documented. First time offenders who commit low level crimes should be counseled, and trained to be better law abiding citizens. This would allow the offenders a second chance to redeem themselves. After 4 misdemeanors, the offense should be charged as a felony. This would educate and probably discourage them from making unlawful acts. Police officers should be annually trained on when to make an arrest, when its considered unlawful, and when to use discretion when making an arrest during “Stop and frisk”. If police officers make unnecessary arrest, they should be penalized for it. Due process should be mandatory in court and enforced. If not reinforced, anyone on the case should be held accountable.

Works Cited

  1. American Sociological Review, 69(2), 151-169, Apr 2004 Pettit, B., & Western, B. Retrieved from
  2. Barry, J. and Lindsay, L. (2016). New York City Criminal Court: 2015 annual report. Office of the Chief Clerk of New York City Criminal Court. New York: New York
  3. Chauhan, P., Fera, A.G., Welsh, M.B., Balazon, E., & Misshula, E. with an Introduction by Jeremy Travis. (2014, October). Trends in misdemeanor arrest rates in New York. Report Presented to the Citizens Crime Commission. New York: New York
  4. No Equal and Exact Justice | Monitoring report – Police Reform Organizing Project (PROP). (2016, March 31). Retrieved from
  5. The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology (1973- ), 100(3, Centennial Symposium: A Century of Criminal Justice), 1213-1224. Summer 2010, Retrieved from route:0e7deca0aee12c4cdf08dfcf5bf7944
  6. Zeidman, S. (2015). Due process and the failure of Criminal Court. Fordham Urban Law Journal, vol. XLII, 1-4.

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Injustice in The New York City Criminal Justice System: Analysis of Broken Windows Policing and New York City Criminal Court. (2022, August 12). Edubirdie. Retrieved September 27, 2023, from
“Injustice in The New York City Criminal Justice System: Analysis of Broken Windows Policing and New York City Criminal Court.” Edubirdie, 12 Aug. 2022,
Injustice in The New York City Criminal Justice System: Analysis of Broken Windows Policing and New York City Criminal Court. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 27 Sept. 2023].
Injustice in The New York City Criminal Justice System: Analysis of Broken Windows Policing and New York City Criminal Court [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Aug 12 [cited 2023 Sept 27]. Available from:
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