Read the full article by Yoav Gonen, Claudia Irizarry Aponte and Suhail Bhat from THE CITY.

Restorative Justice

Grassroots organizations that promote anti-violence and deescalation efforts were not surprised by the results of THE CITY’s analysis showing relatively low hate crime conviction rates.

“It shows that hate crime prosecutions are just a bad tool for addressing this problem, in much the same way that the Hate Crime Unit of the NYPD is not a great tool for addressing the problem,” Leo Ferguson, director for strategic projects at Jews for Racial & Economic Justice, said in an interview.

The group has responded to a rise in antisemitic acts of hate in Brooklyn and The Bronx by canvassing for crime prevention and community safety. The group is holding its next popup on Purim later this month in Spuyten Duyvil, where a playground was recently vandalized with anti-semitic graffiti.

Ferguson notes that the threat of hate crime prosecutions has not demonstrably reduced or prevented acts of hate.

“The fact is that these things aren’t working for survivors, they aren’t reducing hate violence, and they are wildly expensive and continue to pump resources into a carceral system that, as we can see just from looking at Rikers Island, is deeply broken in New York,” Ferguson said.

Advocates have instead pushed policy makers to promote education and de-escalation efforts to prevent hate crimes from occurring in the first place, such as bystander intervention trainings.

Officials in the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office said their own forays into so-called restorative justice have included taking youth who drew swastikas in public places to the Museum of Jewish Heritage and asking them to contemplate the hurt their actions caused by writing victim letters.

A recent report by Stanford Law School and New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice noted that the current approach relies too heavily on law enforcement.

The report also cited the challenges of investigating, charging and proving hate crimes — which undermine the declared benefit of enhancing penalties for these types of incidents.

“Failures within the legal system to investigate and adjudicate hate crimes might communicate a quite different message: that protecting people from hate crimes is not a priority,” the report found.

Read the full article by Yoav Gonen, Claudia Irizarry Aponte and Suhail Bhat from THE CITY.