By Richard A. Brown
Truth must triumph over rhetoric and slogans. Many critics are either woefully misinformed of the facts or have chosen to willfully state false facts.
Queens is a county of 2.4 million people. Of the approximately 8,200 defendants currently held on Rikers, only 151 defendants are charged with misdemeanors from Queens County. That is the lowest number of misdemeanor defendants of any of the major counties in New York City. Not a single defendant from Queens currently on Rikers Island is being held solely for a misdemeanor marijuana or farebeating charge - NOT ONE.
Queens has 19 percent of the misdemeanor arrests for the City of New York in 2018, but only 15 percent of the misdemeanor population of Rikers. In an in-depth analysis of the Queens defendants held on Rikers this past August, we found only 34 of those defendants were being held solely because they cannot make bail. Those 34 defendants had an average of 14 prior arrests, eight prior convictions and have failed to appear in court on their prior cases an average of three times.
In Queens we take our obligation to do justice seriously. We maintain over 30 alternative to incarceration programs including the first Veteran’s Court, Human Trafficking Court, Comprehensive DWI Part, Second Chance Program, Electronic Monitoring of Domestic Violence and DWI defendants, Queens Treatment Intervention Program, and an All Purpose Criminal Court Youth Part. These programs divert defendants into alternative sentencing programs to avoid incarceration for defendants charged with crimes.
In collaboration with the NYC Department of Education, we run within our office the Queens Court Academy, an alternative high school where youths charged with crimes can get their high school diplomas and have their cases dismissed in almost all instances. To our knowledge we are the only prosecutor in New York State - perhaps the country - that runs a high school.
We will continue to do justice. We will not remain silent while some spew falsehoods.
Richard A. Brown is Queens District Attorney.