New York Mayor Bill de Blasio is making crime pay. First, it was pizza for Rikers inmates, now with gift cards.
In an effort to make accused criminals happier in court, in Manhattan, low-level defendants are being paid to rate the courtesy of judges and prosecutors, and even the temperature of the courtroom. They are being paid by the taxpayers!
For every participant that completes the questionnaire, they receive a $15 Dunkin’ Donuts gift card.
The $800,000 push is an effort by the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice to make the court system more user-friendly.
“Once again, the mayor wants to appease the criminals at taxpayers’ expense,” said an NYPD source who watched in amazement as a defendant was handed his Dunkin’ reward.
“Next thing they’ll be giving out Macy’s cards so these perps could do their holiday shopping,” the source groused.
The mayor’s survey comes for more non-jail sentences to allow the closure of Rikers Island. Efforts to reduce violence by rewarding well-behaving inmates with pizza parties.
An NYPD source called de Blasio’s latest criminal justice effort “crazy,” and said that appearing in court “isn’t supposed to be fun.”
“You want these people not to want this to happen again,” the cop said. “It’s not supposed to be a positive experience to get locked up or get a summons.”
Michael Palladino, president of the NYPD detectives union, said the gift cards are “a nice Christmas present for our participants in the criminal justice system.”
Sergeants union president Ed Mullins said: “There’s a longstanding statement that crime doesn’t pay. We’ve now proved it does.”
“It now pays for a $15 Dunkin’ Donuts card. Maybe we can give them confiscated firearms, too.”
“Where is this coming from? We’re all singing ‘Kumbaya’ together? Maybe it’s time we process criminals over tea and biscuits,” Mullins said in disbelief.
Several defendants who took part in the survey recently said they did not mind answering its 144 questions considering the reward.
“I spoke and shared my honest opinions and was awarded with a gift card, which was great,” said Keith Ware, 34, a personal trainer facing a disorderly conduct charge.
“One of the questions was something about, do you feel like the judges and everyone in there did everything they had to do? I feel like, some days, but not all days.”
Juan Cruz, was fighting what he called a “bullcrap misdemeanor charge,” was in favor of efforts to improve the system. Still, he said, “I told them I’ve been here too many times to not understand the process.”
“But hey, got me a doughnut and cup of coffee when I get out of here.”
Rodney Jones, 62, said he was busted for carrying a cap gun, said the gift cards are a good use of public money “because some people come here and don’t have money to eat lunch.”
Ebony Drake, however, took the survey after winning dismissal of an assault case, questioned the survey’s value, saying “some of the questions were real silly.”
“A lot of people are going to stop for the gift card, and they’re going to tell you anything to get the gift card,” said Drake, 34. “I live in [public] housing, so I could say that money could go to a thousand other things.”
The Center for Court Innovation is responsible for the questionnaire being administered. The first phase led to the installation of signs on benches in a Manhattan courtroom where misdemeanors are handled that explain the justice system. With the final phase expected to include courtesy-training sessions for judges, clerks and court officers.
Several court officers were outraged by the survey! They were especially angry about how cheerful and respectful they seemed.
“It isn’t my job to be nice or make friends,” one court official said. “It’s my job to make the courthouse run smoothly.”
Dennis Quirk, president of the Court Officers Association, derided the notion that criminal defendants were being asked how the court personnel could better serve them.
“We don’t need any training, judges don’t need any training. We all know how to do our jobs, and we already treat people with courtesy,” said Quirk.
“Next, City Hall is going to want us to hand out ice cream cones and candy bars. Many of these people committed crimes. How much more do we want to coddle them?”
The Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice defended disbursement of the gift cards as “compensation” for the survey participants’ time, and insisted the cost was a “minuscule” part of the overall budget.
“Small physical changes can [make] a significant impact on behavior,” Criminal Justice Director Elizabeth Glazer said in a written statement.
“If the design of our courts can enhance respect for the law, it will potentially reduce future contact with the justice system, improving our city for everyone.”
“That is what we are aiming to do now as well as working with experts to assess the effectiveness of these changes.”
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