October 20, 2021 FALL 2020

Measuring the Impact of Reform

The Data Collaborative for Justice evaluates the success of New York City’s Criminal Justice Reform Act.

THE DATA COLLABORATIVE for Justice (DCJ) was launched in 2019 on the principle that the U.S. needs data to understand the landscape of today’s criminal legal system, and it needs to assess if reforms are effective. “You need data to see what the problems might be in the system, and how to fix those problems,” says Preeti Chauhan, Ph.D., founding Director of DCJ and Psychology Associate Professor at John Jay College.

Today, DCJ researchers are measuring the impact of New York City’s Criminal Justice Reform Act (CJRA). Passed by the City in 2016, the CJRA shifts summonses for common low-level offenses—public consumption of alcohol, public urination, park offenses, unreasonable noise, and littering—from the criminal to the civil arena. It also gives offenders the option to complete community service instead of paying a fine. The point is to reduce the financial burdens many offenders face, as well as to prevent negative outcomes, like open warrants, for failing to appear in court and collateral consequences related to housing, employment, and immigration.

DCJ’s new evaluation, contracted by the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, uses public administrative data to measure the issuance of both criminal and civil summonses in the 18 months after CJRA was put in place. It is the organization’s latest in a series of studies to measure the impact of the legislation. “We can tell a story with our data because we’re looking at it over time,” says Shannon Tomascak, a DCJ analyst who is lead author on the new report. That story suggests CJRA is working as intended. New York City saw a 94 percent reduction in criminal summonses for CJRA offenses and a 93 percent reduction in warrants for failure to appear. That adds up to around 123,000 fewer criminal summonses and 58,000 fewer warrants citywide during the 18 months after implementation, according to DCJ projections. Overall, 87 percent of summonses for CJRA offenses are now being issued as civil summonses instead. As many as 73 percent of offenders opt for community service in place of fines.

This means less burden on people who get cited for minor crimes. Tomascak gave an example: “Someone litters in public, and they get a criminal summons, and then they don’t show up in court, and then there’s a warrant out for their arrest. That’s a long chain of events for a really low-level offense.” It also means less burden on criminal courts, since CJRA has reduced their volume significantly. Meanwhile, a separate DCJ study, released in 2019, found that offenders still show up for court at a comparable rate, even as summonses for CJRA offenses have moved into the civil arena.

For Chauhan, this is all confirmation that data matters. “One big finding for us is that when legislation is implemented, you need to track it to see if it’s having intended outcomes,” she says. Even before DCJ was founded, Chauhan and former John Jay President Jeremy Travis were promoting fact-based analysis through the Misdemeanor Justice Project, which published reports on trends in misdemeanor arrests. As DCJ looks toward the future, it is taking on not only misdemeanors and summonses, but also a range of other data in the system at large. They have recently expanded their work to seven other U.S. cities, where they collaborate with local partners to document patterns in lower-level enforcement. “You need data to guide evidence-based decision making,” Chauhan says. “You need facts and not fear.”


President’s Letter

“We’re living through challenging times.” I’ve found myself writing, saying, and contemplating those five words countless times this year.

Campus News

CUSP Takes Center Stage at 2020 Davos World Economic Forum

In the Media

“YOU’RE SEEING MORE PEOPLE OF COLOR, more working class folks starting to find their voice a little bit more. That’s...

Breaking the Cycle of Intımate-Partner Violence

In Kingston, New York, NNSC’s new approach has significantly reduced the deadliest forms of intimate-partner violence. By Michael Friedrich

On the Front Line

Despite the hardships and health risks, John Jay students, alumni, faculty, and staff continue to keep our communities safe throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. By Andrea Dawn Clark

Educating Through the Crisis

How John Jay students, faculty, and staff successfully transitioned to a distance-learning model. by Mary Anderson

Charting New Territory

Olivia Orta, Ph.D. ’07 blazed a path for John Jay alumni, being the first John Jay grad to earn her doctoral degree from Harvard. By Andrea Dawn Clark

Responding to the Call

Alumna Shawyn Patterson-Howard ’05 makes history as the first female Mayor of Mount Vernon, New York. By Andrea Dawn Clark

A Voice for Victims

Political Science Associate Professor Verónica Michel Explores Victims’ Rights in Latin America. By Shirley Del Valle

Donor Profile: Living with Integrity

Nasser J. Kazeminy, Chairman of the Ellis Island Honors Society, shares how he’s faced every challenge in his life with curiosity, compassion, and integrity. By Andrea Dawn Clark

Flashback -1984

Reverend Jesse Jackson, a potential democratic nominee for president of the United States spoke at John Jay one evening in...

Understanding the Legacy

John Jay students, faculty, and staff visit the birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement and contemplate the unsettling history of race in America. By Andrea Dawn Clark

LEAP Forward

The newest student-success initiative that supports second-semester freshmen, through their sophomore year, with intensive academic advisement, experiential learning, and career-focused internships. By Mary Anderson

In Solidarity with El Paso

Through its ties with the University of Texas at El Paso and the El Paso Project, John Jay’s Latin American and Latinx Studies Department seeks to educate, encourage, and empower our Latinx community. By Shirley Del Valle

Class of 2019 Then & Now

This past May, the class of 2019 graduated from John Jay College. We checked in with a few of them to find out how they’re launching their careers

Karol V. Mason

Vice President for Public Affairs
and Strategic Initiatives

Laura Ginns

Chief Communications Officer
Rama Sudhakar

Senior Editor/Writer
Editorial Director

Andrea Dawn Clark

Shirley Del Valle

Contributing Writers
Mary Anderson
Michael Friedrich

Senior Designer/Art Director
Laura DeVries

Stephanie Birdsong

Copy Editor
Carey Ostergard

Arpi Pap
Andrea Dawn Clark
Gabriel Hernández Solano

Victoria Stewart-Meyers