TREATING GUN VIOLENCE AS A PUBLIC HEALTH ISSUE
Melinda will decrease the need for prosecutions and incarceration by decreasing the incidences of violence in the community.
While overall crime is down across the City, we still have dangerous levels of violent crimes in many neighborhoods; crime that has proven highly resistant to traditional law enforcement models.
Part of the problem is a failure to recognize that crime acts much like a disease and exists as a public health threat, and thus demands a public health response if we are going to cure it.
Working with community groups throughout Queens, Melinda has used the Borough President’s office to help implement Cure Violence programs, introducing the concept of “violence intervention” and other wrap-around services for people on both sides of the issue. The results are clear: One of the highest crime areas in Southeast Queens went from 17 shootings and 4 gun deaths per year to zero. Similar results have been seen in Brooklyn and the Bronx, proving that this new model works, and works well. Those are real results which save lives, save young people’s futures and save taxpayer dollars.
As District Attorney, Melinda will partner with civic organizations, faith organizations and community leaders in all Queens communities plagued by gun violence to bring in an effective public health response and decrease the need for prosecutions and incarceration by decreasing the incidences of violence in the community.
We know, however, that there will still be crime, and that people will go to jail for their actions. But we have done a historically poor job of aiding the formerly incarcerated with re-entry into their community when they leave jail, which leaves many desperate and unable to find employment, increasing the chance of recidivism and a downward spiral into a life of crime. This is a cycle we must break.
When someone has paid their debt to society, we want to be able to offer every opportunity of full employment, to re-engage fully in their community and to successfully build a new life. Often the key to this is simply finding a job, but many jobs were denied to anyone with a criminal record, driving people back toward a life of crime. “Ban the box” laws are an important first step in reversing this, keeping questions about someone’s criminal history off of job applications. Equally important though, is giving someone the ability to seal their non-violent conviction record so they can move on with their lives.
As Borough President, Melinda heard far too often about people who simply could not find work, despite a willingness and ability to do a good job, because of their criminal record or an outstanding warrant for a minor quality-of-life violation. She organized with community organizations, partnered with Legal Aid attorneys to help people get their arrest record permanently sealed and worked with District Attorney Brown to give people a “Second Chance” to clear outstanding warrants with no further penalties.