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RISE Court Graduates Speak of Second Chances Amid Stevenson Tales of Death Row at SDNY

by Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon Book Substack

SDNY COURTHOUSE, June 13 – "I hope I never see you again." Inner City Press has heard and documented this being said by judges at sentencing proceedings in more than one Federal court district.  

  The phrase sometimes unpacked or qualified: I hope I never see in my courtroom on a violation of supervised release, but if you see me in the street, approach and we'll get a slice of pizza. (Given the context, no one says, We'll have a beer.) 

  But at the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on June 13, the approach described was different. Graduates of the Reentry through Intensive Supervision and Employment Court (RISE Court) spoke, about how they had turned their lives around. Judge Denny Chin, and Magistrate Judges Cott and Cave introduced the graduates. At least two other Second Circuit judges, and many District Court and Magistrate Judges, where there.

  The first speakers was Bryan Stevenson, responsible for reversing 140 death penalty convictions over a long career as the founder  and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative. He described his work on death row, and now in Montgomery, Alabama.

On attended, Judge Richard M. Berman has a complementary approach.  

  He calls it Court-Involved Supervised Release and in his June 10 report, "Judges Need to Walk the Walk" he emphasizes that "By re-focusing their attention upon criminal case supervision, judges will make an enormous positive impact upon recidivism (re-offending)." 

 The approach involved six to ten supervision proceedings a year, not just waiting to see if there is a violation of supervised release.

To Judge Berman's credit, he does many, even most of these by video conference, despite some arguing this is not available in Federal criminal cases.

Even more to his credit, he dockets a public call-in line, which often Inner City Press is the only one to use. It is appreciated.

  Judge Berman's report has anonymized case studies and statistics. For now we'll note that his approach is being passed on.

 For example, SDNY Magistrate Judge Sarah L. Cave on June 10, in a proceeding only covered by Inner City Press, overrode a remand recommendation by Probation and released a defendant, on the condition that he have a call with her (and Probation) the following week.  

The approach may not always work - what does? - but it can't hurt.

Once, admittedly, Inner City Press covered the proceeding of a defendant who said, Enough calls, I'd rather just serve my time and be done. Sadly, the defendant is dead. Inner City Press will continue to cover such reports, and cases, and calls. Watch this site.


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