As the former ranking member of the Crime Victims, Crime and Corrections Committee, Gustavo Rivera takes an active role in looking at all pieces of legislation that have to do with the criminal justice system even before they are voted on in the State Senate. With Republicans in control of the State Senate, there has been a focus on making more crimes into felonies and keeping anyone who commits a crime locked up for longer. Gustavo does not believe that tougher penalties are going to make New Yorkers safer or do much to truly reform the criminal justice system.
Addressing Issues of Recidivism
More than 90% of individuals who are in prison return to communities like the ones that Gustavo represents in the State Senate. Gustavo believes we need to focus on preparing incarcerated individuals for when they are released and helping them become a more productive member of society. There are certain factors that determine whether an individual will successfully re-enter society after being in prison: close ties to family and friends, having a place to live and being able to get a job. As a State Senator, Gustavo has made it a priority to push for legislation and projects that considers these factors.
Gustavo introduced legislation with Assembly Member Marcos Crespo that would create a pilot program for incarcerated parents to be housed close to their children. This pilot program would give us data as to whether being close to one’s family plays has a positive impact on individuals who are released from prison and whether they are able to successfully reintegrate into the community.
Making the Justice System More Just
Unfortunately, there are times when the justice system can treat some people differently than others, especially as it relates to their financial ability to post bail. That is why Gustavo Rivera introduced and passed legislation to allow for the creation of charitable bail funds or non-profit organizations that would be able to post bail for individuals who cannot afford to do so on their own. When talking to community organizations, Gustavo found out that some individuals rather plead guilty to a misdemeanor they did not commit over spending time in jail because they cannot afford bail. In this case, Gustavo saw that thejustice system was not working in a way that was fair to all individuals across the board and took action.