No New Jails.
July 21, 2019 8:51 AM   Subscribe

“Communities most affected by both crime and incarceration are overpoliced and underprotected. In 2018, the NYPD made 808 arrests for rape, but over 5,000 arrests for fare evasion. To remedy this, the city should facilitate community oversight of police and prosecutors, and significantly expand the scope and funding of its participatory budgeting program with a focus on communities that experience the most crime. “ Incarceration Is Always A Policy Failure
posted by The Whelk (22 comments total) 40 users marked this as a favorite
 
I remember reading in a Matt Taibbi book that in the South (?) Bronx, there were 250,000 arrests per year and only like 80,000 adults. So each adult got arrested, on average, 3 times per year.

It's really insane. The police just become an occupying force at that point.
posted by klevertree at 9:49 AM on July 21 [5 favorites]


Every Blue Lives Matter, Law and Order voter firmly believes the law exists to protect "good guys" (people they view as fully human) and to regulate "bad guys" (everyone else).

None of them see the above issues as a failure by any means.
posted by Reyturner at 10:41 AM on July 21 [5 favorites]


If there is no penalty for fare evasion, would folks still feel obligated to pay? I'd like to believe that most people "do the right thing" and pay for their tickets/tokens (we don't have much mass transit in my city), but I can easily see a "Hey, if those two guys in front of my jumped the turnstile and rode for free without getting stopped, why am I being a sap and paying for my ticket?" mentality eventually taking over.
posted by Oriole Adams at 11:22 AM on July 21


Make public transit free, then. The value of public transit is that is moves people between where they live and where they work and play. It's a public good that pays dividends the more it's used. Charge the people who benefit the most from the productivity enabled by this public good (the wealthy) what it costs to run the system. Insisting on doubling down on regressive taxes and enforcement to pay for it really reveals who you believe this society exists to support and reward.
posted by Reyturner at 11:25 AM on July 21 [54 favorites]






If there is no penalty for fare evasion, would folks still feel obligated to pay?

I don't know Chicago policies today, but in the second half of the 80s there were automated turnstiles and one station agent at the booth on Addison street, and all of us kids traveling to and from school would jump the turnstiles en masse on a regular basis when:

- it was really cold; and
- we got off the Addison street bus and could hear the train arriving

We'd jump with tokens or money in our hands, sometimes, just to make sure we would catch the train and not have to stand on the unheated, exposed outdoor platform for the next train to stop (at the time, the system had an A/B/AB system and Addison wasn't an AB stop, so that meant double the wait.)

If it wasn't cold, you'd get an occasional jumper, but rarely, and only if the train was just arriving, but not en masse. Mostly we paid the fare all year long. This was the pattern for everyone I knew, and myself, for four years, and there weren't even rumors that anyone ever got so much as a good talking-to.

Anecdotal, but if packs of roving teenagers didn't turn to fare evasion full time, perhaps there is something to work with here.
posted by davejay at 12:36 PM on July 21 [7 favorites]


If there is no penalty for fare evasion, would folks still feel obligated to pay?

Penalties such as these do not apply uniformly.

In San Francisco I often hear wealthy trust funders laughing about not paying the $2.75 for the bus.

You get caught, it's like $100. What do they care? They almost never get caught and they don't care about the $200. Plus having to fidget over those passes are so... prole.

Last week the MUNI cops pulled an older lady off for not paying. She started bawling. If she was late to work again she'd be fired. She needed this job. She would have to cry, standing, on the sidewalk that morning, and then rush to work to get fired.
posted by zerolives at 1:17 PM on July 21 [21 favorites]


If there is no penalty for fare evasion, would folks still feel obligated to pay?

So, mass transit in Germany back in the late 80s worked like this: you had tickets you bought, often sold at the corner store, or dispensed at certain transit stops, which when you got onto a transit vehicle, you slid into a time stamper. Your ticket was then good for something like 2-3 hours after it was stamped, and would get you on and off any transit. There were no turnstiles anywhere, it was all the honor system that you stamped your ticket.

But there were transit cops around, looking for "black riders", people who didn't have on them a valid stamped ticket. Those people were given pretty hefty fines for their non-compliance.

Basically everyone bought tickets and stamped them. Although riding without paying for one or two stops wasn't uncommon, riding for any distance was nearly always paid for.

It's a matter of cultural values and method of enforcement, really.
posted by hippybear at 1:17 PM on July 21 [1 favorite]


If there is no penalty for fare evasion, would folks still feel obligated to pay?

Falling short of Reyturner's approach, arrests are not the only means of fare enforcement. NYPD isn't even supposed to be arresting people for fare evasion anymore (though they still are).
posted by praemunire at 2:19 PM on July 21 [6 favorites]


Theres no reason to treat fare evasion more harshly than not paying the parking meter. If anything, fare evasion is less harmful, since it isn't depriving anyone else of the ability to ride the subway, whereas no two cars can park in the same space.
posted by burden at 2:46 PM on July 21 [21 favorites]


Make public transit free, then.

That solution turns this problem into an even bigger, different problem. In NYC, fares cover 47% of the cost of operations. You're talking about doubling the amount of tax money that goes to transit operations. Actually more than doubling because ridership would go up and require a higher level of service.

Low income monthly passes on a sliding scale is a solution that works where I live. They can cost as low as $5 for the poorest users, but most people still pay the full $106.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 3:26 PM on July 21 [5 favorites]


That solution turns this problem into an even bigger, different problem. In NYC, fares cover 47% of the cost of operations. You're talking about doubling the amount of tax money that goes to transit operations. Actually more than doubling because ridership would go up and require a higher level of service. -- posted by Pruitt-Igoe
Yes, but the economic benefits of increased employee mobility would soon result in increased tax revenue that far exceeds the cost.

Also, payment processing and enforcement isn't free, so that would be a cost that you would no longer have.
posted by krisjohn at 4:07 PM on July 21 [16 favorites]


"Yes, but the economic benefits of increased employee mobility would soon result in increased tax revenue that far exceeds the cost."

Vastly increased economic benefits for the wealthy? That's who will be paying for the free public transit, and the rest of us are hardly a bus pass away from joining their ranks.

Also, what's the practical effect of green spaces on crime rates?
posted by Selena777 at 4:56 PM on July 21 [1 favorite]


You're talking about doubling the amount of tax money that goes to transit operations.

From what I could find online to input into a back of the envelope calculation, this would mean each tax payer paying about an extra $200 a year. It's not nothing, but it's also a pretty good deal.
posted by lollusc at 5:01 PM on July 21 [1 favorite]


Vastly increased economic benefits for the wealthy? That's who will be paying for the free public transit-- posted by Selena777
It's cute that you think the wealthy power the economy. The tax burden falls largely below the average wage. Neither wealthy individuals , nor large business pay their fair share of taxes. If they did, public transport would probably already be free, along with health care and education , and most western economies wouldn't have an infrastructure maintenance crisis.
posted by krisjohn at 5:39 PM on July 21 [10 favorites]


Super cool that a thread about strategies for reducing incarceration has instead turned into an argument about how to pay for the subway.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 5:59 PM on July 21 [11 favorites]


super cool that you don't think those things are connected
posted by Reyturner at 6:02 PM on July 21 [1 favorite]


One comment about “how will we pay for the subway if we don’t arrest people” has derailed the whole thread away from what the article is actually about. The point of the article is that you can reduce incarceration rates simply by having fewer prisons. Or, inversely, how more prison beds will lead to more arrests. Debating the justification for those arrests is beside the point, because the cops can always find a justification (and under the current system, had every incentive to do so). It’s not an economic argument, it’s not a “how do we keep our society” argument, it’s a question of the causes and effects of incarceration. Making it about the economics of mass transit gives implicit approval to the idea that arrests are necessary to combat fare evasion. “We won’t need to arrest people because it’ll be paid for by X.” Sure, let’s make public transit free, but let’s also look at rates of arrest — the thing the article is about. The city is building new prisons, and those beds will be filled, whether by turnstile jumpers or other people.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 6:20 PM on July 21 [22 favorites]


From what I could find online to input into a back of the envelope calculation, this would mean each tax payer paying about an extra $200 a year.

Fares bring in $6.3 billion per year. That's about $2000 per housing unit.

the economic benefits of increased employee mobility would soon result in increased tax revenue that far exceeds the cost.

I'm not sure what this means. A free subway means free mobility for those who can't currently afford the subway, and a nice rebate for everyone else who used to pay the fare. I can see an effect on the economy, but you think it would far exceed $6.3 billion a year in increased tax revenue?
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 10:22 PM on July 21 [1 favorite]


betcha it would far exceed new productivity generated through spending the same amount on jails, tho.
posted by Reyturner at 8:17 AM on July 22


Yeah, getting back to the article
"When the jail closure was announced, critics feared that crime would skyrocket as a result of limited jail space, but the opposite was true. From 2008 to 2014, violent crime in Cincinnati dropped by 38.5 percent, property crime by 18.9 percent. Felony arrests dropped by 41.3 percent, and misdemeanor arrests by 32.7 percent. Engel noted that crime and arrests were already on the decline in Cincinnati before the jail’s closure, but stressed that “the continuation of these downward trends, uninterrupted by the jail closure, is powerful.”"

It's good to have it in a study, in numbers. It seems like, more and more, people are understanding that the world isn't just cause and effect, sometimes it works backwards. People tend to act in ways that society is built for, rather than society just being built for human actions. It's like an article I read here on the blue, a consultant or big wig was questioned about a lot of seeming small and insignificant company policies. He found that people tend to conform to the expectations of their environment, and having a well-defined "safety culture" meant workers took care in other places.
posted by FirstMateKate at 9:26 AM on July 22 [4 favorites]


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