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NYCHA to Prison Pipeline Revealed in Study Conducted by Columbia University and PNAS

Content distributed by NYC Newswire | Courtesy of Columbia University Center for Justice and PNAS

The National Executive Council of the Center for Justice has partnered with the CUNY Graduate Center to highlight structural incarceration

Against the backdrop of the United States having the highest incarceration rates in the world, researchers from Columbia University Center for Justice, CUNY Graduate Center, and Washington University in St. Louis have identified a distinct pipeline leading public housing estates at the prison. In a groundbreaking study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), researchers show that incarceration rates in New York City census tracts with public housing estates exceed incarceration rates in census tracts without public housing, even though crime rates are equivalent. They attribute this “pipeline from public housing to prisons” to the hypersurveillance and hyperpolicing of socioeconomically disadvantaged and predominantly black and Hispanic residents of New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) developments. Their findings, while centered on New York, are applicable to other cities, including Chicago, Baltimore, Boston, Cleveland, Seattle, St. Louis, and Oakland.

The study, Concentrated incarceration and pipeline from social housing to prisons in New York neighborhoods, was co-authored by Jay Holder, director of the National Executive Council of the Center for Justice at Columbia University; Ivan Calaff, researcher at the Center for Justice at Columbia University; Brett Maricque, professor of genetics at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis; and Van Tran, professor of sociology at the CUNY Graduate Center.

By analyzing census data and geocoded administrative data from 2,095 census tracts in New York City in 2010, the study finds that incarceration is spatially concentrated in census tracts with NYCHA developments. In 2010, 17% of the state’s prison population came from 372 areas with public housing estates, even though these areas accounted for only 6.3% of New York State’s population. Compared to non-NYCHA tracts, incarceration rates (per 100,000 population) were 4.6 times higher in census tracts with NYCHA developments. Additionally, 94% of areas with NYCHA developments had incarceration rates above the median of non-NYCHA areas.

“The fact that incarceration is disproportionately concentrated in disadvantaged and segregated black neighborhoods is well documented. Our study is the first to report an association between concentrated incarceration and the presence of social housing developments in a neighborhood, highlighting these developments as a key site of spatially clustered incarceration,” Tran said.

Historically, HLM housing estates have been the site of social and spatial control exercised by the police. In New York, the NYCHA Housing Authority and the NYPD have a long-term collaboration that aims to maintain social order and reduce crime. One of the unexpected results of this collaboration is the “information pipeline between police and public housing,” contributing to the hypersurveillance of NYCHA residents, developments, and neighborhoods. Additionally, policing tactics such as vertical building patrols, stop and search, zero-tolerance policing, nuisance order enforcement, and enhanced surveillance technologies such as the ubiquitous cameras in NYCHA compounds have a disproportionate impact on NYCHA residents, resulting in many negative interactions with police. .

Research on this topic is urgent. Through the Justice-in-Education initiative, funded by the Mellon Foundation at Columbia University’s Center for Justice and the Columbia University School of Professional Studies (SPS), students Holder and Calaff began to see patterns in data that reflected their lived experiences. HLM which were at the origin of the study with Tran and Maricque.

“We can dive into the issues, but the question under consideration is who wants to sit at the table with scholars from these neighborhoods and explore solutions,” Holder said. “The success of any thriving community is a function of the resources and opportunities available to it and its residents,” Calaff said. “We have the means and the resources to create pipelines to success, however we define success. Yet somehow these means have been diverted to the hypersurveillance and hyperpolicing of our communities of color. We need to give ourselves more credit and do better with our underserved communities.

Holder emphasizes the importance of such studies in advancing potential cures. “This study exists because of our lived experience, our education, and our collaboration with academic actors who understand that if there is a pipeline to prison, there must be a way out,” he said. “For Ivan and I, it’s been access to Columbia where we run our own initiatives.”

The study indicates three ways to improve the current system. First, an alternative to absolute reliance on the police to establish safety in NYCHA communities is the employment of formerly incarcerated individuals to help mediate violence in their own communities. It’s called the Crisis Management System in New York, a public health approach to violence known around the world as the Violence Healing Model.

Second, public poverty deconcentration policies must address the root causes of mass incarceration in public housing estates: intergenerational poverty, trauma, and violence in the context of structural racism.

Third, it is essential to create leadership opportunities for those directly affected by incarceration, including education, advocacy, civic engagement, research and policy development and implementation of policies. “The work that Jay and Ivan do with Columbia’s National Executive Council is so important,” Maricque said. “We need more spaces for people with lived experience to learn skills and tools and conduct research projects in their communities. We plan to replicate our partnership.

About CUNY Graduate Center

The CUNY Graduate Center is a leader in public higher education dedicated to enhancing the public good through pioneering research, thoughtful learning, and reasoned debate. The Graduate Center offers ambitious students nearly 50 doctoral and master’s programs of the highest caliber, taught by top faculty from across CUNY, the nation’s largest urban public university. Through its nearly 40 centers, institutes, initiatives, and the Center for Advanced Scientific Research, the Graduate Center influences public policy and discourse and shapes innovation.

About the Center for Justice at Columbia University

The Center for Justice is committed to ending mass incarceration and criminalization and advancing alternative approaches to justice and security through education, research, and policy change. Its mission is to help transform approaches to justice, which are no longer focused on punishment and retribution, but centered on prevention and healing. The Center is interdisciplinary and works in partnership with schools, departments, centers and institutes in Colombia, other universities, government agencies, community organizations, advocates and those directly affected by the criminal justice system.

About Columbia School of Professional Studies

As one of seventeen prestigious schools affiliated with Columbia University, the School of Professional Studies is committed to supporting a diverse community of faculty, students, and staff, while expanding the scope and impact of an Ivy League education so more students can excel in their careers. The school builds and offers flexible programs at the highest level for a wide range of people that lead to incredible professional and educational results.

Read the study here

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