UC Joins Five Other Area Colleges in Partnership for Racial Justice Reform

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“The colleges in our community are well situated to move the racial equity agenda forward..."

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Utica College has joined with five other area colleges to form The College/Community Partnership for Racial Justice Reform. Hamilton College, Herkimer College, Mohawk Valley Community College, Pratt MWP, SUNY Polytechnic Institute (SUNY Poly) and Utica College formed the partnership earlier this year with support from the Community Foundation of Herkimer and Oneida Counties, Frontiers Club of the Mohawk Valley, and the United Way of the Mohawk Valley. The goal is to pursue constructive, equitable change in the criminal justice system locally and statewide. The committee’s diverse membership also includes members of law enforcement organizations, attorneys, elected officials, and members of other groups working on similar issues.

Founded by Hamilton College’s Maynard-Knox Professor of Law Frank Anechiarico, the partnership seeks to be a resource for the community and local government in response to the Black Lives Matter movement and, specifically, to Governor Cuomo's executive order 203. This order requires that all jurisdictions with police agencies forward detailed reform plans to Albany by April 1, 2021, that take racial justice into account and that source local experience and opinion in doing so.

In addressing this mission, the partnership’s initiatives include: 

  • A survey of experience and opinion about law enforcement, racial justice, and criminal justice more generally funded by Hamilton College’s Levitt Center for Public Affairs and conducted by Zogby Analytics. 
  • Use of the United Way's 2-1-1 system to deploy the same survey so that anyone with a text capable phone will be able to have his or her voice heard. This capability, funded by the Community Foundation, will allow each jurisdiction to collect grass-roots data by persuading constituents to take the survey.
  • An eight-part lecture/webinar/Q&A series that covers Black Lives Matters, police use of force, the treatment of people with mental illness in the criminal justice system, domestic violence, and other issues relevant to effective reform. The lectures will be delivered by faculty and staff from partnership member institutions. The series will be broadcast by WUTR/PNR and accessible via Zoom at https://hamilton.zoom.us/j/95519564026
  • Contact with the chief executive officers of each of the 24 policing jurisdictions in the two counties to open discussion about the way the Partnership’s work and resources can be leveraged by each jurisdiction in the reform process.

The community-based outreach data collected from the partnership survey will be analyzed in a Law and Justice Lab course at Hamilton College. The Hamilton course is offered in coordination with a similar course at Utica College. The Utica College course will collect and analyze data from interviews with criminal justice administrators in a number of jurisdictions, and thus provide feedback from stakeholders. Both courses will also research and compile evidence-based best practices in the widerange of policy areas related to criminal justice reform and ensuring racial equity.

The last part of the mandated process, the presentation of a plan for public comment, will offer an opportunity to present to residents what the partnership has found from community discussion in the lecture series, the public survey, and research into evidence-based best practices, through public hearings and other means toward a set of policy reforms that will meet the April 1 deadline.

“The colleges in our community are well situated to move the racial equity agenda forward. Our approach to the complexity of criminal justice is to listen to the voices of those served by criminal justice agencies and to form partnerships with others working toward racial justice and community engagement on parallel tracks,” said Anechiarico. “This is an agenda shared by the leadership of each institution, and we have been assured of their support.”

The Colleges and Community Partnership for Racial Justice Reform Coordinating Committee includes Frank Anechiarico, Department of Government, Hamilton College, Convener and Chair; Anthony Colon, Mitchell International and MVCC Trustees; Bernard Hyman, Professor of Practice in Economic Crime Management, director of the Economic Crime and Cybersecurity Institute at Utica College and former Oneida County Assistant District Attorney; Gbemende Johnson, Department of Government, Hamilton College; Marquis Palmer, Office of the Kings County, New York, District Attorney; Jawwaad Rasheed, Oneida County Family Court Magistrate and President, Frontiers Club of Mohawk Valley; and Veronica Tichenor, Department of Sociology, SUNY Poly.

“No system is perfect. From time to time, systems must be evaluated and improved. All facets of the criminal justice system are due for such an evaluation. We are here to bridge the gap between the community and law enforcement and to facilitate agreement between the community and those sworn to serve it,” said Hyman.

Free Online Lecture/Discussion Webinar Schedule available on WUTR/PNY at 7 p.m. and via Zoom at https://hamilton.zoom.us/j/95519564026:

September 23 - Black Lives Matter: The Movement and Its Importance to the Entire Community

Where the movement came from, 2020 development including demands to abolish or defund the police, opportunities to address institutional discrimination, establish guardian/community-oriented law enforcement and reform, other community issues, domestic violence, mental health issues, etc.)

September 30 - What is Systemic, or Institutional, Racism?

Historical roots, international examples and the current American experience of racism. What forms does it take? The damage done to families, public health, and education. How to restore community wellness in affected neighborhoods

  • October 7 - Why is Diversity Not Enough? Training and Best Practices for Policing Reform

The need for more diversity in criminal justice agencies, how organizational culture and role identity override diversity’s positive effects, re-forming criminal justice agencies through accountability and inclusion

  • October 14 - Understanding the Use of Force

Legal standards in New York state, training, interpretations in community, stop/question/frisk, de-escalation and traffic stops, alternative best practices

  • October 21 - Justice in the Process

Operations of the courts, plea bargaining and the effects of race and poverty, restorative justice as an alternative

  • October 28 - Punishment and Corrections

Issues in county jails and probation, including education in the jails and re-entry best practices

  • November 4 - How Are We Handling Domestic Violence and Mental Health Interventions?

An examination of these both in the community and in the courts

  • January 27, 2021 - Next Steps toward Accountability and Reform

Releases of Records, barriers to accountability or reform, citizen review and oversight. The Utica College-Hamilton College review of experience and evaluation of citizens and criminal justice officials