De Blasio Taps Team to Push 'Progressive' Approach to Criminal Justice

By Colby Hamilton on March 11, 2014 8:59pm 

 Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton announce a series of new criminal justice appointments on March 11, 2014, including the new director of the Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice, Elizabeth Glazer, and Senior Advisor to the Office of Criminal Justice, Vincent Schiraldi.
Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton announce a series of new criminal justice appointments on March 11, 2014, including the new director of the Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice, Elizabeth Glazer, and Senior Advisor to the Office of Criminal Justice, Vincent Schiraldi.
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DNAinfo/Colby Hamilton

CIVIC CENTER — Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton unveiled a series of new appointees to oversee the city's law enforcement and criminal justice departments, promising a new approach to crime fighting and rehabilitation.

“We know that they’ll make sure the laws of this city will be enforced; that they’ll be enforced effectively, and they’ll be enforced fairly,” de Blasio told reporters at the appointments announcement on Tuesday.

The Mayor named Joseph Ponte the new commissioner of the city’s Department of Correction. Ponte comes to the city after serving as the head of the Maine Department of Corrections for the past three years. Ponte also served as warden in a number of other states, including New Jersey, Florida and Nevada.

De Blasio praised Ponte’s experience, saying his time served rising through the ranks, from corrections officer to the head of jail systems, gave him a valuable perspective.

“He has that grassroots understanding, but he also understands what’s happening all over the country. He understands the reforms that are working. He understands how to innovate,” de Blasio said.

Ponte, a Massachusetts native, said his goal was to create a system that “treats the offenders so they’re better on the way out than they were on the way in.”

He said the strategies he was taught coming up in the criminal justice system, such as the use of isolation and segregation in prisons, is now being reconsidered.

“The leadership across the country has really been moving in a direction that, we’ve proven ourselves wrong,” he said. “Research gathered out there’s saying that our practices were really in conflict with our mission.”

Ponte said he wanted to “talk to everybody and bring everybody to the table to make a plan that works for New York.”

The Mayor also appointed a new head of the Department of Probation, Ana Bermúdez, who has been serving as a deputy commissioner for the department, focusing on juvenile operations.

Bermúdez said the probation system is known more now “for creating barriers than opportunities for success” and said the solution was to look at a “wide variety of community-based alternatives” to incarceration, especially when it comes to young men of color.

Her goal, Bermúdez said, was to see a permanent exit to those in the probation system.

“I love to be out of a job for the right reasons,” she said.

De Blasio also named two top criminal justice advisors. Elizabeth Glazer, who recently served as a chief criminal justice and homeland security advisor to Governor Andrew Cuomo, will serve as director of the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice. Vincent Schiraldi, who is the departing head of the Department of Probations, will join the office as her senior advisor.

Commissioner Bratton said he was encouraged by the nominees, who were focused "not only the idea of reducing crime, but trying to find ways to prevent it from occurring," while figuring out how to "work with people to keep them out of a life of crime in the first place."

He said what he had heard from Ponte, Bermúdez and the others was "music to my ears."

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