Mar 04, 2011 Ken Jackson Uncategorized
This is based on the true story of how the justice system failed an ambitious, bright Syracuse man.
There once was a young man, I’ll call him George. George is tall and dark and, with a hoodie, could easily fit into an urban stereotype but once he smiled or held a door for a little old lady that reaction quickly dissipated.
Unable to find work he found a variety of jobs, most part-time, but would always be available to shovel snow or mow the lawn for a nearby neighborhood woman’s property. It wouldn’t matter what the weather was like, if she or any of her friends needed anything done he’d gladly do it.
She got him involved in politics. Going door-to-door for a host of city candidates he learned about many parts of Syracuse he’d never seen since his family had no car. “Wow, this is a big house,” he’d proclaim as he dumped another load of pamphlets in a ritzy Syracuse neighborhood.
Things were going well for George. He was meeting the right people. Not one to gab, he’d gently nod when introduced to some of the most recognizable political figures in Syracuse Democratic circles.
He was so good that a political party hired him to do some canvassing work in the middle of the most recent hotly contested mayor’s race.
“Maybe this will lead to a full-time job somewhere,” he thought.
Towards the end of the campaign George decided to go to visit a relative in a local housing project. On a bike and wearing a dark hoodie he could have been any kid racing home to play a video game or mix some beats on his computer.
With a freshly-printed paycheck in his back pocket (from the job he’d just left for the day), he started his bike ride. It wasn’t long before he was stopped by the Syracuse Police and arrested for being party to a crime.
Those who knew him tried to help, but not even documentation that there was no way he could have been anywhere near the crime scene would convince the authorities that this young man had nothing to do with what he was being held for.
The woman, who had by now become a surrogate mom to George, tried to get him released.
Those in our criminal justice system told her, and the defendant, “just wait and he’ll eventually be released.”
Hmmmm? Just wait?
Well, wait he did, and wait and wait… days, weeks and months passed by and still no charges and still no release.
Eventually, what those working within the justice system said came true. He was released, the police had found the true culprits of the crime for which he had been detained. But not before spending more than six months languishing in our local lockup, ironically called the Justice Center.
By the way, the candidate he was canvassing for won the race. And now the same person has done what other mayors and police chiefs have only dreamed of achieving: destroying what was left of the dysfunctional Citizen Review Board.
The CRB was created to ensure that people like George, who are failed and mishandled by the system, have an advocate.
Removing Ms. Felicia Davis from the CRB director’s position and locking the entire board out of the office did nothing but bring light to what was already a dysfunctional board with an even more dysfunctional firing.
Ken is the editor of Urban CNY and contributes a weekly column to The Eagle. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.