Legislation to End Criminal Penalties for Subway Fare Evasion Announced by Elected Officials, ALAA, & Defender Organizations

Brooklyn, NY – The Association of Legal Aid Attorneys, along with State Senator Jesse Hamilton, Assembly Member Tremaine Wright, and Defender Organizations across the City joined together at the Franklin Ave subway station in Crown Heights, Brooklyn to announce the introduction of legislation in both houses that would decriminalize subway fare evasion, treating turnstile jumps as a civil matter rather than an arrestable offense.  ALAA President Wright read the following statement:

“I applaud Senator Hamilton and Assemblywoman Wright for taking this step today and introducing this important legislation that is finally aimed at decriminalizing jumping the turnstile to get a ride on the subway. Every day, my members serve clients who are dragged into court for low level arrests and broken windows policing. I have been a public defender for 18 years and it still amazes me that jumping the turnstile is a Class A Misdemeanor. Class A Misdemeanors hold the potential of serving up to a year in jail. A year in jail for a $2.75 subway ride.

There are approximately 20,000 low level arrests like turnstile jumps each year in NYC. 20,000 people arrested and dragged through the NYC criminal court system, many of whom spend more than a night in jail. This legislation would help turn the tide of the continued criminalization of the poor, primarily of black and brown communities in NYC.

As subway fares increase in our City, the service remains the same, or as we are seeing recently, Decreases. All the while, wages in NYC remain flat, and rents and the average day to day cost of just scraping by continues to rise. Those who cannot afford a metrocard swipe, cannot afford a night in jail.

It is clear to us that as subway fares continue to rise beyond the means of average New Yorkers, turnstile jumping should not be treated as a criminal offense. Most people don’t realize that jumping the turnstile is a misdemeanor offense. They especially don’t realize the collateral consequences that go along with such misdemeanor convictions – loss of jobs, housing, loss of custody of one’s children – all for something as simple as jumping the turnstile in the subway.

Communities are not served by having the police hide in train stations to catch offenders. They are served by redirecting the City’s resources towards social programs to uplift communities and end the cycle of poverty and criminalization.

Thank you, Senator Hamilton and Assemblywoman Wright for recognizing this and setting us down the path to decriminalize turnstile jumping by taking such offenses out of the criminal justice system.”