Activists alarmed by Broome County’s high incarceration rate plan to monitor courts

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New York activists concerned about the incarceration rates at the Broome County Jail have launched an effort to better understand how the inmates got there.

A couple dozen people from a variety of organizations gathered outside of the Broome County Courthouse Thursday morning to announce “Pack The Court Action.”

The activists said that Broome has the highest incarceration rate in the state and that black people are 10 times more likely to be jailed in Broome than white people, double the national average.

Members of the groups spent a part of their morning in the courtrooms of Judge Joe Cawley and Judge Kevin Dooley as they presided over the day’s felony docket.

The observers were asked to record the names of defendants, their charges and what plea deals they were offered.

They also were asked to make note of the tone of the judges and lawyers involved and anything that stood out.

Broome-Tioga NAACP President Micah Barreiro said, “We will be watching. We’re not here to interfere, we’re not here to protest in the courts or say anything to the lawyers or the other people that are around. We’re here simply to watch.”

The Community Court Watch is comprised of members of Citizen Action, Justice and Unity for the Southern Tier, or JUST, the Broome-Tioga NAACP, Truth Pharm and PLOT, plus members of the local faith community.

The group plans to monitor the courts using volunteers every day for at least the next month before compiling their results into a report.

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