Dem House Candidate in NYC Supports Replacing Jail Time with Art Class


Jamaal Bowman, a hard-left candidate looking to primary New York Democratic Rep. Eliot Engel out of a seat in New York’s 16th Congressional District, is a former middle school principal.

A lot of the solutions he proposes were no doubt shaped by his milieu.

There is a limit to what I can reasonably understand, however, and that limit has long since been reached when Bowman suggests one way to deal with crime is to let certain offenders take a two-hour art class instead of face court and jail and.

That’s apparently one of the Bowman campaign’s positions, at least when you consider a tweet from the candidate on Wednesday.

Bowman, who’s looking to turn Engel — a powerful member of the Democratic House caucus — into the next Joe Crowley, is a candidate supported by the Justice Democrats, the same group that propelled Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar to victory in 2018.

According to the Washington Free Beacon, he’s a Green New Deal supporter who calls “white male domestic terrorism” the “biggest issue in our country” and thinks police ought to be disarmed.

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Just from this information, we kind of know the caliber of individual we’re dealing with here.

However, even for someone with those pie-in-the-sky bona fides, the idea that he would support replacing jail time with art class on a wider scale is a bit, well, unusual.

Do you think art classes in a museum should replace jail time for certain offenders?

To be fair, it wasn’t his idea.

This is something that New York City is already doing with low-level crimes, according to WCBS-TV.

“If you’re arrested for fare beating, painting graffiti, shoplifting and other low-level offenses, you can skip a court appearance and avoid jail by taking an art course,” the Oct. 2 article read.

“It’s called ‘Project Reset,’ and is the brain child of [Brooklyn District Attorney Eric] Gonzalez. If you’re arrested for a non-violent offense and are given a desk appearance ticket, you can take a two-hour course at the Brooklyn Museum.

“When you’re finished, the DA declines to prosecute.”

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The program “requires individuals to view and discuss a piece of art with people they don’t know. They’re asked to create their own art, to think and find meaning in that art,” Gonzalez said.

Bowman tweeted a similar article which used the information from WCBS-TV this past week:

“It’s about holding people accountable, but doing it in ways that promote human dignity,” Gonzalez said.

The accountability has to do with a two-hour session in which two groups, separated by age, each examine a different painting, according to Hyperallergic, a Brooklyn-based online arts magazine.

“It definitely helped me avoid the anxiety of having to attend an actual court date for a mistake I made,” Jessy Singh, who was arrested for shoplifting but participated in the program, told WCBS-TV.

“It helped to make me feel human in a system that often criminalizes people for like the smallest of things, bad choices, wrong place wrong time.”

Shoplifting is a bad choice, but it usually isn’t “wrong place wrong time.”

What’s ironic, however, is that this is the quote that Bowman decided to pull from the piece.

Curiously, he didn’t mention that Singh had been arrested for shoplifting.

On Bowman’s Twitter profile, he describes himself as follows: “Former middle school principal. I’m running for Congress because NY-16 deserves a Democrat who will fight for jobs and education, not bombs and incarceration.”

That’s fair, but at some point you have to ask why he supports this art program as an alternative to incarceration.

My guess is that this isn’t one of those cases where he can say “RTs ≠ Endorsement.”

So are we to assume he approves?

Are we supposed to extrapolate that he wants to bring this to the rest of us?

Is he going to expand it?

Whatever the case, I never thought I would say this, but I hope that Eliot Engel has nothing to worry about.

Then again, I think I would have said the same thing about Joe Crowley just 2 years ago, had I known then about AOC’s policies.

Woe be unto us if this former middle school principal brings what amounts to a detention plan in an art museum to the entire nation in lieu of actual low-level criminal deterrence.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture