In a rambling answer at a forum on the Rikers Island jail, mayoral front-runner Andrew Yang said Tuesday he’d decriminalize “sex crime” as well as “possession of opiates.”
“The first thing we need to do is decriminalize things that aren’t really hurting people or the public interest so much,” Yang said during a Freedom Agenda interview that aired Tuesday night, when asked what he’d do to reduce the city’s jail population.
“I’ve committed to decriminalizing sex crime, as one example. I’ve committed to decriminalizing possession of opiates for personal use, not to sell or traffic or profit from.”
The mayor cannot on their own decriminalize or legalize use of drugs or sex work — that is a change that would need to be enacted by the state Legislature, but City Hall can direct how much the NYPD focuses on drug and sex worker arrests.
The city, Yang said, should “focus on the things that actually genuinely concern our own public safety,” so that there will be “fewer people thrown in jail.”
This isn’t the first time Yang has signaled left-leaning impulses on criminal justice matters. He said in March he would direct district attorneys — whom the mayor does not supervise — to not prosecute people for possessing small amounts of drugs.
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, a former cop who trails behind Yang in most mayoral polls, said at the March forum he had a more punitive perspective.
“I don’t support that,” he said of decriminalizing personal drug use. “I’m an ex [police officer]. So, I have a different view of some of these things.”
“I don’t support the legalization of heroin, I don’t support the legalization of those serious drugs at all.”