As a pretrial associate for the New York City Criminal Justice Agency, Bronx native Jordy Torres, 24, witnesses how crime and the criminal justice system strain his community. The Criminal Justice Agency, a nonprofit funded by the city works within the court system to reduce incarceration for people awaiting trial. As part of the process, defendants sit down with the 6-foot-4-inch tall Torres at central booking before being taken to court to face a judge in arraignments. Their answers to Torres’ checklist of questions help determine bail recommendations.
WHAT MOMENTS IN YOUR CHILDHOOD STEERED YOU TOWARDS CRIMINAL JUSTICE?
I’m from the Bronx. I’ve seen a lot of different encounters with police. … . So when growing up, it was like, I want to try to make some sort of kind of difference. … I’ve seen a lot of misconduct by police officers and … it’s like people don’t get along with the police because of the way they treat us.
HAVE YOU HAD A SPECIFIC EXPERIENCE?
Yes. … About two years ago I was sitting down in my courtyard eating a sandwich. … The officer comes out [of] the building and he runs inside my book bag, and I asked him, ‘What are you doing while you were in my book bag?’ … The officer never answer me. … He kept going through my book bags, so I got a little bit more aggressive. Like, ‘What are you doing?’ … I got arrested for littering, unreasonable loud noise, blocking the pedestrian walkway. I missed work.
NOW THAT YOU’RE WORKING WITHIN THE COURT SYSTEM, HOW HAS YOUR VIEW ON THE SYSTEM CHANGED?
Well, inside here [the Bronx Criminal Court], it’s all peaceful, and it’s all good. I’m from the Bronx like I said. I’m a minority, and I get treated good. It’s different when you’re outside than when you’re inside. … I also see some people that come in for charges, … and I’m like ’You serious. You’re really here for this?’ Sometimes [they] tell you what they got arrested for, and you just think like, wow, you’re really here for this B.S.
DO YOU EVER ACTUALLY SAY THAT OUT LOUD?
No. … I can’t. I can’t tell them that because then I’m making the police look bad.
WHAT GOES THROUGH YOUR HEAD WHEN YOU SEE PEOPLE YOU GREW UP WITH IN THE BRONX IN JAIL?
I try to duck them.
Because I don’t want nobody like, ‘Hey Jordy, what’s going on?’… I do see a lot of people that I know that I went to school with or that I’ve seen around the area. … So after they get interviewed by one of my coworkers I tell them like, ‘Oh you have to get your life together.’ Especially like younger people. And say they haven’t finished school or they have a family, have kids. I put them like ‘You have to get a job. You have to go back at least get your GED. Do something. Do something positive with your life because this is not the positive route.’
IS THAT AWKWARD?
I think it’s awkward on both sides. Because there’s some people that look at you and like, ‘Oh, now you know what I’m here for. You know my charges.’ … I’m not allowed to talk about anybody’s charges outside of the work. … But … I don’t want them going around … ‘Like, oh, he works at central booking. He looks at us. He may be snitching on him’ or something like that.
DO YOU LOVE THE BRONX?
I’m tired of the Bronx. … I have a lot of family here. That’s about it.
WHY ARE YOU TIRED OF THE BRONX?
All the negative stuff that’s happening. … The arrests … in the Bronx are pretty high, and the charges that people face in the Bronx is sickening. … You deal with a lot of assaults. … I want to get away from this. I want to start a family … but not in the Bronx because I don’t want my family, my kids, grow up dealing with what I had to deal with, all the negatives and seeing all this.
Header Photo by Izhar Khan.