A Path to 80% Decarceration:

Janos Marton
Oct 21 · 22 min read

How Our Manhattan District Attorney’s Office Will Stop Relying on Jail to Solve Society’s Problems

Introduction

I am running for Manhattan District Attorney because our city’s criminal justice system is in dire need of transformation. The system in place today still reflects an assembly-line, mass incarceration approach to safety and punishment. This pursuit of harsh punishment fails both victims and defendants, fails their families, and, ultimately, fails the public by making our communities less safe.

I have been watching this system fail all my life, first growing up as a person of color in 1990s Manhattan, then later as a civil rights attorney and criminal justice advocate working to reform the same system. My experience has taught me that the goal of the criminal justice system should be to hold people accountable for the harm they cause, while doing everything in our power to stop cycles of harm from perpetuating. More often than not, to end the cycles of harm we must look beyond jail and prison as a solution to society’s problems.

The first step to breaking this cycle is a commitment to drastically lowering incarceration rates in Manhattan. Mass incarceration has corrupted every level of our criminal justice system, bringing together varied and powerful interests who profit while individuals, families, and communities are traumatized in ways that often offend any notion of justice. If we lean into the policies that we already know will make our communities healthier and safer, we can reduce our jail population by 80%. This proposal is the beginning of a roadmap to do so in Manhattan.

The time for change is now. Together, we can transform our criminal justice system, strengthen our families and communities, and create a safer city for all.

Statement of Values

The values of a District Attorney’s office must be in line with the values of the community in order for justice to be served. The values of this campaign are rooted in freedom, compassion, equity, and opportunity.

There is perhaps no more universal human desire than freedom. Our nation’s history has been defined by enslaved people and immigrants, such as my parents, risking everything in search of freedom.[1] As prosecutors, our policies must be firmly rooted in the idea that any time a human being is locked in a cage, we have collectively failed as a society. That is why in our office, the deprivation of liberty will always be used as a last resort.

Our office will pursue compassion — enacting each policy as if it were our own loved one standing across the room as a defendant or a survivor.

Our office must pursue equity and rid the District Attorney’s office of racially and economically discriminatory policies such as cash bail. Every aspect of the criminal legal system, from policing to prosecution to sentencing to re-entry, discriminates against Black and brown people. This is backed by ample data, but also the anecdotal experience of anyone who has set foot in a criminal courtroom. Our office alone cannot undue centuries of structural racism, but we will measure our success in part on how we reduce racial disparities.

Finally, in crafting mechanisms of accountability, we must maximize the opportunity for both people who cause and survive harm to heal and thrive in the long run. The goal of justice and the desired outcome of public safety will be achieved when the cycles of harm stop, and nothing can break that cycle like real opportunity.

That is why I am pledging that as Manhattan District Attorney, I will move towards ending the use of jails and prisons as vehicles of punishment when accountability, safety, and healing can be achieved in smarter and more productive ways. More specifically, I am committing to cutting Manhattan’s jail population by 80% from where it is today by the end of my first term, with the hope that as a city we will keep innovating until jails and prisons are only used as an absolute last resort.[1a]

This is the boldest decarceration platform of any District Attorney candidate in the country, and Manhattan has the resources, expertise, and community support to make this possible. Many successful programs already exist and just need to be brought to scale, as proposed recently by groups such as JustLeadershipUSA, No New Jails, and VOCAL-NY. This is only possible if Manhattan has a District Attorney who can make bold choices without governing through fear. If we work together to embrace a more sophisticated understanding of public safety, we can close Rikers Island more quickly, treat mental health issues at the community level, and save lives by treating drug abuse as a public health issue.

Many of the proposals set forth below are built upon existing ideas urged by community leaders, attorneys, and service providers for years. Some proposals have been developed as best practices by the first wave of progressive prosecutors across the country, while others push the boundaries in rolling back 50 years of mass incarceration. This campaign is born from the belief that District Attorney’s office should represent the same bold, progressive values and vision we insist of other elected officials in this city. It is a campaign that stands on the shoulders of all who have fought, and continue to fight, to build New York’s progressive tradition.

Why 80%?

Reducing incarceration in Manhattan by 80% will not be easy, but numerically defining our goal is essential. While at the ACLU Smart Justice Campaign, I saw many DA candidates across the country pledge to “end mass incarceration,” and today the term is losing its meaning. Likewise, for District Attorneys working in an oppressive system, simply announcing policy change from an executive office means little if those changes aren’t implemented by line prosecutors, or if they are rendered irrelevant by other actors in the system, like the police or judges. Some of the district attorneys who have done the most justice to the term “progressive prosecutor” have done so by measuring the real-life outcomes of their work. District Attorneys in Chicago[2] (Kim Foxx), Philadelphia[3] (Larry Krasner), and Dallas[4] (John Creuzot) have been leaders in linking meaningful reform to concrete reductions in jail and prison populations.

Current State of New York City Jails

Today approximately 7,400 people in New York City are locked in our City jails,[5] with Manhattan defendants either at Rikers Island or at the Manhattan Detention Center (aka “The Tombs”). In recent years, Manhattan has jailed more people than any other borough, and by an increasingly large amount — approximately 2,500 people today.[6] Cutting that number by 80% would leave Manhattan with an average daily jail population of 500.

Chart #1

Status of Individuals in NYC DOC Custody, Fiscal Year 2019 (7,404)

Detainee: 5,614

City Sentenced: 841

Technical Parole Violations: 613

Newly Sentenced/State Ready: 336

[7]

As Chart #1 indicates, far and away the main driver of New York City’s jail population is pre-trial detention for people who have been accused, but not convicted of a crime. The second largest category is “City Sentenced,” people who have pled to misdemeanor crimes and are serving sentences of less than a year. (People convicted of crimes carrying more than a one-year sentence serve those sentences in upstate prisons). The third largest category is “Technical Parole Violations,” people who have completed prison sentence and were on parole prior to an alleged technical violation of the rules imposed by their parole.

It bears mentioning that today’s jail population is the lowest it has been since the 1980s, for a variety of reasons. First, crime has been falling in New York City for 25 straight years.[8] Second, the City and State have enacted a variety of criminal justice reforms pushed by advocates in the past decade. Third, community groups have reclaimed neighborhoods that long fed the jail and prison system, investing in the people there. All of these trends are continuing, and as explained in the proposals below, when we match our political will to our social values, we can collaborate on bold solutions to keep reducing the number of people in our jails.

Proposal #1: Implement pre-trial reforms and eliminate cash bail

About 75% of the New Yorkers in our jails are there pre-trial, not having been convicted of a crime. Most are there because they cannot afford to pay bail, although some are “remanded” — held pre-trial without the possibility of bail. When we began the campaign to close Rikers Island, we knew that bail reform would be necessary to reduce the number of New Yorkers in our jails. But we knew that bail reform, on its own, would not be enough given the other failings of our pre-trial system. New York’s ironically-named “speedy trial” trial laws have long allowed people to languish for many months, even years, in jail before their day in court, aggravating unnecessary pre-trial detentions. Meanwhile, our lax “discovery” laws have encouraged the vast majority of defendants to plead out without ever having seen the evidence to be presented against them. These systems have ensured that people linger in our jails for extended periods of time without cause. After a multi-year campaign, advocates of the #FREEnewyork campaign won bail reform, speedy trial reform, and discovery reform in 2019, with the laws set to take effect in January 2020. As our next Manhattan District Attorney I will faithfully implement these laws and push further where needed.

Under the new bail law, many New Yorkers will avoid pre-trial detention if they are charged with low-level offenses. Organizations such as the Vera Institute and the Center for Court Innovation have predicted that the new requirement to release such individuals on their recognizance will reduce New York City’s daily jail population by more than 2,000, or about 30%.[9] As Manhattan District Attorney, I will go further than the current state law, and completely eliminate the use of cash bail. That means no one will ever be locked up in Manhattan simply because they are too poor to afford bail.

In exceptional cases, such as when a person poses a demonstrable threat of violence against another person, or when someone is a true flight risk, we will seek supervised release, or seek to remand that person pending the resolution of their case. Using the best data we have available[10], there are currently about 600 Manhattan detainees who are being held on charges for very serious crimes, but most will not actually be convicted of those charges.[11] Supervised release has generally been one of the tools used to effectively and safely reduce New York City’s jail population, and we would continue to utilize it, while maintaining caution around “net-widening”, the use of racially biased “risk assessments”, and the expansion of electronic surveillance. At the same time, we should be looking at expanding non-punitive programs such as ART (Aggression Replacement Training) that are used in prisons to address underlying issues of anger management and trauma, which will make our communities safer in the long run.

The recently passed reforms to speedy trial and discovery laws also ought to reduce the number of Manhattanites in jail if they are vigorously implemented. District Attorney Vance has traditionally opposed speedy trial reform and publicly raised concern about the new discovery laws,[12] letting New York lag behind the behind best practices in other parts of the country. Many other states have no issue processing cases quickly and turning over exculpatory evidence to defendants in a timely manner. These reforms will allow those who are detained pre-trial to have their day in court faster, further decreasing our jail population.

This proposal would reduce our Manhattan jail population by 40%.

Proposal #2: End of the use of jail for petty crimes

Public safety is not advanced by sending people to Rikers Island for short periods of time, only to have them come right home with no resources. And yet, about 10% of New York City’s jail population at any given time is “City Sentenced,” meaning that they have pled guilty to a misdemeanor and are serving a sentence of less than a year in a city jail. During that time, even if it’s a month or less, a person will often lose their job and housing, to say nothing of the trauma experienced in jail. In fact, studies have shown that spending time in jail makes someone more likely to recidivate,[13] not less, leaving the victim and community no assurance that the harm will stop when the person comes home. We are, in effect, setting people up to fail.

Instead of relying on jail to handle low-level offenses, we should increase the District Attorney office’s collaboration with communities programs like Avenues for Justice, CASES, Fortune Society, The Osborne Association, Esperanza, along with other programs that offer alternatives to incarceration. Nor do these types of programs need to be conducted in the formal non-profit space; rather, community groups and churches can develop spaces for accountability and healing outside of jails. The Manhattan District Attorney’s office should embrace the principles of restorative justice, following the lead of Brooklyn, the Bronx, and an increasing number of jurisdictions across the country. Whenever possible, the District Attorney’s office should also seek to waive fines and fees associated with rehabilitative programs, so that people can get back on their feet economically.

Finally, there are certain low-level offenses that should not be prosecuted criminally at all. These include turnstile jumping, most drug possession cases, sex work when between consenting adults, and instances when the victim is a family member who is asking for the case to be dismissed. Our campaign will further assess which cases our office will “decline to prosecute” through robust community conversation in the months ahead.

This proposal would reduce our Manhattan jail population by 10%.[14]

Proposal #3: Support the expansion of mental health services outside the jail system

What does it say about our values if Rikers Island is currently the largest mental health provider in New York State?[15] As of April 2019, approximately 16% of detainees have been diagnosed with a serious mental illness,[16] up from 10% the previous year.[17] For these individuals, no matter what crime they have been charged with, being locked in a cage will likely exacerbate their condition, and do little to stop cycles of harm.

First, we must reform the way we police mental health issues. This campaign supports the recommendations from Public Advocate Jumaane Williams’ Report on “Improving New York City’s Response to Individuals in Mental Health Crisis” which focuses on reforming the City’s response when interacting with individuals suffering from mental illness.[18] While an improved police response is a good first step, New York should consider following the lead of other cities that are fully phasing out police as mental health responders.[19]

Second, our District Attorney’s office will partner with programs and universities to offer defendants clearly struggling with mental health issues an opportunity to participate in a pre-plea diversion program. Programs such as The Nathaniel Project have received national recognition for the work they do with individuals with a history of past felonies alongside mental illness.[20]

Third, we support significantly increasing State and City funding for mental health programs that operate outside of the criminal legal system, and partnership with such programs to offer defendants struggling with mental health issues an opportunity to participate in a pre-plea diversion program.

Finally, we must acknowledge that adequately supporting people with serious mental illness is an incredibly challenging issue. No individual program will have a 100% success rate, and there is no substitute for creating an environment in which medical providers can build long-term trust with their patients. Cages are simply not helpful to achieving these best practices.

This proposal would reduce our Manhattan jail population by 5%.[21]

Proposal #4: Treat drug use as a public health crisis

After 50 years, billions of dollars, and millions of arrests, the War on Drugs has become a war on poor communities. This is particularly immoral in a time when people are dying of drug overdoses in East Harlem while corporations and wealthy investors are getting rich of marijuana legalization across the country.[22]

More people are dying in New York City of opioid overdoses than murder,[23] and East Harlem has an overdose rate on par with Kentucky or West Virginia.[24] That is a public health crisis, that should be a public safety priority. Solutions must include safe injection sites to reduce the spread of HIV (following the lead of cities like Philadelphia),[25] more non-police outreach, and importantly, refusing to make a blind distinction between “dealers” and “users,” when we know from the opioid crisis how many desperate people are dealing drugs to feed their own addiction.

The racism of the War on Drugs has been apparent to me since I was a teenager growing up in Manhattan. As Manhattan District Attorney, I will work with other political stakeholders and community groups to push New York, and the United States more broadly, towards ending the counterproductive War on Drugs. Instead, we must help people who are sick from addiction become healthy, and help those who survive economically off the drug trade find better jobs. On this, I am unequivocal.

This proposal would reduce our Manhattan jail population by 5%.

Proposal #5: Reform the plea-bargaining process

When 98% of New York State cases are resolved by plea deal, plea deals aren’t just part of the criminal legal system — they are the system.[26] There is no question that there are New Yorkers sitting in prison today who are innocent of the crime they were charged with, but accepted a plea rather than roll the dice on decades in prison at trial. That is an injustice we should not tolerate as a society.

There are several concrete measures our office can take that right away. First, we will eliminate one time “take it or leave it” plea options. If a plea offer is worth making in the best interests of justice, there is no reason it should only be offered for a short window of time.

Second, we will end the requirement of appeal waivers for pleas. The right to appeal is fundamental. When so many cases are resolved by pleas, requiring that individuals waive this right is not just.

Third, and most importantly, we will end the perverse outcomes of plea bargains driven by the threat of extremely lengthy sentences. When there are less dramatic disparities between plea offers and the sentence a person will receive should they lose at trial, more people who believe in their innocence[27] will consider fighting for it at trial.[28] I have made clear from the beginning of this campaign that our office will completely change the District Attorney’s office’s approach to sentencing, bringing our practices in line with many comparable democratic societies around the world by seeking sentences no longer than 20 years in all but exceptional cases.[29] This policy will be more fully addressed in a subsequent policy paper that will address how the District Attorney’s office can also reduce the New York State prison population more broadly.

Finally, our District Attorney’s office will lead New York into a new era of prosecutorial transparency. In Connecticut, the ACLU Smart Justice campaign won passage of a comprehensive bill that will publish information on prosecutor charging, plea deals, diversionary programs and sentencing.[30] Of these, plea bargains require the most sunlight, and with the collection and release of data, we’ll better understand if plea bargaining practices are resulting in discrimination or otherwise undermining our values, without improving public safety.

It also bears mentioning that the newly passed discovery reform laws ought to change the dynamics of plea bargaining by ensuring that defendants and their counsel have better information to evaluate whether to plea or otherwise resolve a case.[31] Once again, proper implementation of pre-trial reform legislation must be an essential function of the District Attorney’s office.

This proposal would reduce our Manhattan jail population by 12%.[32]

Proposal #6: Forcefully advocate for parole reform

I have fought against broken parole systems across the United States, and as Manhattan District Attorney I will push legislative and administrative reforms that will bring greater justice to this part of the criminal legal system. The third largest group of people in New York City jails is there for “Technical Parole Violations,” and this is a costly and unnecessary travesty. Technical parole violations are infractions that would not be considered criminal offenses but for a person’s parole status. These infractions can be as minor as missing an appointment, driving a car, or failing a urine test. Today, people who are accused of violating these rules are often held in jail until their cases are resolved. As I have previously stated, we need to use our jails and prisons as last resorts. Someone who has not even committed a crime should not be sent be locked up for a technical parole violation. The “Less is More” campaign is one state legislative effort to address this issue, and Albany should not delay its passage another year.[33]

While prosecutors are not directly involved in technical parole revocation hearings, if someone on parole is picked up on a new charge, the Manhattan District Attorney’s office plays an important role in collaborating with a person’s parole officer. If a person is in the process of turning their life around, even the accusation of a new crime, especially a minor one, should not result in a person being sent back upstate for years as a violation of their parole. This is a matter of justice, but also public safety — when people are cycling in and out of prison, it becomes increasingly challenging for them to socially and economically integrate when they come home.

Lastly, as District Attorney, I would change the office’s reflexive posture against parole in general. A prison sentence should speak for itself, and unless there is a specific reason for a prosecutor to oppose a parole application, he or she should remain neutral. However, if there is evidence of a person’s rehabilitation or successful healing with a victim, prosecutors should affirmatively support a person receiving parole. During the course of this campaign we will support the state legislative efforts of the Release Aging People in Prison campaign regarding “elder parole” and “fair and timely parole.”[34] The parole system is fundamentally broken, and as Manhattan District Attorney I will support any efforts to make the period after prison focused on a person’s path to community integration, rather than the demeaning process it is now.

This proposal would reduce our Manhattan jail population by 8%.[35]

Where will the people go?

Whenever we talk about changing our approach to prosecution, closing Rikers, or decarceration in general, the conversation invariably leads to the question: “But where will the people go?” The reality is that most people who are currently incarcerated in New York City jails pre-trial will simply go home and stay there until their case is resolved. But people caught up in the criminal system represent a broad spectrum, from people experiencing their first and only encounter with the system to those who will need various interventions for the rest of their lives.

Reducing the number of jailed Manhattanites from 2,500 to 500 means that 2,000 more people will wind up somewhere else. Some of those people will be struggling with housing instability. The Manhattan District Attorney’s office has a limited formal role in addressing the lack of affordable housing, transitional housing, and permanent supportive housing in New York City. But one of our objectives in taking this 80% decarceration plan to the community is to better learn how we can advocate for community groups and service providers like Coalition for the Homeless and Urban Pathways, who are seeking stronger financial commitments to housing from government. In addition, more funding needs to be delivered at the state and city level to provide re-entry services for people coming home from jail and prison to get them back on their feet and safety re-integrated into our communities.

Conclusion

Our concept of what is possible in transforming our criminal legal system is ever-evolving, and this document must similarly be a living, breathing set of policies that reflect the best approaches to keeping people out of the system whenever possible, and setting them on the correct path when they do offend. That is how we will stop cycles of harm and keep our communities safe.

To that end, our campaign will take this policy conversation directly to communities across the borough. We will canvass every NYCHA complex, visit every Community Board and Police Precinct Council, and meet with any interested community-based organization or local activist. We want to hear from survivors of crime, their families, formerly incarcerated people, law enforcement, criminal court practitioners, and service providers as we imagine bold and practical solutions to public safety.

We also recognize that these changes will not happen overnight. For example, it may require multiple budget cycles to adequately deliver resources to some of the programs that can serve as alternatives to incarceration, or multiple legislative cycles to enact the reforms our city needs. And while it will take sustained advocacy from advocates to get other District Attorneys and elected officials on board, imagine the city we could build if we were all committed to this goal. Certainly, the conversation around building new jails would have gone very differently.

Along the way, we will not all agree on every policy, but as a campaign we are committed to the principle that we can keep the community safe without relying on jail or prison, driven by the values of freedom, compassion, equality, and opportunity. Then we will enact those values from the Manhattan District Attorney’s office.

Endnotes

[1] In speaking of our nation’s history, and Manhattan’s, we must recognize we are on Indigenous Peoples’ land, which Manhattan was the home of the Lenape.

[1a] Here and throughout this document, by “Manhattan’s jail population” we mean people who are sent to a New York City jail from criminal court in Manhattan.

[2] Curtis Black, “Report: Kim Foxx Reforms Show Reducing Incarceration Does Not Compromise Public Safety,” The Chicago Reader, July 31, 2019, https://www.chicagoreporter.com/report-kim-foxx-reforms-show-reducing-incarceration-does-not-compromise-public-safety/ (accessed October 7, 2019).

[3] Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, Philadelphia DAO Data Dashboard, https://data.philadao.com/index.html (accessed October 7, 2019).

[4] Gromer Jeffers Jr., “Dallas DA John Creuzot Keeps Campaign Promise on Criminal Justice Reform, Gladly Takes Heat,” The Dallas Morning News, April 22, 2019, https://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/commentary/2019/04/22/dallas-da-john-creuzot-keeps-campaign-promise-on-criminal-justice-reform-gladly-takes-heat/ (accessed October 7, 2019).

[5] The City of New York. “Mayor de Blasio Announces City Jail Admissions Cut in Half Since Taking Office.” News release, July 16, 2019. https://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/349-19/mayor-de-blasio-city-jail-admissions-cut-half-since-taking-office (accessed October 11, 2019).; The New York City Department of Corrections. NYC Department of Corrections At a Glance — Information for the 12 Months of FY2019. New York, 2019. https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/doc/downloads/press-release/DOC_At_Glance_FY2019_072319.pdf (accessed October 6, 2019).

[6] The New York City Department of Corrections. NYC Department of Corrections Quarterly Demographics Report FY19 Q4 (April 1st — June 30th). New York, 2019. https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/doc/downloads/pdf/Population%20Demographics%20Report%20-%20FY19%20Q4.pdf (accessed October 6, 2019).

[7] The New York City Department of Corrections. NYC Department of Corrections At a Glance — Information for the 12 Months of FY2019. New York, 2019. https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/doc/downloads/press-release/DOC_At_Glance_FY2019_072319.pdf (accessed October 6, 2019).

[8] Vincent Schiraldi and Judith A. Greene, “Better By Half,” The Marshall Project, October 28, 2016, https://www.themarshallproject.org/2016/10/28/better-by-half (accessed October 9, 2019).

[9] Michael Rempel and Krystal Rodrigues, “Bail Reform in New York: Legislative Provisions and Implications for New York City,” Bail Reform in New York: Legislative Provisions and Implications for New York City (Center for Court Innovation, April 2019), https://www.courtinnovation.org/sites/default/files/media/document/2019/Bail_Reform_NY_full_0.pdf (accessed October 7, 2019).

[10] New York City State Department of Criminal Justice Services, Disposed Adult Arrests Data Source Notes. New York, 2019. https://www.criminaljustice.ny.gov/crimnet/ojsa/dispos/newyork.pdf (accessed October 11, 2019).

[11] Using Department of Corrections data on top charges (see Footnote 10), and extrapolating the percentage of defendants who are from Manhattan, we estimate that there are about 575 people currently detained pre-trial for charges of murder, attempted murder, manslaughter, rape, and robbery. It bears mentioning that only 17% of people charged with violent felonies end up serving prison time, so many of these defendants will plea to lesser charges or have their cases dismissed entirely. Furthermore, the number of people accused of these serious crimes has also been steadily declining for the aforementioned reasons.

[12] Testimony for City Council Committee on the Justice System Oversight Hearing: Hearing on “Preparing for the Implementation of Bail, Speedy Trial, and Discovery Reform, 2019 Leg. (New York, 2019), statement of Cyrus R. Vance Jr., Manhattan District Attorney. https://www.manhattanda.org/testimony-for-city-council-committee-on-the-justice-system-oversight-hearing-on-preparing-for-the-implementation-of-bail-speedy-trial-and-discovery-reform/ (accessed October 8, 2019).

[13] Michael Rempel et al., “Understanding Risk and Needs in the Misdemeanor Population: A Case Study in New York City,” Understanding Risk and Needs in the Misdemeanor Population: A Case Study in New York City (Center for Court Innovation, May 2018), https://www.courtinnovation.org/sites/default/files/media/document/2018/Misdemeanor_Populations_Risks_Needs.pdf (accessed October 8, 2019).

[14] People who are city sentenced now account for slightly more than 10% of the jail population.

[15] Anisha Lewis, “Incarceration and Mental Health,” The Center for Prisoner Health and Human Rights, n.d., https://www.prisonerhealth.org/educational-resources/factsheets-2/incarceration-and-mental-health/ (accessed October 7, 2019).

[16] Serious mental illnesses are defined by NYC Health & Hospitals/Correctional Health Services as schizophrenia, bipolar or depressive disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

[17] Testimony of Elizabeth Ford, MD, Chief of Service, Psychiatry before the New York City Council Committee on Criminal Justice, Committee on the Justice System, and Committee on Mental Health, Disabilities, and Addiction, 2019 Leg. (New York, 2019), statement of Elizabeth Ford, MD, Chief of Service, Psychiatry, NYC Health & Hospitals/Correctional Health Services

https://www.nychealthandhospitals.org/testimony-of-elizabeth-ford-md-chief-of-service-psychiatry-before-the-new-york-city-council-committee-on-criminal-justice-committee-on-the-justice-system-and-committee-on-mental-health-disabilit/ (accessed October 11, 2019).

[18] The City of New York, Office of the Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams, Improving New York City’s Response to Individuals in Mental Health Crisis, September 25, 2019, https://files.constantcontact.com/1c58f85b001/dcc7850e-e0b0-48e7-8736-892da5687a72.pdf (accessed October 4, 2019).

[19] LJ Dawson, “Denver Looks to Take Cops Out of Mental Health-Related 911 Rescues,” The Denver Post, October 11, 2019, https://www.denverpost.com/2019/10/11/denver-police-cahoots-mental-health/ (accessed October 12, 2019).

[20] By offering services available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, The Nathaniel Project has achieved drastic improvements in rates of recidivism along with impressive health and wellness for their clients.

[21] This would mean supporting programs that serve 125 patients at a given time, rather than those people being held in jails. It also bears mentioning that people with mental health issues are not discrete from other groups being targeted in these Proposals (for example, those who are city sentenced), which means that collectively these reforms will significantly reduce the number of people of Manhattan defendants in jail with mental health issues.

[22] Erin Tiernan, “Cashing in on Legal Weed Might Be a Millionaire’s Game, but There’s Still Hope for the Little Guy,” Metro US, May 30, 2017, https://www.metro.us/lifestyle/invest-legal-cannabis (accessed October 7, 2019).

[23] New York State, Department of Health, New York State — County Opioid Quarterly Report, July 2019, p. 126, https://www.health.ny.gov/statistics/opioid/data/pdf/nys_jul19.pdf (accessed October 7, 2019).

[24] The City of New York, Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor, 2018 Annual Report, 2018, http://www.snpnyc.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/2018_Narcotics_Report_v9b_ONLINE-1.pdf (accessed October 7, 2019).

[25] Bobby Allyn, “Judge Rules Planned Supervised Injection Sites Does Not Violate Federal Drug Laws,” NPR, October 2, 2019, https://www.npr.org/2019/10/02/766500743/judge-rules-plan-for-safehouse-drug-injection-site-in-philadelphia-can-go-forwar (accessed October 7, 2019).

[26] Beth Schwartzapfel, “New York State Overhauls Discovery Process in Criminal Cases,” The Marshall Project, April 1, 2019, https://www.themarshallproject.org/2019/04/01/blindfold-off-new-york-overhauls-pretrial-evidence-rules (accessed October 3, 2019).

[27] Currently, approximately half of cases that go to trial result in acquittal.

[28] The City of New York, Criminal Court of the City of New York, Annual Report 2017,

https://www.nycourts.gov/COURTS/nyc/criminal/2017-Annual-Report.pdf (accessed October 6, 2019).

[29] Marc Mauer, “A 20-Year Maxmium for Prison Sentences,” The Sentencing Project, January 3, 2016, https://www.sentencingproject.org/news/a-20-year-maximum-for-prison-sentences/ (accessed October 6, 2019).

[30] “After Smart Justice Effort, Connecticut Poised to Lead Country with Prosecutor Transparency Law,” August 9, 2019, https://www.acluct.org/en/news/after-smart-justice-effort-connecticut-poised-lead-country-prosecutor-transparency-law (accessed October 11, 2019)

[31] “Discovery in the Dark: New York’s Secret Evidence Rules,” Discovery in the Dark: New York’s Secret Evidence Rules (NYCLU, 2019), https://nyclu.org/sites/default/files/discoveryinthedark_2019.pdf (accessed October 6, 2019)

[32] These reforms should collectively result at least 300 people who otherwise would languish in jail to resolve their cases more expeditiously. Few people prefer New York City’s jail system to state prison, and a fairer plea process would allow those who do accept a felony sentence to begin serving that time in the state prison system sooner.

[33] “Advancing Solutions to the Problem of Re-Incarceration for Technical Violations of Parole,” Less Is More NY, February 2019, http://nyscoc.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Fact-Sheet-Parole-Reform-Less-Is-More-NY-FINAL.pdf (accessed October 9, 2019).

[34] Luis Sepulveda and David Weprin, “It’s Time for Parole Reform in New York; Here are the First Three Steps,” Gotham Gazette, January 29, 2019, https://www.gothamgazette.com/opinion/8235-it-s-time-for-parole-reform-in-new-york-here-are-the-first-three-steps (accessed October 13, 2019)

[35] Because there are approximately 200 Manhattan defendants (one third of 614) being held due to technical parole violations, reforming this system would result in an 8% jail population reduction.

Written by

Criminal justice advocate. Democratic Candidate For Manhattan District Attorney.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade