Manhattan D.A. to seek imprisonment only for worst crimes

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ASPartOfMe
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06 Jan 2022, 2:23 pm

New York Times

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Manhattan’s new district attorney began this week to adopt the lenient policies he campaigned on, setting the stage for potential conflict inside and outside his office as he tries to change the way criminal justice is administered in the borough.

The district attorney, Alvin Bragg, told prosecutors in his office in a memo that they should ask judges for jail or prison time only for the most serious offenses — including murder, sexual assault and economic crimes involving vast sums of money — unless the law requires them to do otherwise.

The crimes he instructed prosecutors to avoid seeking jail time for include certain robberies and assaults, as well as gun possession in cases where no other crimes are involved. He also directed that they no longer request prison sentences of more than 20 years absent “exceptional circumstances.”

Mr. Bragg’s goal is to find alternatives to incarceration, especially for first-time offenders, an aim he seeks to balance with the need to keep the public safe. In the way they take into account the experiences of those who are charged, his policies resemble those of several prosecutors in big cities around the country who have been elected over the past five years.
Those prosecutors — who include Larry Krasner in Philadelphia, Marilyn Mosby in Baltimore, George Gascon in Los Angeles, Kim Foxx in Chicago and Chesa Boudin in San Francisco — have frequently faced vocal opposition. The three who have run for second terms have been successful. Mr. Gascon and Mr. Boudin are each facing recall efforts, after having already survived one apiece.

Eric Gonzalez, the Brooklyn district attorney, has also instituted similar policies. His office grants its prosecutors some autonomy in decision-making; it remains to be seen to what degree Mr. Bragg will do the same.

Although Mr. Bragg’s policies had long been expected — he released a draft version during the campaign — their immediate adoption caused some confusion within his office. About 500 prosecutors must now decipher a complicated legal memo and figure out how to apply it to their active cases. Adding to the confusion is the fact that much of the office is working remotely.

The policies, which prompted an immediate backlash among conservative critics and in some law enforcement circles, may prove difficult to champion politically with New York City continuing to experience a sharp increase in murders and shootings.

James McGuire, who worked as a prosecutor in Manhattan and was chief counsel to Gov. George E. Pataki, a three-term Republican, said Mr. Bragg’s policies might bring him into conflict with other elected leaders, including Mayor Eric Adams, who ran, in part, on a law-and-order platform.

“These policies may be a challenge to the mayor and what he’s campaigned on,” Mr. McGuire said.

Asked about the district attorney on Wednesday in an interview with CBS, Mr. Adams said he knew and respected him, calling him “a great prosecutor.”

Mr. Bragg defended his plan in a Twitter thread on Wednesday.

“These policy changes not only will, in and of themselves, make us safer; they also will free up prosecutorial resources to focus on violent crime and bigger cases that make us safer,” he wrote.

Mr. Bragg has also said he would not prosecute some misdemeanors, including prostitution and fare evasion, that his predecessor, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., had already stopped charging as crimes.

But he is adding several misdemeanors to the list, including the stand-alone charge for resisting arrest. Those who resist arrest by attacking police officers will still be charged.
Some former prosecutors say that while the changes related to felony charges are significant, they may not be quite as sweeping as they seem.

Mr. Bragg’s memo includes the caveat that sentencing requests must adhere to the law, and New York law requires that any person who has previously been convicted of a felony must be imprisoned if found guilty of a second such crime. Other state sentencing laws are also likely to limit the impact of Mr. Bragg’s policy changes.

Mr. Bragg is Manhattan’s first Black district attorney, and he said during the campaign that his policies had been informed by his own experience being threatened by police officers and civilians alike.

Some former prosecutors urged a measure of caution as Mr. Bragg begins his tenure.

“Progressive criminal justice reform has to find a balance,” said Karen Friedman Agnifilo, a former deputy to Mr. Vance. “Old-school law enforcement went too far in one direction, but lessons we’re learning in some big cities suggest that others may have gone too far in the other direction.”

“I’m confident that Alvin can find that balance,” she said.

In the Democratic primary for district attorney, Mr. Bragg, a former federal prosecutor, represented an ideological middle ground. His competitors included three lawyers without prosecutorial experience, two of whom pledged to cut the office’s budget in half if elected.

In an interview, Mr. Krasner, the Philadelphia district attorney who was re-elected to a second term in November, said Mr. Bragg would undoubtedly encounter resistance, from within the district attorney’s office and from institutions outside it, including the courts, the police, the news media and even elements of the Democratic Party.


The Memo

This means the “Broken Windows” law enforcement era is over in Manhattan. This is a mistake. The concept behind “Broken Windows” was fare beaters and the like are or will be more serious criminals so if you take them off the streets you prevent a lot of crime. When they started Broken Windows in the it sounded stupid to me. 2,000 murders a year and they are spending resources on fare beaters and graffiti artists?. It worked. Crime createred. New York became one of the safest cities in America.

I am not a lawyer but one part the memo I found particularly concerning
“ There is a presumption of pre-trial non-incarceration for every case except those with charges of homicide or the death of a victim, a class B violent felony in which a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument causes serious physical injury”
Does this mean I wave a gun in your face rob you but as long as I don’t seriously injure or kill you I walk free until my trial?

I do worry as Ms. Agnifilo does that this will be an overcorrection. “Progressive Prosecution” as it has been labeled has run into all sorts problems in Philadelphia and San Francisco as alluded to. The New York crime spike began not after the George Floyd protests and riots, not after COVID but over a year before when a bail reform law went into effect.


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Last edited by ASPartOfMe on 06 Jan 2022, 3:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.

The_Walrus
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06 Jan 2022, 2:40 pm

This is one reason why I don't think DAs should be elected. I'm generally in favour of alternatives to prison, but until good alternatives exist, punishing assault with prison time seems to generally make sense.

And for those who think this is a good thing and shows why DAs should be elected, I put it to you that a lot of DAs are elected on exactly the opposite platform. Let prosecution decisions be made by extremely competent lawyers who will follow the law without fear or favour, not by partisans.



thinkinginpictures
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06 Jan 2022, 3:47 pm

The_Walrus wrote:
This is one reason why I don't think DAs should be elected. I'm generally in favour of alternatives to prison, but until good alternatives exist, punishing assault with prison time seems to generally make sense.

And for those who think this is a good thing and shows why DAs should be elected, I put it to you that a lot of DAs are elected on exactly the opposite platform. Let prosecution decisions be made by extremely competent lawyers who will follow the law without fear or favour, not by partisans.


In Denmark we do have alternatives to prison for the mentally ill (if the person was suffering from insanity (hallucinations, delusions, paranoia) at the time the crime was committed) and mental retardation.

The insanity question is based upon records of psychiatric treatment throughout their entire life, as well as level of functioning in society in general - combined with lots and lots of other observations.

The alternative to prison can vary from the offense committed to the offender (now patient) in general.
Sometimes they let the patient live as they did previously (ie. in their own home) while attending psychiatric treatment. Other times, depending on the severity of the crime but also the condition of the patient, they are submitted to treatment in a psychiatric hospital or one of the many, many institutions for psychiatric patients.

It's not prison, but they also can't just run away. The most dangerous patients are placed in secure facilities though.

The difference between prison and psychiatric hospitalization/placement in secure psychiatric facilities is that in a prison you receive no care or support - you can get a talk with a psychologist once in a while, but that's it.

With the alternatives, they're treated as patients, even though they don't have freedom.
Legally speaking, they are patients, not inmates.

What I'm trying to say is that alternatives DO exist, but many countries refuse to use them because they are vengeful and evil.



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07 Jan 2022, 5:04 am

The_Walrus wrote:
I'm generally in favour of alternatives to prison, but until good alternatives exist, punishing assault with prison time seems to generally make sense.


I'm an absolute bleeding heart when it comes to criminal justice, I hardly want to jail anyone as I consider it a cruel and unusual punishment, but I'm afraid these progressive prosecutors are going to trigger a law and order backlash with this refusal to prosecute thing; my hometown just elected their first Republican in 30 years on a law and order platform due to people being angry about out of control quality of life crime, and if Seattle can elect a Republican on this issue, it's serious.


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ASPartOfMe
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07 Jan 2022, 10:56 am

Dox47 wrote:
The_Walrus wrote:
I'm generally in favour of alternatives to prison, but until good alternatives exist, punishing assault with prison time seems to generally make sense.


I'm an absolute bleeding heart when it comes to criminal justice, I hardly want to jail anyone as I consider it a cruel and unusual punishment, but I'm afraid these progressive prosecutors are going to trigger a law and order backlash with this refusal to prosecute thing; my hometown just elected their first Republican in 30 years on a law and order platform due to people being angry about out of control quality of life crime, and if Seattle can elect a Republican on this issue, it's serious.

My area Nassau County was a Republican machine similar to Mayor Daley’s machine in Chicago in the 70s and 80s. “Law and Order” kept them winning landslide after landslide. Since the 90s it has been purple with Hillary and Biden winning the county. Last year we had a red wave. The main issue was not Biden or Critical Race Theory but the bail reform law sponsored by the DA candidate. A moderate Democrat county executive who had nothing to do with and opposed the law paid for it with her job. And Eric Adams won the NYC mayoral race on a law and order campaign.

You know any outrageous crime will be plastered on the front page and blamed on him and not only on the front page of the New York Post. Manhattan is the headquarters of the elite coastal bubble mainstream media these people will become the proverbial conservatives who were a liberal who got mugged. In the “bad old days” of the 70s crime and grime their lily white neighborhoods(Upper East and West Sides, Greenwich Village) were protected by their fellow “liberal” mayors. This won’t happen with a woke DA, old line liberals are more of a target then actual conservatives.

Manhattan has a huge problem without a crime spike. A lot of business depend on workers who are not returning to the office.


If you read the memo there are a lot of caveats. This is aimed at first time offenders, we are not jailing people who do not injure or kill people before trial.

If you are an optimist DA Braggs has learned from the mistakes of his San Francisco and Philadelphia counterparts so the damage will be limited or even prove progressive prosecution done right works.

If you are a pessimist these caveats are there throw at critics to say they are racists. While the memo says don't jail anybody accused of robbery that does not hurt or kill anybody it does not prohibit not recommending jail if they are convicted. And while all these restorative programs sound nice how are they going to pay for them?


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