Janos Marton for District Attorney Policy Platform

  • About 75% of the New Yorkers in our jails are there pre-trial, not having been convicted of a crime. At the time of writing, this number was 5,614.
  • 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.
  • As our next Manhattan District Attorney I will faithfully implement these laws and push further where needed.
  • Additionally, 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.
  • This proposal would reduce our Manhattan jail population by 40%.
  • 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. At the time of writing, this number was 841.
  • Studies have shown that spending time in jail makes someone more likely to recidivate, 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.
  • Finally, there are certain low-level offenses that should not be prosecuted criminally at all. These include turnstile jumping, all drug possession cases, sex work, soliciation, unlawful assembly, disorderly conduct, crimes of poverty, resisting arrest, simple trespassing, low-level crimes that disproportionately target immigrants and put them in danger of deportation, unlicensed or suspended license driving, gambling charges, welfare fraud, and instances when the victim is a family member who is asking for the case to be dismissed.
  • This proposal would reduce our Manhattan jail population by 10%
  • As of April 2019, approximately 16% of detainees have been diagnosed with a serious mental illness, up from 10% the previous year. 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.
  • 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.
  • This proposal would reduce our Manhattan jail population by 5%.
  • More people are dying in New York City of opioid overdoses than murder and East Harlem has an overdose rate on par with Kentucky or West Virginia.
  • 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), 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.
  • 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%.
  • 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. That is an injustice we should not tolerate as a society.
  • 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 will consider fighting for it at trial. 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.
  • 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. 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.
  • This proposal would reduce our Manhattan jail population by 12%.
  • 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. At the time of writing, this number was 613.
  • 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.
  • This proposal would reduce our Manhattan jail population by 8%.
  • As Manhattan District Attorney, I will not seek prison sentences longer than 20 years absent exceptional circumstances. This will be the most progressive sentencing policy in the United States, and though we are the first District Attorney campaign to make this pledge, we are part of a national effort to urge Americans to think differently about long-term imprisonment.
  • This policy can be enacted mostly by changing the office’s charging practices. By capping sentences at 20 years for the most serious crimes in the New York penal code, we will be able to right-size the rest of our sentencing policy, by seeking more appropriate responses to less serious types of harm, including solutions that avoid prison entirely.
  • The goal of all our policies at the Manhattan DA’s office will be to seek the most effective form of accountability and best stop the cycle of harm. And if we are serious about accountability, we must acknowledge that some victims and their families will not want the person who harmed them to receive the maximum punishment.
  • There will also be exceptions to this policy. And it is true that judges will often have the discretion at sentencing to impose sentences longer than those sought by the District Attorney’s office, but it is our hope that judges’ honor the justice we are seeking. If certain judges surpass the District Attorney’s office as obstacles to reform, that will require its own focus from the criminal justice movement.
  • First, we will eliminate the “trial penalty”, in which people are essentially penalized by the threat of much longer sentences if they pursue their case rather than taking an early plea. The right to trial is an essential constitutional right, and nearly half of people who take their cases to trial are acquitted.
  • Second, we will design plea deals that focus on community accountability and ending the cycle of harm. Whenever prison time can be avoided in lieu of a serious regiment to improve a person’s addiction issues or mental health, while putting them on a path to economic security, that outcome will better serve all in the community than a long prison sentence.
  • Third, we will institute an internal process to memorialize why certain plea bargains are being offered. This will allow us to hold ourselves accountable and reduce inequitable or discriminatory outcomes. Once our process is working successfully, we will make this information public.
  • Fourth, we will create public transparency in the plea bargaining process. By releasing data on plea bargains, we can educate the broader public on a particularly opaque part of the criminal justice system. Relating to the previous point on plea bargain processes, we will make that system public once we are satisfied with its implementation.
  • Fifth, we will protect the rights of immigrants by ensuring that all parties involved are aware of the collateral immigration consequences involved in any criminal plea bargains made with our office. We will also investigate the rights of immigrants who are already serving prison time.
  • We will decline to criminally prosecute low-level drug possession cases. To be clear, that is for the possession of any drug, not only marijuana.
  • Support safe injection sites, which have been proven to lower the risk of disease and overdose deaths.
  • We will explore employment-based diversion programs for certain low-level dealers.
  • We will also approach drugs with a health-based lens, recognizing that someone with a serious addiction is at risk of harming themselves and their community until they receive help, and that addiction takes great patience and persistence to overcome.
  • We have also previously made clear our opposition to locking up people with mental health issues who would be better served by treatment in the community. It is shameful that Rikers Island is the city’s largest mental health provider.
  • There is no easy fix to these challenges, but we know the answer does not lie in treating people through cage bars.
  • While our other proposals will reform Manhattan DA sentencing policy moving forward, there are already multiple generations of New Yorkers serving prison time under the Draconian policies of the past.
  • We will expand and improve Manhattan’s unit. But there are plenty of people who have served many years in prison after legitimate trials or plea bargains whose sentences do not comport with our values in 2019.
  • The Sentencing Review Unit would be composed of attorneys from the Manhattan DA’s office, along with a diverse cross-section of community members, including survivors of crime and formerly incarcerated individuals. The Unit would review applications from individuals serving sentences longer than 10 years, and ask three questions:
  • Should the Unit find a person’s active sentence incongruous, it would recommend that the office seek a commutation from the governor. Unfortunately, under existing state law, even a District Attorney’s office cannot motion for resentencing based on an immorally long sentence. However, we join Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez in pushing for legislation that would allow such motions.
  • The Manhattan DA’s office has a policy of opposing parole, and we will change that on Day 1.
  • The Parole Board looks to the recommendation of the sentencing prosecutor’s office in their decision-making, and our office policy will be to generally support parole for people ready to come home.
  • The Manhattan DA’s office in particular has been accused of bumping up petit larceny cases to felony burglary charges, aggressively prosecuting low-level thefts with long-term punishments for the economically desperate people who are caught.
  • This policy has been found to frequently ensnare people experiencing homelessness, who are caught stealing basic survival supplies. Rather than directing these people to help, it sends them into our jails, and that policy must end.
  • Finally, there is a concern that following the implementation of bail reform in January 2020, prosecutors will generally charge more cases as felonies. In our DA office, our prosecutors will be measured by their work in ending cycles of harm, not whether they can secure convictions and prison sentences.
  • Law enforcement has criminalized an entire generation of Black and brown young people by labeling them as gang members and connections as flimsy as shared Facebook photos, and used state conspiracy laws to prosecute them as criminal associates.
  • The very notion of “gangs” being responsible for gun violence and other forms of crime in New York City is unsupported by evidence, and used by certain media outlets, right-wing law enforcement unions, and their political allies to perpetuate over-policing of young people of color.
  • State conspiracy charges have been the prosecutorial tool to further this misconception. If we have a criminal charge to bring against a person harming other people, we will bring that charge.
  • But state conspiracy charges have been abused for too long, and I will not use them against our communities.
  • Support Parole Reform: I strongly support reforms to the parole process being urged by the Release Aging People in Prison campaign, including the Fair and Timely Parole Act, which would bring more fairness to parole determinations, and the Elder Parole Act, which would provide parole eligibility to seniors serving very long sentences — a growing number of people in our prison system.
  • Reform “Mandatory Minimum” Laws: “Mandatory minimums” are an overly punitive statutory tool that removes discretion and mitigating factors from the criminal justice system. They became very popular with politicians during the rise of mass incarceration, and real sentencing reform will require rolling them back. Our office will avoid bringing charges that result in mandatory minimums in any case where another lesser charge describes the conduct, but given their pervasiveness in the penal code, state legislation will also be required. Likewise, we will support any legislation that lowers or eliminates mandatory minimums, especially legislation in line with our Proposal to cap sentences at 20 years.
  • Reform “Predicate Sentencing” Laws: One reason for long sentences in New York is our predicate sentencing laws, which set aggressive determinate sentencing ranges for people convicted of felonies for a second (or subsequent) time. I participated in legislative reform efforts in other states to reform these laws, which exacerbate punishments far beyond what is necessary to hold people accountable and take discretion away from the DA’s office and judges. I would particularly support rolling back the mandatory “persistent felony offender” law.
  • Make Reforms Retroactive: Any time we engage in sentencing reform, we must ensure that reforms are retroactive, and automatically applied to people already incarcerated. That way, no one is continuing to serve time in prison longer than they would have under the reformed laws. In addition, retroactivity would likely allow our office to file motions to reduce immoral, lengthy sentences identified by our Sentencing Review Unit.
  • Voting Rights for People in Prison: I strongly believe that the right to vote is fundamental, and should not be lost, even when people are incarcerated. Maintaining the right to vote will also help those serving sentences remain connected to the communities they will eventually come home to. For this reason I strongly support legislation, or, if required, a constitutional amendment expanding the right to vote to those in prison.
  • Reform Sentencing for Young People: People should not face life-long punishments for mistakes made in their youth. As we have written above, young peoples’ brains are not fully developed until their early 20s, an idea that is supported by an ever-growing body of evidence. In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court has said as much in a string of decisions over the past two decades. I would support legislation to raise the age of adult criminal responsibility further, to become a national leader in our thoughtful approach to justice.
  • In our previous policy paper, we noted that we would decline to criminally prosecute low-level drug possession cases. To be clear, that is for the possession of any drug, not only marijuana.
  • If our goal is to reduce the harm and risk associated with hard drugs, we must first admit that the half-century of prohibitionist policies of the War on Drugs has not worked.
  • But building a relationship with drug users that cares first and foremost for their health will lead to safer communities, because healthier people are less likely to engage in problematic behavior, including criminal activities such as larceny.
  • As Manhattan DA, I will withdraw support of the current Special Narcotics Prosecutor.
  • If two District Attorneys agree with me, we can remove the Special Narcotics Prosecutor.
  • But even on our own, we will withdraw support from the Office of Special Narcotics Prosecutor, including any material support and staff seconded to that office. Because the office itself exists through state law, I would also support legislation to disband the office and re-allocate the office’s resources to treatment and other community-strengthening programs.
  • I will actively support the placement of safe injection sites across the borough to reduce overdose deaths in Manhattan.
  • While the placement of safe injection sites will surely be controversial, as are all facility placements in New York, we must strike a balance between responding to where the crisis is most dire and soliciting community input.
  • Expanding access to methadone and buprenorphine, the gold standard of care, and education — in hard to reach communities has been demonstrated to be the most effective tool in treating opioid use disorder (OUD) and reducing opioid overdose deaths.
  • Other harm reduction strategies include a litany of programs such as telehealth, drug testing strips, mobile clinics, community clinics, recovery centers, managed alcohol programs, youth clubhouses, peer services, drug user health hubs and 24/7 open access centers.
  • While these services would not be offered directly by the Manhattan DA’s office, having a District Attorney fighting for access to these services and partnering with service providers, while destigmatizing health-based approaches, would result in people having better access to care.
  • Finally, we must practice patience in supporting peoples’ struggles with substance use disorder. Supporting people in the long road to recovery is far more effective than repeated trips to jail.
  • We cannot discuss street-level drug enforcement policy without acknowledging that open drug trade flourishes in areas with minimal economic investment.
  • A smart response must recognize the economic incentives of people who sell small amounts as part of the drug trade.
  • The right response to those individuals, who work in dangerous conditions for paltry wages, is to direct them on a path to gainful employment rather than branding them with a criminal record that will make it increasingly harder for them to turn their lives around.
  • Thus, our office will explore employment-based diversion programs. For these to work we will rigorously scrutinize our partner programs to ensure that they are actually equipping these individuals, mostly young men of color, with job opportunities that are sustainable and ultimately preferable to their previous economic choices.
  • That means investing in entrepreneurial opportunities and promising industries, as opposed to menial, minimum wage work.
  • While designing such programs should involve considerable community input, based on successful existing programs, employment areas might include the food industry, construction, security, coding, green energy jobs, and opportunities to start local businesses.
  • Identifying people who sell drugs for primarily economic reasons is critical, because it is well understood that not everyone in the drug trade is dealing with substance use disorder. Mandating that such individuals attend treatment as part of criminal justice diversion programs takes up valuable space, beds and resources from people actually suffering from substance use disorder.
  • Ultimately, we believe that strong economic opportunities, coupled with the health interventions we discuss throughout these proposals, will make New York safer and healthier.
  • Marijuana Legalization: We support Assembly Bill A01617 to legalize marijuana. New York is still wrestling with this basic policy solution, years after legalization has taken hold in states across the country. Let’s get this done in 2020, and legalize in a way that both recognizes the harm the War on Drugs has done to communities, and gives those communities an opportunity to reap the benefits of legalization. Our office will also support a responsible path to legalization for any other drug product that currently operates in the black market.
  • Support Safer Injection Sites. Leadership on implementing these sites must come from the mayor’s office, but as District Attorney, I will be a strong supporter, and push back against the inevitable scare tactics that will threaten these much needed interventions.
  • Continue State Efforts to Address Overdose Deaths. Thanks to advocacy efforts from VOCAL-NY, DPA, and others, our state government has supported funding for health clinics. However, we are concerned about proposals in Governor Cuomo’s State of the State appear to use criminalization for fentanyl analogs as a primary strategy for reducing use. Furthermore, S5935/A7246B, which would increase access to lifesaving treatment (methadone and buprenorphine) for substance abuse disorder by removing prior authorization for people enrolled in Medicaid, passed the Senate and Assembly with bipartisan support but was vetoed by Governor Cuomo in December 2019. We hope this bill is passed in the budget next year.
  • Change NYPD Responses to Drug Interventions: While our office will not criminally prosecute drug possession, our preference would be for the initial police intervention to be directed through a public health lens. Likewise, we are concerned about the NYPD investigating all overdoses as crime scenes, a practice that complicates peoples’ decision to call 911 for medical help. As with so many issues of policing, we strongly encourage New Yorkers to press 2021 mayoral and City Council candidates to adopt smart, progressive positions on these issues.
  • End the Federal War on Drugs. While we must endure this national nightmare for at least one more year, we are encouraged by positions taken by leading Democratic candidates regarding the War on Drugs, driven in part by organizations like the ACLU. When we have a Democrat in the White House, we hope that person will serve as an effective partner for the groundbreaking work we will bring to Manhattan.
  • Retract all staff and resources that the Manhattan DA currently provides to the Special Narcotics Prosecutor
  • By law, the Special Narcotics Prosecutor’s assistant district attorneys (ADAs) are on loan from the city’s five elected District Attorneys. In 2018, 60 of the office’s 73 ADAs were assigned by the Manhattan DA. On Day One, I would order the those ADAs to return to the Manhattan DA’s office, and cease all other forms of support to Special Narcotics, significantly weakening its capacity.
  • Support legislation to abolish the Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor and reinvest its budget in harm reduction programs.
  • The Special Narcotics Prosecutor’s office can only be eliminated through state law. I will support legislation to abolish the office and direct its $22 million budget towards harm reduction programs to reduce drug use and protect public health.
  • In the interim, remove Brennan as Special Narcotics Prosecutor.
  • Twenty-two years is enough. Bridget Brennan has proven that her approach is stuck in the past, and is determined to thwart even the slightest reforms to our criminal justice system. On Day One, I will renounce my office’s support for Brennan and encourage the City’s other District Attorneys to join me. (With the support of three DAs, Brennan can be removed.) Until this office is eliminated, it should be led by someone taking a public health centered approach.
  • If it is brought to the attention of my office that we are prosecuting someone who is being held in or at risk of being placed in solitary, we would begin steps towards dropping charges against the individual unless they are removed from solitary cells, and communicate this clearly to the Judge, Mayor’s office and Corrections Department.
  • Our expectation is that in the interest of justice and public safety, the next mayor would agree that continuing the case without creating additional harm is more important than any perceived interest served by solitary confinement.
  • At the state level, legislators can pass the HALT Solitary Confinement Act, which already has significant political and community support.
  • In New York City, Mayor de Blasio, the Board of Correction, or the City Council could eliminate solitary at existing jails. At bare minimum, we should not be constructing new solitary cells, as original designs suggest for the proposed borough-based jails.
  • We will establish an independent unit for police prosecution. This unit will not work directly with the police, so it will not have an actual or perceived conflict of interest. The unit will focus on police misconduct, including but not limited to excessive force, police domestic violence, lying under oath, and corruption. This unit will be responsible for building a comprehensive, verified list of police officers credibly accused of misconduct. We plan to work with the Civilian Complaint Review Board and other agencies to keep the list updated.
  • We will reject campaign donations from law enforcement unions. Right-wing law enforcement unions have long sought to influence New York elected officials — demonstrated recently by the research of our campaign field coordinator, Aaron Fernando. As I have said since announcing my candidacy, I will not accept campaign donations from law enforcement unions, including police, corrections, and court officer unions. Our campaign has also organized over 40 candidates running in 2021 races throughout New York City to join a pledge rejecting campaign contributions from law enforcement unions.
  • Early in my career, I helped sue to stop an illegal NYPD entrapment practice called, “Operation Lucky Bag.” The unconstitutional practice was authorized high up the chain of command. As much as we can work to hold individual officers accountable, improper NYPD behavior is often systemic, and must be thus confronted.
  • Our office will stay vigilant to ensure that the widespread crisis of misleading testimony on the stand comes to an end. If it does not, we will investigate how far up the chain of command such practices are being encouraged. (And we will not put officers with a history of false testimony on the stand.) The same goes for any local patterns of excessive force, tampering with evidence, or other abuses of power.
  • Common cases that ADAs and investigators will scrutinize include allegations of lying on the stand, excessive force, and domestic violence.
  • Finally, the unit will also pursue illegal behavior by officers when they are out of uniform, again to avoid the possibility of conflict.
  • Decline to prosecute offenses that should not be criminalized. Throughout the campaign we have been committed to declining to prosecute sex work and drug possession, and seeking non-carceral solutions for crimes of poverty, such as public order offenses. More recently we have argued that traditional law enforcement tactics are irresponsible for regulating social distancing. In light of the recent protests, I also pledge to never criminally prosecute cases in which a protester is arrested and the only charge is “Obstructing Government Administration” or “Resisting Arrest.” I was part of the Occupy Wall Street legal team, and have seen plenty of bogus cases like this, which are a waste of the court’s time, and are intended to deter First Amendment expression. I have also pledged to not prosecute quota-driven low-level offenses that criminalize poverty, such as turnstile jumping, sex work between consenting adults, and low-level thefts committed by those experiencing economic desperation, as well as soliciation, unlawful assembly, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, simple trespassing, low-level crimes that disproportionately target immigrants and put them in danger of deportation, unlicensed or suspended license driving, gambling charges, welfare fraud, and instances when the victim is a family member who is asking for the case to be dismissed.
  • Empower local Community Advisory Boards to shape DA office priorities. Since the beginning of this campaign, we have discussed the need for a Community Advisory Board, wholly independent from other government institutions, that can provide regular and uncensored feedback on how our office is doing. This stems from our belief that people closest to the problem are closest to the solution. Our Community Advisory Board will include formerly incarcerated people, survivors of crime, local tenant & community leaders, and other professionals who spend time on the streets of our communities. We will use the Community Advisory Board to vet new policy ideas and track implementation of our many initiatives.
  • We must cut $1 billion from the NYPD budget this fiscal year. We stand in solidarity with numerous organizations calling for $1 billion to be cut from the NYPD budget in Fiscal Year 2021, and were the first Manhattan District Attorney campaign to do so. Those funds could better be spent on the Summer Youth Employment Program, affordable housing, and other community-based services that would do more to improve public safety than policing. In the years ahead, we will continue to push for a reduction of the NYPD budget, as well as expenditures on jail, prison, and even our own District Attorney’s office to free resources for programs that directly support the community. We also have taken great pains to scrutinize an opaque NYPD budget, and published multiple pathways to responsibly achieving this goal, including removing police from our schools, traffic enforcement, and homeless outreach.
  • We will support reinvestment into programs that improve safety. When policing budgets are cut, those funds should be re-allocated into strategic efforts to keep New York City safe. As always, we will follow the community’s lead in terms of budget priorities outside our own department. Based on our experience, investments into anti-violence organizations, local groups that foster non-carceral accountability, and wrap-around services for vulnerable populations are far more effective than funds spent on policing and prison. We also support even larger funding interventions for areas like affordable housing and education, even if that requires greater tax revenues from high income people and corporations.
  • We will support city and state legislation to hold the police accountable. This includes ideas such as granting the CCRB final determination powers over police misconduct (rather than the police commissioner), requiring police officers to live in the five boroughs, and any legislation that increases transparency in law enforcement (including transparency from the District Attorney’s office).
  • Right now, survivors are largely ignored in the legal process, and yet, they must constantly relive their trauma. Some victims find the legal process traumatic in and of itself. We will seek to flip this by reducing their unnecessary contact with the court system, while increasing their role in shaping outcomes.
  • Repeated trips to court and lengthy delays have a damaging impact on survivors. As part of a broader effort to improve efficiencies in the calendering process, these types of cases should be scheduled with the recognition that a victim may be carrying the stress of testifying against their abuser until the case is resolved.
  • Additionally, my office will assign an Assistant District Attorney from the onset to individually handle each specific case. Should a perpetrator re-offend, the survivor will not have to relive the pain and trauma of telling their story to another individual in their fight to seek justice, and the ADA will be familiar with the prior behaviors of the perpetrator. This relationship will help both survivor and ADA work together in determining the best course of justice. From that first conversation, we will also assign a social worker or similarly trained counselor to help the victim in the difficult step of sharing their story with law enforcement for the first time.
  • When victims do not support incarceration, and instead wish to work with us and the person who harmed them to determine more lasting forms of accountability, our office will not seek incarceration in such cases.
  • Those who are sentenced to time in prison should receive treatment services while incarcerated, especially programming related to trauma in order to have a positive influence on recidivism and see behavioral changes.
  • Finally, one of the most obvious solutions to reducing victims’ burden is to no longer require their physical presence at family court hearings for orders of protection. Bringing individuals into the same physical space as their abuser creates no benefit, but instead can cause further incidents of intimidation.
  • Studies have shown that children and young adults who have suffered or witnessed abuse earlier in life are more likely to exhibit abusive behaviors as adults.
  • This does not excuse illegal behavior, but the better we can understand these patterns of harm, the more we can do to disrupt generational trauma and end cycles of harm.
  • Thus, the best way to prevent future violence is to properly address underlying trauma. Research has shown that judicial monitoring of IPV perpetrators works best when combined with therapeutic approaches.
  • One common alternative to incarceration, batterers’ intervention programs (BIPs), have shown more mixed results. When used, BIPs need to be supplemented with additional forms of treatment and self help, including community-based programs, individualized therapy, and continuous monitoring of behavioral changes, both positive and negative.
  • Partners of veterans experience intimate partner violence at three times the rate of the rest of the population, a tragic reminder of how little we support the mental wellbeing of our troops when they come home. The Strength At Home Program gives participants tools to make behavioral changes from these therapy sessions. Our office will work with community partners and other city agencies to expand this program model.
  • In general, victims tend to be more pleased with the outcomes of Restorative Justice than those experienced within the formal criminal justice system, and appreciate the survivor-centered approach. Studies on restorative justice for IPV show that arrest rates halved in a two year period for those who participated.
  • Our office will partner with community-based organizations already offering restorative justice programs to create safe spaces for survivors to voice their concerns, address their needs, and provide resources for individuals who may wish to mend or stay in relationships that see improvement over time.
  • We also recognize the basic tenet of restorative justice that no victim should ever feel pressured to participate in such a program and will be used in cases only when victims believe the perpetrator will take accountability for the harm they have caused, which means it will certainly not work in every IPV case.
  • Studies show that 40% of women in families of police officers have experienced incidents of domestic violence, compared to 25% of American women generally. These families also find themselves at greater risk of domestic violence where the use of a weapon is involved, as these families are guaranteed to have a gun in the home.
  • Survivors are also rightfully hesitant to report abuse because of the probability that the call will be handled by someone their abuser works with or knows, which can skew an investigation to benefit the perpetrator.
  • Not only are these officers unlikely to face criminal charges, they rarely see any employment-related repercussions. These officers will be investigated and potentially prosecuted through an independent unit for prosecuting police misconduct, the details of which were laid out in our previous policy paper on police accountability.
  • Our office will work closely with victims of officer-involved domestic violence, knowing that prosecuting officers poses particularly acute risks to victims who are partners of police officers. This will allow us to hold police officers to the same standard of accountability as the rest of the public when it comes to domestic violence.
  • Financial abuse can be one of the most detrimental forms of intimate partner abuse and cause lasting harm that a survivor endures even after they have left the relationship. It is also the most common form of intimate partner abuse, although it is less discussed than physical violence.
  • Our office will build a victim-centered team within the Financial Frauds Bureau to handle delicate cases at the intersection of financial crimes and intimate partnerships.
  • The Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act (DVSJA) was passed in 2019 and allows judges discretion when sentencing victims of domestic violence who committed crimes defending themselves from their perpetrator, or engaged in illegal activity forced upon them while in an abusive relationship.
  • Victims who are already incarcerated may also apply for re-sentencing if they meet eligibility criteria.
  • The passage of DVSJA is especially important given how infrequently Governor Cuomo uses his powers to grant clemencies or commutations.
  • All cases brought before my office that involve a victim of domestic violence committing a crime will be applied through the lens of the DVSJA.
  • Additionally, my office will review every application received from individuals already incarcerated to ensure they will be re-sentenced should their case meet the eligibility criteria of DVSJA.
  • Ensure Medical Assistance is Provided in Intimate Partner Violence Incidents. We support Senate/Assembly Bill S.1050/A.2803, sponsored by Senator Roxanne Persaud and Assemblymember Nick Perry, which would require medical assistance to be provided to survivors of domestic violence incidents. This bill would provide Medicaid coverage for all physician services, including surgical and plastic surgery, necessary to treat scarring or other harm following a domestic violence incident. Survivors typically do not have the financial means to pay for these medical procedures on their own, and while the emotional scars may last a lifetime, the least we can do is help remove the physical ones.
  • Establish Domestic Violence as a Misdemeanor to Prevent Firearms Access. We support Senate Bill S.7125, sponsored by Senator Alessandria Biaggi, to classify domestic violence as a Class A misdemeanor as a means for perpetrators to be entered into the FBI National Instant Criminal Background Check. The staggering number of law enforcement domestic violence incidents shows us that access to firearms creates a greater vulnerability to victims. While we do not believe carceral approaches are always the answer, restricting access to firearms will increase public safety without reducing liberty.
  • Require Agency Transparency in Domestic Violence Investigations. Our office will be rooted in transparency and we believe all public officials should behave in the same way. For this reason, we support the City Council legislation brought forth by Council Member Ben Kallos, and co-sponsored by Council Members Diana Ayala and Keith Powers, mandating both the NYPD and all five District Attorneys publicly report on all domestic violence incidents and investigations.
  • As Manhattan DA, I will allow cases classified as both ‘non-violent’ and ‘violent’ to be eligible for restorative processes pre-charge, so long as all parties voluntarily consent. Restorative justice must not exacerbate the dangerous dichotomy between “non-violent” and “violent” offenses, wherein “violent offenders” are viewed as unworthy of receiving the benefits of reform.
  • There is no offense that will be categorically barred from a restorative justice process if parties prefer to go this route.
  • Our office understands that the power of restorative justice lies in its ability to break-down conflict and facilitate open and honest dialogue to understand how people were hurt so that there are clear steps of what is needed to heal. Therefore, people who commit violent offenses must be allowed in this process if we are to experience the full transformative potential of restorative justice.
  • As District Attorney, I will establish relationships with and refer cases to experienced community-based restorative justice organizations and practitioners for RJ processes.
  • Our campaign believes that restorative justice programs are most effective when conducted by community-based groups rather than solely through the DA office.
  • Participants, especially respondents, may feel they cannot be as open in conversation or claim their agency in the inclusive decision-making of mutual agreements if they are in the presence of law enforcement.
  • Our office will handle the legal and administrative side of the processes in constant communication with our partners, while the actual conferences and overseeing of agreements will be handled by the experts of their own communities.
  • Restorative justice based non-profits often cite the lack of consistent funding as the main source of anxiety in not knowing if they will be able to continue functions each year. In the short-term I will allocate funding from the DA’s office to support the collaborative efforts between our office and willing community-based restorative justice partners to conduct RJ processes, while supporting those organizations in their efforts to attain sustainable fundraising sources from outside the criminal court system.
  • Our office will also implement a screening process that decides which cases may be a good fit for restorative justice while educating all respondents, harmed parties, and defense attorneys that they have the freedom and power to choose restorative justice for their cases.
  • Once a case is screened and accepted to go through the restorative justice process, we will refer it to one of our local partner organizations; and when the respondent completes the terms of their agreement, the case will be declined with no record of formal charges.
  • Our office is committed to doing all that it can to ensure a successful restorative justice process.
  • Inevitably, some restorative justice processes will not succeed due to issues arising within the dialogues, failure to complete the terms of the agreement, or other reasons.
  • When our partners and office decide that we can no longer move forward with an RJ process, we will work together to meet the needs of participants and determine what interventions are needed to get the process back on track.
  • In the event that a restorative justice process must be cut short and returned to our office, we will prohibit the introduction of any information shared during the process as evidence in subsequent criminal proceedings.
  • Because of the massive economic harm being caused by wage theft, the Manhattan DA’s office cannot treat it like a side issue.
  • Our office believes in proactively and passionately identifying the D.A. as an ally to fight for workers.
  • In order to build this Wage Theft Unit, we pledge to add lawyers, investigators, and community liaisons to proactively combat wage theft. The issue will no longer be lumped into the Construction Fraud Task Force.
  • We will have dedicated investigation heads monitoring various industries, and direct canvassers to build relationships with workers, unions and advocacy groups in addition to keeping a watchful eye on problematic companies.
  • By designing a robust and aggressive series of investigations into Manhattan’s worst offenders, we will not only bring workers justice, but establish a deterrent effect among all industries who exploit their workers.
  • The New York Exploited Worker Task Force identified 14 industries with the most egregious violations of wage theft, including nail salons, farming, childcare, cleaning, home health care, laundry, restaurants, retail, construction, landscaping, car washes, supermarkets, janitorial services, truck and waste disposal which is where we will start.
  • In New York City, construction workers and those who work in the service industry, particularly restaurants and salons, are among those most impacted because they are often paid in cash and in tips, making them an easy target.
  • At present, the risk of being caught for wage theft is low enough that there is a significant economic incentive for employers to engage in it. However, by proactively and thoroughly investigating industries across the city, our office can deter employers who might otherwise practice wage theft.
  • Our Wage Theft Unit will focus on several industries at a time, developing expertise in the business area and relationships with workers. By systematically addressing abuse in a particular industry, we will deter those businesses from engaging in abusive practices. And by reforming individual industries, we will send a message to other industries that they might be the next to warrant our scrutiny.
  • Our Wage Theft Unit would not only bring cases, but ensure that victories are enforced. Workers have successfully won wage theft cases in recent years, but they have struggled to enforce court orders and collect back wages. Despite victories in court, more often than not they are left with no way to enforce the actual collection of the financial judgments they are rightfully entitled to.
  • In egregious cases, our office will borrow from the federal monitor approach, placing a highly experienced third party, backed by resources from our office, in a position to hold the employer accountable and issue reports over a period of months or years. This will ensure that not only is compensation for the original wage theft delivered, but that the company’s practices changes.
  • Likewise, our office would be positioned to take further legal action, if necessary, to collect judgments owed or redress further noncompliance. Unfortunately, some employers go so far as to declare bankruptcy and flee or re-open under a different LLC, leaving them legally off the hook. In proposal #5, we discuss legislation we support to close this loophole.
  • Fostering trust and building relationships with impacted communities is essential if meaningful investigations of wage theft are to occur. Employers who perpetuate wage theft count on workers being too frightened or disempowered to come forward.
  • By building partnerships with community groups, unions, worker centers, legal clinics, prison reentry groups, and other labor-based organizations, the Manhattan DA can help workers to feel more comfortable coming forward.
  • Advocacy groups such as Make the Road have done incredible work in New York, and we hope that by building strong relationships with such groups, we can work together to promote justice. Increased trust between impacted communities and the District Attorney has impacts beyond wage theft; this confidence can foster a larger cooperation towards solving crime and having faith in government.
  • We applaud the efforts of advocates who successfully pushed for the Freelance Isn’t Free Act, which allows freelancers to recover thousands of dollars in owed wages every year. While enforcement of the act is under the jurisdiction of the Department of Consumer Affairs, our office will maintain communications with groups representing freelancers, including the Freelancers Union, about unique challenges they face in seeking economic justice.
  • We will also work to address the instances in which unscrupulous companies seek loopholes to avoid paying outstanding contracts- sometimes going as far as claiming bankruptcy and changing LLC’s overnight.
  • Another critical way to build trust in impacted communities comes from our campaign’s promise to never refer defendants to ICE. DA Vance is the only District Attorney in New York City who has referred defendants to ICE. It is exactly this kind of behavior that makes undocumented workers fearful of coming forward with their complaints, and enables employers to exploit that fear. By making it clear and publicly known from the outset that our office will never coordinate with ICE, we hope to earn community trust.
  • Finally, our campaign believes the office of the DA must not only be transparent, but also recognize that those closest to the problem are often the closest to the solution. We will establish a Community Advisory Board, composed of formerly incarcerated individuals, survivors of crime, law enforcement and other impacted people (included those working for economic justice) so that we may collaboratively and effectively respond to concerns from community members, while also providing the public with desired information about our office’s practices.
  • Upon taking office, we will reach out to industries where the $15 wage is prevalent and ensure workers know that they have an ally in law enforcement who will support them.
  • For far too long New York State has allowed employees who rely on tips to be paid far below the state’s minimum wage. This leaves many tipped workers at risk for wage theft, finding themselves working well below the minimum wage requirements while having their earned tips withheld.
  • The DOL is set to implement new policies in 2020 that will address this issue for many workers. We applaud these efforts and hope they are expanded to include all workers who currently earn a subminimum wage. We must also ensure that employers who do not follow the new order are held accountable and employees receive the wages they are rightfully entitled to.
  • Employers who steal from their workers must be exposed and shamed for their practices. We believe that the negative publicity from being branded a thief alone can be a powerful tool for change.
  • In the process of prosecuting wage theft violations, we will follow the watchlist model used by the New York City Public Advocate and his predecessors who reveal an annual list of the ten worst landlords.
  • Our office would follow this model in publishing a yearly list of the worst employers found liable for wage theft.
  • A Legal Tool for Victims of Wage Theft to Secure Owed Wages. We support the Senate/Assembly Bill A.486/S.2844, commonly referred to as Securing Wages Earned Against Theft (SWEAT), to amend five sections of New York State’s labor laws for the purpose of increasing the likelihood that workers impacted by wage theft will be able to collect unpaid wages they are rightfully owed. We are disappointed that Governor Cuomo vetoed this bill in December 2019 but remain hopeful for its passage in 2020.
  • Hold Individual Industries Accountable. We support Assembly Bill A10042, sponsored by Assemblymember Catalina Cruz, which imposes additional rules and requirements on the licensing of nail salons in New York State.
  • Support #FundExcludedWorkers: We support Senate Bill S8277B, which would tax billionaires and use the resulting revenue to create a worker bailout fund for workers traditionally excluded from wage protections, including undocumented workers.
  • Provide Greater Protection to Workers Who Voice Complaints. We support the Empowering People in Rights Enforcement (EmPIRE) Workers Protection Act (EmPIRE Workers Act), S.1848 / A.2265 which allows employees, whistleblowers or organizations to initiate public enforcement actions in a proven way to strengthen the enforcement of labor laws without fearing retaliation. California enacted a similar law in 2004 (the Private Attorneys General Act) which has since brought $34.6 billion in revenue from recovered penalties and wages.
  • Ensure Workers Are Correctly Classified and Properly Compensated. Gig workers and other “open shop” workers, including construction workers and adult dancers, are often misclassified as independent contractors which, as previously discussed, is a significant cause of wage theft. Ensuring that these workers are properly classified is the first step to preventing wage theft. We support any legislation that is similar to the ABC Test in California that extends employee classification to any gig workers and other contractors. Additionally, we support Senate/Assembly Bill A.1261/S.1947, sponsored by Assemblymember Harry Bronson and Senator Jessica Ramos, which pushes for the expansion of New York State’s prevailing wage law by expanding the definition and create a statutory definition of “public work,” a significant designation that triggers the prevailing wage requirement.
  • Emulate Successful Legislation from Other Jurisdictions:
  • We are inspired by San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin’s recent decision to sue DoorDash for worker misclassification. Though we believe New York law would not allow us to successfully take similar action yet, we support the passage of Senate Bill S6699A, which would codify the ABC rule that California uses to classify workers as employees. The passage of this bill could allow our office to immediately take legal action against companies which fail to correctly classify workers under the ABC test.
  • New Jersey recently enacted one of the country’s strongest wage theft laws. The New Jersey Wage Theft Act can result in employers having their business licenses suspended or completely revoked, and a fine with the possibility of jail time that increases for repeat offenders. The law also gives further protection to employees against retaliatory actions, as well as requiring employers found in violation to pay any owed wages in addition to liquidated damages equal to 200% of the original amount owed. We support this legislation and will back any similar bill brought forward in New York State.
  • I will use virtually all financial resources our office obtains from financial institution forfeitures stemming from investigations into misconduct and corruption by those institutions to fund mental health programs.
  • The program disbursing funds will be staffed by practitioners, directly impacted people, and other people with mental health expertise, and funding decisions will be informed by community input. The DA’s office itself will not make funding decisions.
  • We estimate our proposal will lead to an increase of at least $50 million a year in spending on community-based mental health spending from our office and will create services for thousands of Manhattan residents.
  • When imagining the change this funding could bring, we have several impressive examples from New York and across the country to draw from including:
  • In Hell’s Kitchen where I live, Fountain House is a clubhouse community mental health service model where residents are not referred to as patients, but considered members. By combining housing, mental health support, employment opportunities, education, and a social environment, Fountain House has had tremendous success in not only reducing re-hospitalizations and improving overall wellbeing and social integration, but even more impressive is that recidivism among its residents is less than 5%.
  • Housing First in Vermont has been credited as being the most influential intervention for contending with the state’s chronic homelessness through their innovative approach in providing long term community-based support programs and locating permanent housing with no questions asked in terms of drug or alcohol use.
  • We can similarly invest in peer support programs, which are premised on shared lived experiences, with guidance coming from people who have experienced mental health struggles of their own. Current research shows that peer support is greatly beneficial in increasing overall mental wellbeing, participation in services, and reduction in incarceration rates.
  • Peer support programs could also operate in the courtroom, or through reentry providers like the Fortune Society and Doe Fund.
  • Possible grant recipients could include social work programs, such as CUNY’s Masters of Social Work (MSW) and psychology programs. A partnership between the New York City Department of Mental Health and Hygiene and CUNY Hunter’s Silberman School of Social Work, one of the top social work graduate programs in the nation, would benefit thousands of New Yorkers.
  • Research shows that art therapy can greatly impact one’s mental well-being. Our funding program would consider grants to institutions that provide creative outlets for people with mental health issues.
  • Criminally prosecuting people for issues emanating from mental illness runs contradictory to the professed values of our legal system. If a person lacks the necessary mens rea (or “guilty mind” requisite for intent) to commit a crime, or if they clearly need an intervention that the criminal legal system cannot offer, our office will move these cases out of the criminal court system, or dismiss minor offenses entirely.
  • There is no need for someone charged with a minor issue to needlessly waste their time and our justice system’s resources. My office will either dismiss such a case or work out a non-carceral arrangement that does not involve the court.
  • In addition, New York City must stop relying on police to handle situations that involve individuals going through mental health crises. Rather than police, response teams should be composed of a paramedic, social worker, a psychiatric expert, and peer support who work in the triple shift model, ensuring someone is always able to respond. In order for this program to be truly effective, these units need to respond and be on scene as quickly as other emergency responders such as EMTs or fire departments, and perhaps could be housed in government spaces like the East Harlem Neighborhood Health Action Center.
  • Additionally, emergency calls should be routed through a separate three-digit number so as to not trigger an unnecessary police response, as proposed by Public Advocate Jumaane Williams last year.
  • When an individual experiencing a mental health crisis is arrested our office will work with organizations such as The Bridge, Exodus Transitional Community, The Osborne Association, Harlem United, and CASES to connect them to necessary resources. In addition, we will partner with any community, peer-based group that can form trusting relationships with people in crisis, whether or not they are established nonprofits. By following this practice, our office will send a clear message to the NYPD that arresting individuals experiencing a mental health crisis is not only a false solution, but is also an ineffective use of their time and resources.
  • Our current mental health court system has created a process where individuals find themselves victims of the revolving door, constantly cycling between Rikers Island and Bellevue Hospital.
  • As District Attorney, I will end this revolving door by expanding eligibility for mental health courts and encourage people who want access to these courts to use them.
  • Currently, eligibility for the courts is only extended to individuals who are charged with non-violent felonies, while individuals charged with violent felonies may be considered on a case-by-case basis. All defendants must plead guilty before they are able to participate and be referred to the court by a prosecutor, defense attorney, and/or at the defendant’s request, with all petitions requiring approval by the Special Litigation Bureau of the District Attorney’s Office and finalized by the presiding judge.
  • I will instruct all ADAs and the Special Litigation Bureau to review applicants regardless of their charges, and eventually make broader changes to our office to simplify the process for people accessing specialty courts and diversion programs.
  • Dual diagnoses of a mental illness and a substance use disorder are also very common. We acknowledge the important feedback our campaign received from directly impacted individuals and public defenders that very often a defendant is recommended for one specialty court while having issues that should be addressed by the other. My office will work with judges from mental health, drug, and Veterans courts to ensure that if someone is found to be a better fit for another program they will not have to resubmit their application and start the process over, but rather allow an ADA to make a request for the designated specialty court to be changed.
  • We will work with the court system to the end the requirement that defendants plead guilty to the crime they have been charged with in order to be eligible to participate in mental health court. Until such an agreement is reached, I will drop, not reduce, all criminal charges upon successful completion of the programming prescribed by the mental health court.
  • We will also divert cases to alternative to incarceration (ATI) programs whenever appropriate. Certain ATI programs have proven to be extremely effective at reducing recidivism and improving overall wellbeing and outcomes for participants, offering people the ability to remain in the community instead of being jailed. As a bonus, ATI programs save significant taxpayer money.
  • Finally, no one should be kept out of mental health programs due to their costs. I will waive fees for all diversion programs and partner with local government to expand diversion eligibility and expedite processes.
  • We believe that prison should only be used as a last resort and would only seek incarceration when our system lacks any other thoughtful approach to keeping the victim and other community members safe, and achieving accountability for the person who committed the harm. But when a person is incarcerated, we must take steps to make their incarceration as humane as possible.
  • After sentencing, our office will recommend to Corrections that any person with mental health needs who is being sentenced to serve prison time is placed in a facility that is as close to home as possible as long as there are sufficient mental health resources.
  • Many people with mental illnesses convicted of a crime are currently sent to prisons far upstate such as the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora or Attica Correctional Facility. These facilities are hundreds of miles from Manhattan. This adds unnecessary burdens and expenses just to visit a loved one. However, there are prisons that are just outside of Manhattan that offer the same level of mental health care.
  • If we learn that a facility closer to Manhattan lacks adequate resources, we will work with the governor’s office and Department of Correction to address that deficiency.
  • End the use of solitary confinement. Solitary confinement is torture. In a previous policy paper we stated that we would end the practice of solitary confinement for Manhattan pre-trial defendants. We wholeheartedly oppose the use of solitary confinement and support the passage of the HALT Solitary Confinement Act. We will continue to urge Mayor de Blasio, the Board of Corrections, and the City Council to eliminate the use of solitary confinement in city jails.
  • Enact Public Advocate Jumaane Williams’ emergency mental health response recommendations. It has been a year since the Public Advocate released his report “Improving New York City’s Response to Individuals in Mental Health Crisis” which focuses on reforming the City and NYPD’s responses when interacting with individuals suffering from mental illness. As we transition to a solution that fully removes the NYPD from responding to mental health crises, we must continue training and de-escalation for police officers.
  • Provide Medicaid services to incarcerated people leaving prison. It is imperative to provide continuous healthcare for people coming home, which means remaining on Medicaid during and after incarceration. This would also allow for continued therapy and other health services that benefit re-entering individuals. We support Governor Cuomo’s directive for the Department of Health to apply for a waiver amendment which would allow certain individuals who are currently incarcerated to be provided Medicaid and Medicare services 30 days prior to their release so as to not avoid a lapse in health services. However, as this request has been denied by the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services, we urge the New York Congressional Delegation to get behind H.R. 1329, the Medicaid Reentry Act, sponsored by Representatives Paul Tonko (D-NY) and Turner (R-OH) and push Congress to move this through committee to a full House vote.
  • Stop the criminalization and policing of mental health. This includes supporting legislation involving pretrial mental health and substance abuse evaluations, changing the definition of serious mental illness in corrections law to match that of the mental hygiene law in relation to inmates, and prohibiting health professionals from engaging in torture or other harmful treatment of incarcerated individuals.
  • Medicare For All. The New York Health Act, sponsored by Senator Gustavo Rivera, covers all essential healthcare, including mental health treatment and support. These services have always been imperative for all New Yorkers to have free and easy access to but have become increasingly important over the last several months.
  • Enact a Homes Guarantee. We believe in a #NYHomesGuarantee and the reforms that activists such as VOCAL’s Home for Everyone New Yorker coalition and the Housing Justice For All campaign led by the Upstate Downstate Housing Alliance are fighting for. When people with mental health issues are detained, they frequently lose their housing while incarcerated. Additionally, housing instability is one of the largest obstacles for folks who struggle with mental health needs and there is absolutely no reason that New York State cannot find a resolution to solve this issue.
  • Upon the recommendations of environmental activists, my office will build a strong Environmental and Climate Crimes Unit, staffed with experienced environmental regulators that will investigate safety violations, dumping illegal and toxic waste, labor abuse, and the lack of enforcement of lead paint abatement.
  • I will increase penalties for dumping illegal and/or toxic waste to actually deter these acts and prosecute individuals from any corporation found to be directing or complicit in such behaviors. These investigations will focus on preventable explosions, knowingly ignoring faulty infrastructure, and excavation violations.
  • By establishing teams to investigate Manhattan’s worst environmental offenders, which will also focus on egregious acts of safety, labor, and billing violations, our office will finally put an end to the harmful tactics that have become just another part of doing business. Robust investigations will begin immediately into industries and corporations with the most rampant history of these types of transgressions.
  • We also pledge to add investigators and community liaisons to proactively combat these hazards. Our community liaisons will build relationships with community groups, unions, activists, and advocacy groups to gain additional insight into bad actors and continuous offenders.
  • My office will be entirely transparent to the public about all investigations and subsequent prosecutions. Our new unit will release an annual report on environmental cases each year, which is not the current practice of the office, and in doing so, bring transparency and accountability to our new unit’s work.
  • Labor abuse will be investigated in conjunction with our Wage Theft Unit, including knowingly using unsafe and noncompliant actions during construction, not providing workers proper PPE both before and especially during COVID-19, refusing to pay outside contractors a prevailing wage, and forbidding the formation of unions.
  • Other activities our Environmental Crimes Unit will look into will include predatory marketing tactics used by energy service companies (ESCOs), billing issues (such as raising rates in May during the height of COVID), bribery, tax fraud, and other corruption by high ranking executives in these industries.
  • We firmly believe that jail and prison should never be the answer to society’s problems but that does not mean people should not be held accountable for the harmful acts they commit.
  • Over the last 15 years, law enforcement agencies at the state and federal level have been incredibly reluctant to truly hold corporations accountable for fraud and other crimes. There are a host of reasons for this — politics, the complexity of proving certain types of financial crime, limited resources — but we can clearly do better.
  • First, I will increase the resources for our Major Economic Crimes Bureau, which will be made possible by reducing the number of attorneys working on low-level criminal offenses.
  • Second, I will seek more consequential outcomes for corporate institutions that break the law, including prosecution of leadership in those companies and loss of equity; for example, fining a company by giving a share of their stock equity to victims. This is much better than regular fines, which companies consider the cost of doing business.
  • Third, I will create a greater monetary incentive for whistleblowers, which certain federal agencies use to great success.
  • Fourth, I will make sure deferred prosecution agreements (DPAs) are not just a get out of jail free card for corporations. Right now, if a company gets in trouble, law enforcement lacks the resources to do a proper investigation, so they agree to a DPA — allowing for an internal investigation (by a corporate law firm) in lieu of prosecution. These investigations usually lead to recommendations on improving corporate governance, and occasionally consequences for low-mid level employees. Too often this is a sham resolution, and one solution is to develop a set list of law firms (such as plaintiff firms) that can do more rigorous corporate investigations in partnership with our office. Taken together, these reforms will keep the pressure on environmental institutions.
  • Large corporations such as ConEd and National Grid must be held to the highest standards and receive appropriate consequences. We will hold all types of businesses accountable, but recognize that District Attorney’s offices taking on corporate crime are often tempted to take on easier cases against small businesses than go up against powerful forces. We can only challenge corporate power and win by working in collaboration with others.
  • That’s why our office will work to build partnerships with community organizations, activists, advocacy groups, and those most directly impacted from climate injustice, including Indigenous people. Building this trust will help to remedy harm, and promote peacebuilding and restorative justice practices as successful outcomes of justice. We hope this will also work to repair harm at the community level, which is the central message of our campaign.
  • When we encounter offenders engaging in smaller environmental crimes such as a restaurant violating styrofoam laws, a restorative approach would be better than criminalization. The purpose of restorative justice (“RJ”) is to hold the person who has committed harm accountable, heal the person who has been harmed, and use the community’s support to ensure that the harm does not re-occur. Our campaign has previously released a comprehensive restorative justice plan that will extend to environmental crimes.
  • The goal here, as with all RJ processes, would be to address the underlying cause of harm, so that person would not continue the harmful behavior in the future. These procedures could also be combined with required courses about the climate crisis and why these behaviors have such a detrimental effect on advancing climate change. RJ processes would only be disfavored in cases of systemic corporate crime, where accountability is hard to trace to all of the relevant parties.
  • Protecting animal rights is integral to addressing climate change, which is perhaps the most essential justice issue all humans face. I will establish an Animal Cruelty Prosecutions Unit within our broader Environmental and Climate Change Crimes Unit, where staff could work with other colleagues looking at expansive interpretations of environmental laws and other statutes outside of the typical day to day issues most of our attorneys will be working with. I will hire people with experience working on behalf of animals to staff this unit, in conjunction with an experienced ADA who shares the values needed to staff such a unit.
  • This unit will investigate all forms of animal cruelty and the industrial meaptacking industry which still exists today in Manhattan, including protecting wildlife, investigating any illegal poultry operators, and following leads on illegal dogfighting and other animal fighting rings. In addition, a task force will be created to investigate the antiquated horse-drawn carriage industry in its entirety.
  • I also pledge to release an annual Animal Abuse registry, as proposed by Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal. This list will include every individual brought before our office who has abused, neglected, or otherwise harmed an animal so animal rescue organizations will be able to protect animals when placing them for adoption.
  • Climate change will also be a priority within my own office.
  • I will ban plastic water bottles, plastic straws and other single use items, reduce food waste, and encourage all employees to use public transit or bicycles when commuting to the District Attorney’s office. I also pledge to use public transit whenever possible while I am in office.
  • The District Attorney’s office, and the greater New York court system, are incredibly outdated. I will prioritize digitizing the office as quickly as possible upon taking office.
  • In the year 2021, there is no reason that criminal court still looks unchanged from the 1980s, with ADA’s walking around with huge volumes of paper files. This step will be part of a broader plan to modernize the District Attorney’s office and will hopefully move the greater Manhattan court system towards doing the same.
  • Renewable Rikers: As the former manager of the #CLOSErikers campaign, I am incredibly inspired by the Renewable Rikers Act, the effort to replace the jail complex with a renewable energy system to deliver power for the city. Rikers Island has been a moral stain on our city, and transforming the island from a jail complex run by DOC to green infrastructure is a smart and just investment.
  • Lead Poisoning Enforcement: Despite the overwhelming evidence of the harm caused by lead paint, and its abundance in NYCHA buildings, there is no statewide system of preventions. We support the bill Senator Brian Kavanagh is set to introduce in January 2021 which is expected to develop a system of standards for enforcing inspections of lead in homes along with a publicly available database on such violations.
  • Public Power NYC: I believe our energy should be supplied by the public sector, and support DSA’s Public Power campaign. The goal must be to transition to a publicly owned utility and replace corporations such as ConEd and National Grid who are consistently committing violations of environmental crimes.
  • Protecting Animals’ Rights: Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal has introduced several important bills under her 2019 “Paw-Print”, all of which this campaign supports. As District Attorney, I pledge to support legislation that helps clarify the rights of nonhuman animals, and I will make the same commitment here that I’ve consistently made in this campaign — to listen closely to communities most directly impacted and most expert in the particular issue, including activists who are pioneering on this issue.
  • Prevent Diesel Truck Emissions: New York State has lagged behind its counterparts in putting a stop to diesel truck emissions. As proposed by advocate Charles Komanoff, Attorney General Letitia James could take a proactive approach to this problem by following the example of California and shutting down the supply chain of those who manufacture, distribute, and sell emission tampering devices.
  • More DA Enforcement of State Level Legislation: Currently, too much environmental regulatory power is vested in the governor’s office. For example most provisions of the New York State Green New Deal are enforced by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, which is essentially relying on Governor Cuomo to determine what accountability will look like. (This year, Cuomo also declined to pass a foam ban bill passed unanimously by the legislature.) More local level enforcement from the state’s 62 District Attorneys will create greater accountability, and thus a healthier environment, for all New Yorkers.

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Criminal justice advocate. Democratic Candidate For Manhattan District Attorney.

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Janos Marton

Janos Marton

Criminal justice advocate. Democratic Candidate For Manhattan District Attorney.