Information and Resources
Working Toward a Fair and Just Reentry Process: The Role of Prosecutors
Though they wield immense power and a prominent platform, prosecutors have traditionally viewed their roles as relatively confined to the “front end” of the criminal legal system. If we are to truly promote safer and healthier communities, elected DAs need to engage and use their power and clout to help foster successful reentry for people returning to their communities. In the American Bar Association’s Criminal Justice Magazine, FJP Executive Director Miriam Krinsky, Deputy Director Ruby Nidiry, and Director of Policy Kalyn Hill write about how DAs can use the tools available to them to minimize the harms of incarceration and work with communities to ensure that people are set up for success after release.
“DAs are often leaders in setting public safety values and priorities in their communities. They can and should use their power and voices to support individuals with reentry, both during incarceration and after their release.”
Felony Murder: An On-Ramp to Extreme Decades-Long Sentencing
Fair and Just Prosecution and the Sentencing Project released a new report, Felony Murder: An On-Ramp for Extreme Sentencing, which analyzes the United States’ fundamentally flawed felony murder laws – a legal landscape that is at odds with the rest of the world. Felony murder occurs when a person participates in a felony, such as a robbery, that results in someone’s death. Felony murder laws compel harsh decades-long – or even life – sentences even when the individual charged did not directly cause or intend the loss of life. The report explains that thousands of Americans who pose little public safety risk will remain behind bars their entire lives based on these harsh sentencing provisions. For more, read the release and the report.
“We need policymakers at every level of government to act now and address these concerning laws, and elected prosecutors can lead reform efforts by embracing policies that ameliorate many of the injustices of felony murder laws.”
–FJP Executive Director Miriam Krinsky
Over 100 Criminal Justice Leaders File Amicus Brief in Support of DACA
Over 100 current and former prosecutors, law enforcement leaders, and Department of Justice officials filed an amicus brief in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals defending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The signatories urged the Court to strike down a ruling by a Texas federal district court that dealt an existential blow to the program’s future, warning that ending DACA would threaten public safety and undermine trust in law enforcement. For more, read the brief and release.
“Ending DACA would…threaten my ability to promote public safety. At a time when we need to be investing in things that will enhance trust in the criminal legal system, ending this critical program would be a reckless mistake.”
–Nueces County, Texas District Attorney Mark Gonzalez
Over 80 Elected Prosecutors and Law Enforcement Leaders Call for Expansion of Clean Slate Initiatives
One in every three Americans today has a criminal record, resulting in significant collateral consequences including challenges obtaining employment, housing, public assistance, and education. That’s why over 80 elected prosecutors and law enforcement leaders issued a joint statement urging policymakers to expand clean slate initiatives that automatically expunge and seal criminal records. The signatories emphasize that those with previous involvement with the criminal legal system and their families deserve the opportunity to move forward without forever being saddled by the closed doors and endless public burdens resulting from past mistakes. Read the statement and release.
“As we work to promote safer and healthier communities, we affirm the importance of, and advocate for, expanded Clean Slate initiatives that acknowledge every person’s capacity for redemption and positive change. This starting point is in the best interests of our entire community.”
Over 60 Criminal Justice Leaders Embrace Sentencing Review Mechanisms to Provide Second Chances to Those Serving Lengthy Prison Terms
64 elected prosecutors and law enforcement leaders joined together in a statement urging elected prosecutors and policy makers to embrace mechanisms that can provide second chances for the many people in our nation serving decades-long sentences who pose little or no risk to public safety. The statement notes that in order to end mass incarceration, justice system leaders must address the high number of individuals serving extreme sentences and cites well-established research showing that these lengthy prison terms have not deterred crime or promoted public safety. Read the statement and release.
“While prosecutors and judges of decades past may have pursued and imposed harsh sentences with the misguided belief that certain individuals were incapable of rehabilitation, there is simply no justification for maintaining those sentences when a person demonstrates that the opposite is, in fact, true.”
73 Criminal Justice Leaders Back Landmark NJ Policy Limiting Local Entanglement in Federal Immigration Enforcement
73 current and former criminal justice leaders filed an amicus brief in the Third Circuit Court of Appeals supporting New Jersey’s landmark Immigrant Trust Directive, a statewide policy that aims to fortify trust between immigrant communities and law enforcement by limiting local entanglement in federal immigration enforcement. As the brief notes, local involvement in immigration enforcement exacerbates fear within immigrant communities, making them less likely to report crimes and cooperate with officials, which threatens public safety. For more, read the brief and release.
“Police cannot prevent or solve crimes if victims or witnesses are unwilling to talk to them or prosecutors because of concerns that they, their loved ones, or their neighbors will face adverse immigration consequences.”
Over 50 Elected Prosecutors Advocate for Probation and Parole Reform
With 4.4 million people on probation or parole in the U.S., community supervision has become overly burdensome and a driver of mass incarceration, especially for people of color. In partnership with Executives Transforming Probation and Parole (EXiT), over 50 elected prosecutors joined 90 current and former probation and parole leaders in issuing a statement that calls for community supervision to be smaller, less punitive, and more equitable. The reforms advanced in the statement align with new polling that shows an overwhelming majority of Americans agree that the United States should try to reduce the number of people on parole or probation. Read the statement, polling report, and release, and watch this episode of The Briefing on the need for reform, featuring San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin, President and CEO of JustLeadershipUSA DeAnna Hoskins, National Institute for Criminal Justice Reform Executive Director and former Chief Probation Officer of Alameda County, CA David Muhammad, and FJP Executive Director Miriam Krinsky.
“Instead of setting people up to succeed…we’re creating roadblocks and hurdles that make it hard for people to get back on the right track.”
–Chesa Boudin, San Francisco District Attorney
Revisiting Past Extreme Sentences: Sentencing Review and Second Chances
There is increasing recognition of the harm that mass incarceration – fueled by lengthy sentences from the “tough-on-crime” era – has inflicted on communities and a growing desire to correct the injustices that resulted from that starting point. While prosecutors have historically viewed their role as ending at the imposition of a sentence, as ministers of justice, prosecutors have an obligation to remedy injustice whenever and wherever they find it. This FJP “Issues at a Glance” brief discusses why prosecutors should embrace sentencing review, summarizes various mechanisms for addressing past extreme sentences, and sets forth recommendations aimed at expanding opportunities for sentence reductions and early release. These reforms have strong support from communities – as reflected by a new poll conducted by Data for Progress that shows overwhelming support for both prosecutors revisiting past extreme sentences and legislatures creating laws that allow for sentencing review that give people a second chance.
“To continuously keep people in jail for terms longer than they need to be in there, simply as more punishment, is unjust and unfair.”
–Eric Gonzalez, Kings County, NY District Attorney
FJP Immigration Brief
Federal immigration law imposes additional — often severe — penalties when a noncitizen receives a criminal conviction, and federal immigration enforcement practices can have a chilling effect on crime reporting and victim engagement. This FJP “Issues at a Glance” brief discusses the prosecutor’s role in addressing federal immigration consequences and advancing strategies aimed at preserving community trust and ensuring a justice system grounded in equity and compassion.
Over Sixty Criminal Justice Leaders Challenge US DOJ Efforts to Tie Public Safety Funding for Local Law Enforcement to Cooperation with Immigration Enforcement
Crime is at historic lows because many jurisdictions across the country have moved toward community policing models grounded in community engagement and critical to building trust between the public and local law enforcement. The US Department of Justice has put these proven models integral to public safety at risk, however, by requiring local law enforcement to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement to receive federal Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant funding that supports important local community initiatives. That’s why 60 criminal justice leaders – including 36 elected prosecutors – filed an amicus curiae brief arguing that forcing local law enforcement to carry out immigration duties would erode trust between law enforcement and immigrant communities, reduce the effectiveness of community policing models and undermine public safety. Read the press release and the brief.
“Effective, legitimate law enforcement, from the investigation of crimes to holding people accountable in individual cases, is built on trust that the criminal justice system is fair and has integrity.”
–POLICE CHIEF RASHALL BRACKNEY, CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA
“The Prosecutor’s Role in the Current Immigration Landscape”
As deportations are increasingly triggered by minor convictions and immigration enforcement efforts are expanding, there is mounting anxiety and distrust within the immigrant community. Prosecutors need to be acutely aware of these concerns. This article discusses immigration consequences – often unintended — that flow from criminal convictions; explores the ways in which federal immigration policies and consequences raise community trust and safety concerns; and provides suggestions for prosecutors interested in engaging in this issue moving forward.
“[Lawyers] should know what happens after a prisoner is taken away” to better understand “the hidden world of punishment.”
– Associate Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, Supreme Court of the United
Criminal Justice Leaders Criticize Detention Conditions of Unaccompanied Minors
All children in detention need – and are constitutionally entitled to – trauma-informed care. Yet, a Virginia district court ruled that providing such care to unaccompanied immigrant children was merely an aspirational goal rather than a necessity dictated by law. That’s why 57 criminal justice leaders from across the country and the disAbility Law Center of Virginia filed an amicus curiae brief in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. In the brief, amici argue that denying such care would be deeply harmful to children in detention, erode trust in the justice system and harm public safety. For more on this important and timely issue, read the press release and full brief.
“As a prosecutor, I have an obligation to uphold the integrity of the justice system, which extends far beyond just seeking convictions and includes ensuring conditions of confinement are humane and aligned with the goals of justice.”
–Dallas County, TX District Attorney John Creuzot
Over 40 Elected Prosecutors and Attorneys General Call Upon Department of Justice to Respect Prosecutorial Discretion
Prosecutors are ministers of justice charged with protecting their community and the integrity of the justice system. That’s why forty-three local elected prosecutors and state Attorneys General from across the country filed an amicus curiae brief in response to Attorney General Barr’s call for feedback on a potential rule change that would give federal authorities unlimited ability to consider past convictions and sentences as grounds for deportation from the United States, even when those convictions are minor or deemed unjust and have been vacated or modified by local prosecutors or judges. Amici argue that the proposed rule change would break with decades of precedent, infringe on state sovereignty, and impair the ability of elected prosecutors to enforce their own criminal laws and exercise prosecutorial discretion in the interest of their own community’s safety. It would also put countless immigrants at new risk of deportation, including in cases where past convictions and sentences were revisited based on defects in the underlying cases. Read the press release here and full brief here.
Prosecutors and Law Enforcement Leaders Oppose End of DACA and Local Entanglements in Federal Immigration Enforcement
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Litigation – Eighty elected prosecutors and law enforcement leaders across the country defended the DACA program as critical to public safety in an amicus brief filed in the Supreme Court of the United States. The brief underscores the program’s impact on public safety, arguing that without DACA community trust will be eroded and many immigrants will be less willing to report crimes and cooperate as witnesses out of fear of deportation – ultimately harming public safety.
City and County of San Francisco v. Trump and County of Santa Clara v. Trump Litigation – Nearly 40 elected DAs, State Attorneys, Police Chiefs and Sheriffs from around the nation filed an amicus brief challenging federal efforts to impose immigration enforcement conditions on localities. The brief argues that an Executive Order which seeks to strip federal funding from so-called “sanctuary jurisdictions” threatens to undermine community policing efforts designed to build trust with immigrant populations. The brief also notes that detention of individuals under ICE detainers who would otherwise be released from custody has been found by federal courts across the country to violate the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution.
”Community trust and cooperation are essential to public safety, and sound police work as well as successful prosecutors’ efforts are undermined by undocumented immigrants’ fears of interacting with law enforcement and the justice system.”
Los Angeles v. Sessions Litigation – Over 30 elected prosecutors and law enforcement leaders filed an amicus brief supporting a federal lawsuit by the city of Los Angeles challenging the Justice Department’s decision to show preferential treatment in awarding COPS grants – a crucial resource for community policing – to cities that pledge assistance with federal immigration enforcement. Read the press release here and the amicus brief here.
Chicago v. Sessions Litigation – Twenty-three prominent elected prosecutors and law enforcement leaders filed a brief challenging federal grant conditions that seek to involve local law enforcement in immigration enforcement duties. Read the press release here and the Amicus Brief here.
“Too Big to Succeed: The Impact of the Growth of Community Corrections and What Should be Done About It”
A new report from the Columbia University Justice Lab looks at concerns associated with the exponential growth of probation and parole, with nearly five million adults in the U.S. now under community corrections supervision. Read the report here.
Get state, local law enforcement out of the immigration business
Federal initiatives – including the 287g program – that entangle local law enforcement agencies in immigration activities undermine trust in the criminal legal system and make us all less safe. In this USA Today op-ed, Washtenaw County, MI Prosecuting Attorney Eli Savit, Charlottesville, VA Chief of Police Dr. RaShall M. Brackney, and FJP Executive Director Miriam Krinsky discuss why the Biden administration should exercise its executive action authority and immediately end these programs.
“The solemn duty of prosecutors and law enforcement leaders is to seek justice, uphold the rule of law and protect the communities they serve. Promoting public safety through justice depends on earning and maintaining the trust of all members of the community — regardless of their immigration status.”
Can the ‘Wisdom of a Second Look’ Curb America’s Appetite for Harsh Sentences?
Extreme prison sentences have become the norm despite evidence showing that they have not made our communities safer. In this op-ed in The Crime Report, District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine, FAMM President Kevin Ring, and FJP Executive Director Miriam Krinsky discuss why policymakers must enact reforms that offer second chances and avenues for people serving lengthy sentences to be released when incarceration is no longer in the public’s best interest.
“These excessive sentences – with little flexibility to consider how and if individuals change – have become the norm in many cases and resulted in a correctional system bursting at the seams. Life sentences are doled out routinely, and have been for years, with no consideration of the consequences – for the individuals sentenced, their community, or taxpayers.”
The Urgent Need for Probation and Parole Reform
One out of every four people entering prison is incarcerated for a technical violation, a starting point that has fueled mass incarceration and cost taxpayers billions without making communities any safer. In this new FJP video, San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin, Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot, Columbia Justice Lab Co-Director Vincent Schiraldi, National Institute for Criminal Justice Reform Executive Director David Muhammad, JustLeadershipUSA President DeAnna Hoskins, and FJP Executive Director Miriam Krinsky underscore the urgent need to promote public safety by providing hope and investing in the development and success of people under supervision.
“Community corrections, as they’re called, have devolved into trail ‘em, nail ‘em and jail ‘em. And so this deficit-based supervision and surveillance-based probation and parole is harmful, it’s ineffective, and it’s very expensive.”
– National Institute for Criminal Justice Reform Executive Director David Muhammad
FJP Statement on Confirmation of Alejandro Mayorkas as Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security
Fair and Just Prosecution Executive Director Miriam Krinsky issued this statement in response to the Senate confirmation of Alejandro Mayorkas as Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. After four years of cruel immigration policies rooted in bigotry and xenophobia, the Biden-Harris administration has the opportunity to create a truly fair and just immigration system, and Secretary Mayorkas’ confirmation represents a welcome shift from the last administration’s starting point.
“We hope this confirmation is the beginning of a new era in which American immigration policy will live up to the aspirations of our American values.”
Don’t block formerly incarcerated people from supportive housing
Formerly incarcerated individuals are about 10 times more likely to be homeless. Yet, a new proposal in Texas would block anyone convicted of a range of criminal offenses from living in supportive housing. In this op-ed in the Austin American-Statesman, FJP Executive Director Miriam Krinsky and American Conservative Union General Counsel David Safavian share why this would make Texans less safe and urge Texas Governor Greg Abbott to reject this proposal.
“Policies that continue to hammer people reentering the community may give us the satisfaction of feeling ‘tough on crime.’ The reality is that these approaches can end up pushing people back to criminal behavior just to survive. This approach makes us all less safe.”
Community supervision, once intended to help offenders, contributes more to mass incarceration
The unnecessarily onerous conditions put on the 4.4 million people on probation and parole in the U.S. too often lead to reincarceration for technical violations rather than new criminal offenses. In this op-ed in USA Today, FJP Executive Director Miriam Krinsky and Columbia Justice Lab Co-Director and former Commissioner of the New York City Department of Probation Vincent Schiraldi share why reimagining our criminal legal system requires reforming probation and parole.
“There’s a common misconception that probation and parole — sometimes called community supervision — are more lenient alternatives to incarceration. But justice officials are recognizing that community supervision can be a tripwire that perpetuates incarceration based on crimeless technical violations…”
“A prosecutors’ leadership retreat in Berlin offers a stark reminder to remain vigilant”
Courageous leadership requires disrupting norms and taking a stand. As fear-based narratives and efforts to marginalize some of the most vulnerable in our community are mounting, we need a new generation of leaders who are unwilling to remain silent in the face of erosion of rights and liberties. Some elected prosecutors are stepping up to this challenge. In an ABA Journal op-ed, FJP Executive Director Miriam Krinsky shares the personal journey that sparked her commitment to prosecutorial reform and weighs in on how elected prosecutors can take bold action to protect our system of justice and the rights of all.
“Assaults on truth and fairness can only succeed if leaders, and all of us, are enablers.”
“Millions of Children Lose Their Parents To Incarceration. That Doesn’t Have To Happen.”
One out of every 28 children has a parent who is currently incarcerated and one in four black children will have their father incarcerated by the time they turn 14. That’s millions ofchildren not only experiencing the pain and stigma of having a parent behind bars, but also the myriad adverse consequences that come along with it. In a new op-ed in The Appeal, We Got Us Now Founder and CEO Ebony Underwood and FJP Executive Director Miriam Krinsky discuss the role prosecutors can play in revisiting past excessive sentences, recommending noncustodial and community-based sentences for parents whenever possible, and advancing policies that keep families connected when loved ones are behind bars.
“Every time we incarcerate someone, new victims are created who are rarely acknowledged: the children, families and loved ones of those incarcerated.”
“DACA makes our jobs easier and communities safer”
DACA helps police and prosecutors keep communities safe. In a new op-ed in The Hill, Washtenaw County Sheriff Jerry Clayton, Nueces County District Attorney Mark Gonzalez and FJP Executive Director Miriam Krinsky discuss how DACA fortifies trust between law enforcement and communities and why they joined 80 law enforcement and criminal justice leaders in an amicus brief before the Supreme Court defending the program.
“Put simply: DACA makes our jobs easier and, in turn, our communities safer.”
“Review of Past Excessive Sentences Will Be Needed To Address Mass Incarceration. DAs Can Lead the Way.”
Ending mass incarceration will require taking bold action and revisiting past excessive sentences. In a new San Francisco Chronicle op-ed, elected prosecutors Eric Gonzalez (Kings County, NY) and Dan Satterberg (King County, WA) and FJP Executive Director Miriam Krinsky weigh in on San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón’s newly proposed Sentence Review Unit and the importance of a “second look” process where prosecutors comprehensively review, identify and seek adjustments in past excessive sentences. Reforms like these are essential to creating a fair and equitable system that provides relief to those serving overly harsh sentences who can be safely returned to our communities.
“It’s time to correct decades of increasingly harsh sentences and take to heart that justice is done not by keeping people in prison just because we can, but by letting them out when their individual circumstances indicate it’s the right thing to do.”
“If Lawmakers Don’t Give Former Inmates a Second Chance, They Will Be Defying the Will of Floridians”
Safe communities require a commitment to second chances where access to resources and rights like education, employment, housing and voting are not restricted because of a prior conviction. In a Miami Herald op-ed, State Attorneys Kathy Fernandez Rundle (Miami-Dade County, FL) and Andrew Warren (Hillsborough County, FL) along with FJP Executive Director Miriam Krinsky weigh in on why voting rights restoration is key to successful reentry and meaningful second chances and how Florida’s Amendment 4 is critical to expanding opportunity for the 1.4 million Floridians with past convictions.
“Time to rethink probation and parole”
In a Philadelphia Inquirer op-ed, FJP Executive Director Miriam Krinsky and Philadelphia (PA) District Attorney Larry Krasner explain how probation and parole have become overused, too often serving as a conduit to re-incarceration rather than rehabilitation.
“These are the kinds of sensible policy changes needed to restore faith in our justice system, reduce the overly expansive scope of community corrections, focus assistance on those people most in need, reward people for good performance, and overall, increase public safety and rehabilitation.”
Prosecutors and Law Enforcement Leaders Call for Ending the Overuse of Probation and Parole
Forty-five current and former DAs, AGs and prosecutor leaders joined more than 70 other prominent law enforcement, criminal justice, and community corrections leaders and organizations as signatories to a statement urging the enactment of changes to probation and parole, which currently affect nearly 5 million Americans and are a major contributing factor to unnecessary incarceration. The statement outlines strategies for addressing the harmful impacts of these practices by safely reducing the number of people under community supervision and reinvesting in rehabilitation efforts for those in need of supervision. Read the press release here and full statement here.
“Policies that send someone back to prison simply for technical violations of parole or probation do not keep our communities safer and come at an exorbitant cost to taxpayers… The achievable but impactful reforms outlined in this statement will deliver public safety more effectively and compassionately.”
–MILWAUKEE COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY JOHN CHISHOLM
“Federal immigration efforts create a barrier between police and community. And everyone will lose.”
The federal government’s efforts to entangle localities in immigration enforcement threatens to make American cities less safe, write FJP Executive Director Miriam Krinsky and former Albany, NY Police Chief Brendan Cox in an Op-Ed in USA Today. To best promote public safety, law enforcement must be trusted by the communities they serve. When local police officers are forced to act as extensions of ICE, that trust is eroded. Read the Op-Ed here.
“At a time when the Latino and immigrant communities’ trust in law enforcement is already low, our government should be empowering local law enforcement to fortify those bonds of trust — not standing in the way.”
“For a New Breed of Prosecutors, Justice Sometimes Entails a Second Chance”
People seeking to turn their lives around should not be forever defined by the worst thing they have done. King County (Seattle, WA) District Attorney Dan Satterberg speaks out about pursuing clemency for people with long criminal sentences imposed under Washington’s three strikes laws and Wyandotte County (Kansas City, KS) District Attorney Mark Dupree talks about the importance of second chances. Read more here.
Addressing Immigration Issues
A group of California elected prosecutors wrote Attorney General Sessions objecting to immigration arrests in and around California courthouses. Read more here.
Denver officials, including Denver (CO) District Attorney Beth McCann, wrote to U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement requesting that ICE avoid enforcement activities at sensitive locations including courts and schools. Read more here.
“Crackdown on Immigrants Undermines Public Safety”
King County (Seattle, WA) Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg writes about how invasive immigration enforcement erodes trust between communities and the police and prosecutors that serve them. Read more here.
“Prosecutors Protect Immigrants from Deportation for Minor Crimes”
NPR interviews Brooklyn (NY) Acting District Attorney Eric Gonzalez about his policy on prosecuting immigrants for misdemeanors and his reaction to AG Sessions’ directive to federal prosecutors. Listen here.
“Boulder’s Strategies To Protect Immigrants From Fraud Could Go Statewide”
In an NPR interview, Boulder County (CO) District Attorney Stan Garnett discusses his efforts to protect immigrants from fraud and victimization. Listen here.
Examples of Innovation
Albany Clean Slate Programs
Albany County (NY) District Attorney David Soares launched a series of programs providing diversion, re-entry services, and expungement for eligible youth with felony convictions. Read more here.
Addressing Immigration Consequences
Brooklyn (NY) Acting District Attorney Eric Gonzalez announced that deputies will take into account immigration consequences for noncitizens when selecting charges; Brooklyn office also hired immigration advocates. Read more here and here.
Policy changes by Brooklyn (NY) Acting District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, Santa Clara County (San Jose, CA) District Attorney Jeff Rosen, and Baltimore City (MD) State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby account for how low-level convictions may impact an individual’s risk of deportation. Read more here.
San Francisco (CA) District Attorney George Gascón talks about how the justice system often misses the mark when it comes to rehabilitation and how his office is working to change that through engagement with incarcerated individuals. Read more here.
Dismissing Old Warrants
Acting Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez joined other New York prosecutors in dismissing nearly 700,000 warrants for low-level offenses. Read more here.