Orange County’s Informant Scandal Reveals Deep Concerns with Use of Jailhouse Informants
Elected prosecutors have an obligation to protect the integrity of the criminal justice process. The jailhouse informant scandal in Orange County, California – where authorities paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to jailhouse informants who coerced confessions from witnesses with threats of violence and intimidation – is illustrative of the deep concerns with these practices. In a USA Today op-ed, FJP Executive Director Miriam Krinsky and former Superintendent of the New Orleans Police Department Ronal Serpas discuss the dangers of jailhouse informant programs and the need for prosecutors to focus on fairness and the integrity of the justice system – rather than simply “winning” convictions – to protect and promote public trust.
AG Barr is wrong: Criminal justice reform is making us safer
As criminal justice leaders increasingly are rejecting past failed“tough on crime” policies, they are embracing new approaches backed by research and grounded in compassion and common sense. Yet, these leaders face opposition from some who would have us return to a bygone era of harsh punishments that has made the US an international outlier and the world leader of incarceration. In a Morning Consult op-ed, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, former San Diego Police Chief Bill Lansdowne and FJP Executive Director Miriam Krinsky refute the unfounded attacks Attorney General William Barr has leveled against reform-minded prosecutors, and recount how a new generation of prosecutors are joining the fight to build safer, stronger and healthier communities.
“We are zealous defenders of public safety. And we understand that public safety means safety for everyone, regardless of the color of their skin, their family’s income, or their country of origin.”
It’s Time for the US to Embrace Overdose Prevention Sites
Prosecutors and other law enforcement leaders are increasingly moving away from punitive and incarceration-based responses to drug use and instead embracing public health solutions that meet people where they are and save lives. In this Philadelphia Inquirer op-ed, former Albany, NY Police Chief Brendan Cox, Minister Adarrel Omar Fisher and FJP Executive Director Miriam Krinsky discuss landmark litigation – being watched by jurisdictions cross the nation – that will determine whether the Philadelphia nonprofit Safehouse will be allowed to move forward with plans to operate our country’s first overdose prevention site. They recount experiences in other countries that exemplify harm reduction approaches and why we must embrace strategies that save lives.
“It’s time to choose a different pathway – one rooted in proven strategies that recognize people’s humanity and the urgency of this issue.”
Prosecutors Agree: Black Communities Need an Equal Voice in the Jury Box
Juries that represent the community are critical to ensuring due process and a fair trial. Yet, racial discrimination in jury selection persists – and racially disparate juries too often translate into racially disparate incarceration and death sentences. In a Raleigh News & Observer op-ed, Durham County, NC District Attorney Satana Deberry and FJP Executive Director Miriam Krinsky discuss the importance of diverse and inclusive juries and why the North Carolina Supreme Court should act to align with Supreme Court authority and create protections that prevent discrimination in jury selection.
“Elected prosecutors must commit to ending race discrimination in jury selection….This is not just a matter of justice. It is a matter of public safety.”
“Germany’s Better Path on Emerging-adults”
Shifting the focus of the justice system from harsh punishment to prevention and rehabilitation makes communities safer, and no population is more critical to this effort than our young people. In a Boston Globe op-ed, Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins and FJP Executive director Miriam Krinsky discuss the lessons Germany offers about how to rethink our approach to young adult justice and the importance of models and strategies grounded in compassion and equity.
“Nationwide, we have a system where justice is not the same if you are poor or black or brown.”
“We Are Prosecutors. We Will Use Our Discretion on New Antiabortion Laws.”
Trust in the criminal justice system is critical. Laws that infringe on fundamental rights erode that trust and endanger the pursuit of justice as well as public safety. When that happens, we need bold leaders to use their voices and power to protect the rights and safety of all members of our communities. In a Washington Post op-ed, District Attorney Satana Deberry (Durham County, NC) and Commonwealth’s Attorney Stephanie Morales (Portsmouth, VA) join FJP Executive Director Miriam Krinsky in discussing how recent laws that criminalize abortion harm communities, and why prosecutors should use their discretion to refuse to prosecute these personal healthcare decisions. Over 40 DAs from across the country joined together in a statement rejecting the criminalization of abortion decisions. Read the full statement and learn more here.”
“There are many ways prosecutors can use the rule of law to make communities safer and healthier – but trampling upon decades-old legal precedent to put women and doctors in jail for seeking or performing a legal medical procedure is simply not one of them.”
“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.
“If we want to create and sustain communities that thrive, we need a criminal justice system that not only encourages people who have broken the law to make amends, but also ensures they have an opportunity to lead productive lives with dignity when they reenter their community.”
“Wrongful Convictions Are Disturbingly Common, and Prosecutors Have Duty To Fix Injustice”
In a USA Today op-ed, FJP Executive Director Miriam Krinsky shares how shockingly common wrongful convictions are and why we need a mechanism to address claims of innocence and remedy cases where the integrity of the process has been compromised. Additionally, she recounts the human toll of wrongful convictions, lessons learned from these cases, and the vital importance of conviction review units as a vehicle for change.
“Wrongful convictions happen, and prosecutors have an affirmative duty to pursue justice when they do.”
“In Maryland, Justice Should Work Backward and Forward”
A growing national movement of prosecutors recognize that their duty to pursue justice demands consideration of both future and past decisions. In a Washington Post op-ed, District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine and FJP Executive Director Miriam Krinsky discuss the urgency and necessity of mechanisms that enable prosecutors to correct past injustices, spotlighting the recent example of hundreds of convictions in Maryland tainted by deeply troubling police misconduct.
“As ‘ministers of justice’ with powerful discretion to pursue whatever path would lead to just results, prosecutors have a clarion call to remedy past wrongdoing.”
“Science—and the Law—Says Don’t Try Juveniles as Adults”
Recognition of youth development and young people’s tremendous capacity for change is a simple starting point that has failed to be consistently applied for children whose lives are touched by the criminal justice system. Harsh punitive practices deny far too many children the opportunity for rehabilitation and in the long run undermine public safety. In a San Francisco Chronicle op-ed, FJP Executive Director Miriam Krinsky, former East Palo Alto Police Chief Ron Davis and former Orange County Senior Deputy District Attorney Brian Gurwitz weigh in on California’s important juvenile justice reforms that prevent youth below the age of 16 from being prosecuted in the adult justice system.
“Treat kids like kids. It’s not only good common sense, but good public policy.”
“Baltimore Prosecutor Makes ‘Bold and Groundbreaking’ Decision Regarding Marijuana Arrests”
Criminalizing marijuana use promotes racial disparities, erodes trust in the justice system and diverts resources that could be better spent addressing and solving serious crime. In a Baltimore Sun op-ed, FJP Executive Director Miriam Krinsky and former Police Chief Brendan Cox applaud Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby’s efforts to repair the damage done by decades of the “war on drugs” and discuss her groundbreaking decision to no longer prosecute marijuana possession cases, divert all first-time felony distribution cases and vacate nearly 5,000 past convictions.
“These reforms are the essence of smart justice.”
“Prosecutor Power #7: Strength in Numbers”
Tune in to New Thinking, a podcast from the Center for Court Innovation, to hear FJP Executive Director Miriam Krinsky and CCI’s Matthew Watkins discuss the recent wave of elected prosecutors who are creating a new normal in prosecution. This latest episode is part of an ongoing series exploring the power of prosecutors and the ability of reform-minded DAs to transform the justice system. Hear more about the current state of prosecutorial reform, how local elected prosecutors are enhancing accountability and redefining what justice looks like, and innovative practices by prosecutors committed to building healthy and safe communities.
“[Newly elected DAs] have the wind of reform at their back. They were elected by communities that want to see things done differently.”
— MIRIAM KRINSKY, FJP EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
“Let Prosecutors Protect the Integrity of the Justice System”
When police officers have a history of serious credibility issues, it is the responsibility of the prosecutor to know who they are and to take steps to ensure they are not relied upon as witnesses. In a St. Louis Post-Dispatch op-ed, FJP Executive Director Miriam Krinsky, Tucson Police Chief Chris Magnus, and Co-Chairman of Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime & Incarceration Ronal Serpas outline the importance of Brady lists — a nationally recognized best practice used by prosecutors to systematically track such officers and thereby ensure the integrity of the criminal justice system and promote community trust.
“Prosecutors have a duty to seek justice and advance the truth – and that includes not putting witnesses who lack credibility on the stand.”
“Eliminate Court Fines and Fees That Penalize Poverty”
For many individuals, fines and fees are a weighty burden that can lead to perpetual cycles of debt and incarceration. In a USA Today op-ed, Fines and Fees Justice Center Co-Director Lisa Foster and FJP Executive Director Miriam Krinsky recount the escalating number and amount of fines and fees in state justice systems over recent years and the perverse incentives that result when jurisdictions use this tax on justice to raise revenue. They encourage elected prosecutors to be advocates for reform and delineate concrete steps DAs can take – including supporting alternative mechanisms to fund courts, advocating for assessing fines and fees on a sliding scale, and eliminating fines and fees for young people.
“There’s a Wave of New Prosecutors. And They Mean Justice.”
In a New York Times op-ed, New York Times Magazine staff writer Emily Bazelon and FJP Executive Director Miriam Krinsky discuss the growing wave of reform-minded elected prosecutors, as well as 21 Principles for the 21st Century Prosecutor – a new blueprint for DAs committed to advancing a bold new criminal justice vision predicated on the dual pillars of improving fairness and reducing incarceration. The 21 Principles set forth concrete steps DAs can take to transform their offices, and collectively their profession, by using their clout to reduce over-incarceration; avoid criminalizing poverty, substance use disorder and mental illness; and promote a fair, equitable and accountable justice system.
“Fairness and safety aren’t a tradeoff. They complement each other. This new corps of prosecutors can lead the way toward doing more justice with more mercy.”
— FJP EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR MIRIAM KRINSKY AND NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE STAFF WRITER EMILY BAZELON
“Don’t Jail Addicts. Overdose Prevention Sites Work, and the US Needs to Get on Board.”
In a USA Today op-ed, King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg and FJP Executive Director Miriam Krinsky advocate for public health approaches to address our nation’s overdose epidemic. They encourage implementation of harm reduction strategies — including overdose prevention sites — which offer cost-effective, humane and tested models of treatment that not only saves lives, but also connect people to professionals and services that can help them treat substance use disorder.
“We have spent far too much time viewing drug users as unworthy of our care. Politicians need to set prejudice and fear aside and commit to saving lives. Stagnation is no longer acceptable.”
— KING COUNTY (SEATTLE, WA) PROSECUTING ATTORNEY DAN SATTERBERG AND FJP EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR MIRIAM KRINSKY
“Guilty Verdict in Van Dyke Case Reinforces Need For Transparent Policing”
A USA Today op-ed by FJP Executive Director Miriam Krinsky highlights reforms aimed at increasing transparency in, and improving accountability of, police departments. As evidenced by the guilty verdict in the case of former Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke, these reforms are a critical part of rebuilding public trust and confidence in police and the broader justice system.
“Transparency serves everyone: The citizens who need and deserve to trust their local police, prosecutors who are seeking justice for their communities, and police officers who cannot do their jobs without having the faith of those they serve.”
– FJP Executive Director Miriam Krinsky
“California Killed Cash Bail. Now It’s Up To judges To Determine a Fair Replacement.”
In a Sacramento Bee op-ed about California’s recent elimination of cash bail, FJP Executive Director Miriam Krinsky and retired Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge LaDoris H. Cordell discuss uncertainties in the law and urge judicial leaders charged with implementation to develop safeguards that will guard against replicating the harms of cash bail.
“To avoid replacing one unjust [bail] system with another, the California judiciary must dedicate itself to presiding over a system that is fair and equal, and that dramatically reduces the population in county jails.”
– Former Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge LaDoris H. Cordell and FJP Executive Director Miriam Krinsky
“Serving Justice Includes Taking a Second Look at Past Convictions”
In this Kansas City Star op-ed, former Albany Police Chief Brendan Cox and FJP Executive Director Miriam Krinsky outline the importance of establishing mechanisms for prosecutors to review and correct past injustices. They applaud Wyandotte County (Kansas City, KS) DA Mark Dupree’s efforts to establish a Conviction Integrity Unit, noting that this is a best practice operating in more than 30 jurisdictions nationwide.
“The prosecutor’s core responsibility is to ensure that justice is served in every case.”
— Former Albany Police Chief Brendan Cox and FJP Executive Director Miriam Krinsky
“Why Are We Sentencing Juveniles To Die In Prison? The Supreme Court Dropped the Ball.”
In this op-ed in USA Today, D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine, Director of the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform at Georgetown University Shay Bilchik and FJP Executive Director Miriam Krinsky discuss the need for prosecutors to embrace the latest research on children and young adults who come into contact with the justice system and implement fair, evidence-based, and compassionate policies that give young people a second chance.
“The evidence is clear: Children and young adults are different, the justice system must do better,and prosecutors can lead the way.”
— D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine, Director of the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform at Georgetown University Shay Bilchik and FJP Executive Director Miriam Krinsky
“San Joaquin Shows the Way to End Sheriff-Coroner System”
In a Sacramento Bee op-ed, San Joaquin County District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar, former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper and FJP’s Executive Director Miriam Krinsky explain why it’s time for counties in California and other states to avoid conflicts of interest in all-important cause of death determinations and replace the sheriff-coroner model with independent medical examiners.
“Our criminal justice agencies owe the families of victims in unnatural deaths a timely, professional, and independent investigation. And they owe the public a credible assessment of whether a crime has been committed.”
— San Joaquin County District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar, former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper and Fair and Just Prosecution Executive Director Miriam Krinsky
“How a New Generation of Prosecutors is Driving Criminal Justice Reform Outside of Congress”
In this op-ed in The Hill, newly-elected Brooklyn DA Eric Gonzalez and FJP Executive Director Miriam Krinsky describe how prosecutors are making great strides in supporting safe, fair, and healthy communities across the country.
“Jailed for Being Too Poor”
From limiting diversion fees to offering meaningful alternatives to counterproductive fines, prosecutors can play an important role in ensuring the criminal justice system promotes public safety and accountability — and doesn’t criminalize poverty or punish the poor — writes FJP Executive Director Miriam Krinsky in a Huffington Post Op-Ed.
“Wealth should not determine who gets a second chance.”
— Fair and Just Prosecution Executive Director Miriam Krinsky
“A Prosecutor Can Jail You for Your Own Good? Say What?”
In a USA Today op-ed, Harris County (Houston, TX) DA Kim Ogg and FJP Executive Director Miriam Krinsky recount deep concerns with the disturbing practice of jailing crime victims. Treating victims with empathy and support is an integral part of a prosecutor’s job and of strengthening community trust.
“Newly elected prosecutors are reimagining how “justice” has been defined for decades in our criminal legal system, recognizing that it’s not simply about securing convictions. And it certainly does not include jailing crime victims.”
— Harris County (Houston, TX) DA Kim Ogg and FJP Executive Director Miriam Krinsky
“Winning for Justice”
In a USA Today op-ed, four-time WNBA champion Maya Moore, Kansas City (Kansas) DA Mark Dupree, and Fair and Just Prosecution’s Executive Director Miriam Krinsky discuss the need for prosecutors to evaluate “success” in the justice system with measures that quantify and value the legitimacy and fairness of our system of justice.
“Success for prosecutors can no longer be defined by the number of cases charged, the length of sentence imposed, or the number of convictions obtained. It should be defined by whether we are standing up for the most vulnerable in our community … [a]nd it should be defined by whether we are promoting a justice system that deals with all individuals with fairness and compassion.”
— WNBA champion Maya Moore, Kansas City (Kansas) DA Mark Dupree and FJP Executive Director Miriam Krinsky
“Promoting Integrity In Conviction Integrity Review“
In Huffington Post op-ed, FJP Executive Director Miriam Krinsky discusses the history of conviction integrity and review units and the importance of implementing best practices in prosecutors’ offices aimed at scrutinizing and promoting the integrity of all aspects of prosecutive decision making, from charging, to plea bargaining, to case handling.
“With Money Bail, System Continues to Criminalize Poverty”
In USA Today op-ed Winnebago County (Oshkosh, WI) District Attorney Christian Gossett and Fair and Just Prosecution Executive Director Miriam Krinsky discuss concerns with the current money bail system and urge prosecutors to “do what they can to ensure the criminal justice system does not perpetuate the modern-day debtors’ prison.”
“As DOJ Rolls Back Monitoring of Police Conduct, More Prosecutors Should Step Up Their Efforts“
USA Today op-ed in which Christy Lopez, former Deputy Chief of U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, and Fair and Just Prosecution Executive Director Miriam Krinsky discuss the key role of prosecutors in curbing police misconduct and upholding community trust.
“We need to take the long view and recognize that prosecutors who step up to stop police misconduct are furthering what should be America’s shared goal of advancing trust and confidence not only in our police departments, but in our entire system of criminal justice.”
— Fair and Just Prosecution Executive Director Miriam Krinsky and former U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division Deputy Chief Christy Lopez
“Prosecutive Winds Of Change”
King County (Seattle, WA) Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg and Fair and Just Prosecution Executive Director Miriam Krinsky underscore the important role of prosecutors in promoting a sensible and fair justice system and describe how newly elected local prosecutors are pushing the criminal justice system away from “tough on crime” attitudes and toward new prevention-oriented thinking. Read more here.
“The Constitutional Crisis in Florida We’re All Missing”
Washington Post op-ed in which Denver (CO) District Attorney Beth McCann, District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine, and Fair and Just Prosecution Executive Director Miriam Krinsky underscore the importance and implications of prosecutorial discretion and independence.
“Our Work to Reform the Juvenile Justice System Is Not Yet Complete”
District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine, Fair and Just Prosecution Executive Director Miriam Krinsky and Campaign for Youth Justice Chief Executive Officer Marcy Mistrett recount recent reductions in juvenile crime and incarceration rates driven by the implementation of smart-on-crime strategies and also identify the many areas where changes are still needed. Read more here.
“Trust Between Law Enforcement and Communities is Key to Public Safety”
Georgetown Law Professor Joshua Geltzer and Fair and Just Prosecution Executive Director Miriam Krinsky write in The Hill about local law enforcement policies that seek to avoid entanglement in immigration enforcement issues and that recognize the importance of longstanding principles of community policing and trust-building practices as a fundamental predicate for advancing public safety.
“Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions Wants to Get Tough on Crime. These People Think He’s Got it All Wrong.”
L.A. Times article describes how local prosecutors, among others, disagree with harsh pleading and charging practices and instead favor more flexible prevention and treatment options, especially when dealing with individuals who engage in lower level offenses.
Prosecutors Committed to Innovation
“Lock ‘Em Up? Prosecutors Who Say ‘Not So Fast’ Face a Backlash”
New York Times discusses prosecutors around the country implementing new thinking and reform, including Aramis Ayala, Beth McCann, Kim Ogg, and Kim Foxx.
“5 Prosecutors with a Fresh Approach”
Profile of five reform-minded prosecutors: Andrew Warren, Scott Colom, Kim Foxx, Aramis Ayala, and Kim Ogg. Read more here.
“A Wiser Generation of Prosecutors”
NY Times editorial notes some of the newly elected prosecutors — including Denver (CO) District Attorney Beth McCann, Harris County (Houston, TX) District Attorney Kim Ogg, and Cook County (Chicago, IL) State’s Attorney Kim Foxx — who are revisiting the role of the prosecutor and embracing new thinking and practices.
“What Kind of District Attorney Will Eric Gonzalez Be?”
A review of the background and new thinking of Brooklyn (NY) Acting District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, as well as the broader national backdrop and changed vision of the role of the prosecutor embraced by elected leaders working with FJP. Read more here.