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 and promote public safety by providing hope and investing in the development and success of people under supervision.
“One of the sad things about mass supervision, and this is true across the country, is instead of setting people up to succeed at work and at home and with their families, we’re often creating roadblocks and hurdles that make it impossible for them to get their life back on track.”
– San Francisco, CA District Attorney Chesa Boudin
Elected Prosecutors Share Their Criminal Justice Resolutions for 2021
After a year that saw an outpouring of support in the streets and at the ballot box for bringing change to our criminal legal system, we enter the new year more determined than ever to usher in a new vision for justice grounded in fairness and compassion. This FJP video features 16 elected 21st Century Prosecutors sharing the resolutions they’re making for 2021, from ending the death penalty, to implementing sentence review processes, to continuing the fight for racial justice and much more.
“A new generation of elected prosecutors across the nation are resolving to fight for fairness and justice. We urge you to join them in this transformational effort.”
– FJP Executive Director Miriam Krinsky
Building Community Trust to Promote Public Safety
Our policing and criminal legal systems have failed to promote the safety and well-being of all people in our community. Decades of spending more on policing, courts, and prison than on social safety nets has left communities trapped in cycles of trauma and violence. Communities of color have borne the brunt of this deeply flawed starting point: they are simultaneously over policed, over incarcerated, under protected, and under resourced. A new generation of policing and prosecution leaders understand that the path to true safety begins with earning the trust of communities. In this FJP video, law enforcement leaders explain how making policing fairer, investing in communities, and working toward racial equity will build a stronger, safer, and healthier America.
“For too long, we have divested of the resources that allow communities to be safe, and we’ve invested in only one solution, which is punishment.”
– Dr. Phillip Atiba Goff, Co-founder and CEO, Center For Policing Equity
Protecting the Integrity of Our Elections: A Message from DAs and Criminal Justice Leaders to America
“Be heard. Be counted. Make a plan to vote.”
The right to vote is foundational to our democracy, and we must all work together to protect those rights and preserve fair and free elections. See FJP’s video on this important and timely issue.
A New Tool to Measure Success in Prosecutors’ Offices
FJP, in partnership with criminologists from Florida International University and Loyola University at Chicago and with support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s Safety & Justice Challenge, announced the launch of Prosecutorial Performance Indicators (PPIs). The PPIs are 55 new measures of performance that challenge and expand traditional measures of success in the field of prosecution. Historically, prosecutorial performance has been measured by metrics such as number of cases filed, conviction rates, and sentence length, thereby encouraging tough-on-crime policies and feeding mass incarceration. Amid widespread protests and calls for reimagining public safety, the PPIs provide a timely shift toward priorities of safety, community well-being, justice and fairness. To learn more, read the release and visit the PPI website.
What Does Justice Look Like?
As the inaugural Artist-in-Residence at the Office of the District Attorney of Philadelphia, artist James “Yaya” Hough worked to humanize people living and working within the criminal legal system by cultivating relationships and connections through his talented art. To mark the end of his residency, Hough has completed a series of portraits called Points of Connection. Despite COVID distances and shutdowns, Hough built meaningful relationships with individuals from several overlapping circles – formerly incarcerated people, victims’ advocates, and members of the District Attorney’s office – to paint them in portraits and discuss together what “justice” means to them. The artist-in-residence program was the first of its kind, resulting from a unique partnership between Fair and Just Prosecution and Mural Arts Philadelphia and with generous support from the Art for Justice Fund. Watch the video below highlighting the residency program and visit the Mural Arts website to view the portrait collection.
COVID-19 and the Youth Justice System
Treating kids like kids must be our fundamental starting point for rethinking youth justice, and prisons should have no place in our reimagining of that system. Conditions and outcomes in youth correctional facilities were poor even prior to the onset of the coronavirus virus, but now young people behind bars face additional trauma, medical risk, and dangerous isolation that is detrimental to their physical and mental wellbeing. As COVID-19 continues to spread in correctional facilities across the country and stretches budgets thin, we must ask ourselves, why we are continuing to lock children away in facilities that are costly and ineffective when better alternatives exist. In this video, experts and advocates discuss why these facilities must be shut down, once and for all.
A Message from DAs to Governors: Decarcerate Prisons Now
In this powerful video, DAs from across the United States read from their open letter to our nation’s governors. Reform-minded prosecutors have been working to shrink jail populations in the wake of the coronavirus; it’s time for governors to step up, join them, and save lives in prison today.
A New Vision for Youth Justice: Ending Extreme Sentences for Children
Long sentences, especially life without parole sentences for children, exemplify the harsh punitive approaches that have permeated America’s criminal legal system for far too long. In this video, we hear from experts, advocates, and people who were themselves sentenced to die in prison as youth, discussing the capacity individuals have for change, the need to end one of America’s most shameful practices, and the role prosecutors can play in doing so.
“Juvenile life without parole ranks up there with the death penalty in the harshness of American punishment and the extent to which the American criminal justice system is out of step with international norms and standards.”
– Bruce Western, co-director, columbia university justice lab
Sentencing Second Chances: Promoting Justice Through Sentencing Review
Long sentences that exemplified the “tough-on-crime” era of the 80s and 90s have done nothing to improve public safety, and instead have served to fracture families and destroy communities. We now know extreme sentences don’t have a deterrent effect, waste taxpayer dollars, and are out of step with the rest of the world. A new generation of prosecutors are taking action to address excessive sentences and push for second chances. In this video, we hear from experts from across the political spectrum, second chance recipients and criminal justice leaders discussing the importance of second chances and the critical role prosecutors can play in sentencing review.
“[A] prosecutor has a continuing obligation to justice, past the sentencing date. We have to be willing to roll up our sleeves, look through the files of old cases, and…compare them to our contemporary law and practice.”
– Dan Satterberg, King County, WA Prosecuting Attorney
Building Empathy Through Experience
Prosecutors have significant influence in determining who goes to prison and for how long—but many have never set foot inside a prison or jail to fully understand the weight of their decisions. That’s why nearly 40 elected prosecutors have taken FJP’s pledge to not only visit their local correctional facilities but to make doing so part of ongoing job training and requirements for the line prosecutor staff in their offices. These leaders recognize that reducing the justice system’s footprint will require listening to, and engaging with, people who are incarcerated. For more on the initiative read the press release and coverage in The Washington Post, and check out our Medium page for updates over the coming months. This initiative joins FAMM’s #VisitAPrison challenge, which encourages all state and federal policymakers to visit a prison or jail.
Artist Announced in Groundbreaking New Artist-in-Residence Program in the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office
In partnership with Mural Arts Philadelphia and the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office (DAO), Fair and Just Prosecution announced artist James “Yaya” Hough as the first Artist-In-Residence at the DAO. In this groundbreaking program bridging the gap between art, advocacy and criminal justice reform, Hough will seek to deepen understanding between the DAO and communities impacted by incarceration and further awareness around criminal justice reform through a series of public works of art. Read more about Hough’s prolific mural works and this unique collaboration made possible by the Art for Justice Fund in our press release.
Lessons from Abroad: Embracing Harm Reduction to Save Lives
It’s been almost 20 years since Portugal took the historic step to decriminalize all personal drug use and implement public health models that focus on improving the well-being of people and decreasing stigma, leading to an 80% decrease in overdose deaths. In this video, we hear from the Portuguese leaders who have spearheaded this policy, as well as elected prosecutors including George Gascón, Mark Gonzalez and Karl Racine who share perspectives from their trip to Portugal and discuss why they support moving away from criminal justice responses to drug use and embracing harm reduction approaches and public health solutions that save lives.
In May 2019, FJP traveled to Germany and Portugal with reform-minded elected prosecutors from across the United States to study innovative global approaches to improving justice and fairness and bring that thinking home.
They spent a week in Berlin, Germany exploring new thinking around juvenile and young adult justice, reducing incarceration and more compassionate and effective conditions of confinement. They met with criminal justice leaders and advocates, visited NGOs, observed court hearings and toured correctional facilities. Prosecutors also spent a week in Lisbon, Portugal learning from public health and criminal justice leaders about harm reduction and the extraordinary success of the “Portuguese experiment” – Portugal’s 2001 decision to decriminalize personal use of all drugs.
Read more about the trip in our “FJP On the Road” blog series – including our opening and closing dispatches from Germany and our final reflection on our time in Portugal – as well as our pre- and post trip releases here and here.
Prosecutors, Leading Experts and Advocates Gather to Discuss Conviction Integrity Best Practices and Innovations
On March 25, 2019, FJP welcomed elected prosecutors to NYU School of Law in partnership with the Innocence Project, NYU’s Center on the Administration of Criminal Law and the Brennan Center for Justice, to discuss the importance of pursuing the interests of justice looking both forward and backward. Individuals who have been exonerated shared their stories, and prominent experts on identifying and addressing wrongful convictions shared emerging best practices and innovations, during a day of candid discussion and collaboration aimed at protecting the integrity of convictions and avoiding wrongful convictions in the future. Read more here.
Elected Prosecutors Offer Insight into Prosecution’s Changing Landscape and Opportunities for Reform
In December 2018, newly elected and veteran prosecutors came together for FJP’s annual convening. Over the two-day meeting, prosecutors heard from experts, advocates and people with lived experience in the criminal justice system, to identify challenges and forge solutions for advancing reform within their jurisdictions. Additionally, attendees held a press conference to reflect on the changing landscape within the field of prosecution and to share a new vision to guide the work of 21st Century prosecutors committed to common-sense, compassionate criminal justice reforms. Read the release.
“In too many instances, the system has shown itself to be inflexible in a way that compounds inequities and has locked far too many people into a cycle of incarceration. Now, we are seeing a bipartisan shift in thinking, with bold leaders from across the political spectrum coming together to create a more equitable and fair system that promotes safer, healthier communities.”
– WYANDOTTE COUNTY (KANSAS CITY, KS) DISTRICT ATTORNEY MARK DUPREE
New Publication Provides Blueprint for the Field of Prosecution
FJP, in partnership with the Brennan Center for Justice, The Justice Collaborative and Emily Bazelon of The New York Times and Yale Law School, released 21 Principles for the 21st Century Prosecutor — a new blueprint to guide prosecutors committed to moving away from past incarceration-driven approaches and advancing new thinking that promotes prevention and diversion from the justice system and increases fairness. Read 21 Principles for the 21st Century Prosecutor and the release announcing this important guidance for the field of prosecution.
“The 21st century prosecutor is focused on building a new vision for the justice system grounded in fairness, compassion and common-sense. These 21 Principles provide a bold roadmap for prosecutors as they pursue new paradigms that promote safer and healthier communities.”
– FJP EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR MIRIAM KRINSKY
Prosecutors Lead in Forging New Responses to the Opioid Overdose Crisis
Elected district attorneys and senior staff traveled to Vancouver and Seattle to learn more about the benefits of harm reduction approaches, including overdose prevention sites and Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD). Over the three-day visit in October 2018, attendees met with medical professionals, individuals with lived experience and law enforcement officials to explore better responses to the opioid epidemic that can save lives and keep people out of jails and prisons. Read more here.
“Vermont had an unprecedented number of overdose fatalities in the last year, and an overwhelming body of research indicates that overdose prevention sites are an effective intervention that can move us beyond this disheartening status quo.”
– CHITTENDEN COUNTY (VT) STATE’S ATTORNEY SARAH GEORGE
Reimagining the 21st Century Prosecutor
In August 2018, FJP convened elected prosecutors and leading criminal justice experts at NYU School of Law to reimagine what it means to be a “21st Century Prosecutor.” Leaders from around the nation came together to develop concrete ideas for how prosecutors can address inequities in the justice system and proactively engage communities. Prosecutors met with researchers, advocates and experts to discuss how to translate their vision into action, address racial disparities, and implement sustainable culture change through experiential learning tools, community engagement strategies, and different measures of “success.” Read more here.
FJP Convenes Prosecutors and Experts at Georgetown To Rethink Juvenile and Young Adult Justice
Elected prosecutors and leading practitioners in the fields of juvenile and young adult justice gathered at Georgetown University in June 2018 for a convening hosted by FJP, D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine and the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform at Georgetown University to consider best practices and reforms aimed at improving how our justice system attends to the unique needs and challenges of children and young adults. Read this release for more details.
“Prosecutors are uniquely positioned to break the school-to-prison pipeline by helping kids stay in school and ensuring that detention facilities heal, rather than harm. My office is committed to ensuring young people in and out of the justice system receive the resources and positive support they need to have a fair chance at success.”
– ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, KARL RACINE
FJP on C-SPAN: FJP Hosts Conversation on Mental Health Reform at NYU School of Law
In April 2018, FJP and NYU School of Law’s Center on the Administration of Criminal Law convened elected leaders to discuss how prosecutors can promote reforms that treat, rather than criminalize, mental illness. In addition to elected prosecutors, the discussion included mental health experts from across the country who shared their perspectives on different models of effective public health responses to address mental illness. Watch a portion of the convening on C-SPAN here.
Criminal Justice Leaders and Mental Health Experts Gather to Explore Mental Health Innovation
In March 2018, FJP convened elected prosecutors and criminal justice leaders from across the country in Miami, Florida to learn about the innovative Miami-Dade Criminal Mental Health Project. National experts and prosecutors discussed how police, behavioral health providers, and criminal justice leaders can work together to improve community health and safety by treating, rather than criminalizing, mental illness. Read more about the prosecutor’s role in mental health reform in this op-ed, by FJP Executive Director Miriam Krinsky and 11th Judicial Circuit (FL) Associate Administrative Judge Steven Leifman.
“We know that excessively incarcerating people with mental illness is not making our communities safer. It’s making them sicker — at an enormous human and financial cost. It’s time for prosecutors to step up and lead the national movement for more compassionate and effective mental-health and criminal-justice systems.”
– FJP EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR MIRIAM KRINSKY AND 11TH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT (FL) ASSOCIATE ADMINISTRATIVE JUDGE STEVEN LEIFMAN
Fair and Just Prosecution Holds Convening on Promoting Accountability and Integrity
Fair and Just Prosecution hosted a candid conversation among exonerees, national experts in criminal justice, and elected prosecutors to discuss strategies aimed at enhancing accountability and transparency in prosecutors’ offices. Click here to learn more about the event.
“I am the 100th former death row inmate freed since 1976 because of innocence, but I will not be the last. I am heartened that we have elected prosecutors who are willing to take a hard look at past mistakes and take to heart how we avoid these injustices from reoccurring.”
– Ray Krone, Co-Founder of Witness to Innocence
Fair and Just Prosecution and Harvard Law’s Criminal Justice Policy Program Co-Host Briefing on FBI 2016 National Crime Statistics
National experts including Brooklyn (NY) District Attorney Eric Gonzalez offered insights on the newly released FBI crime statistics. Listen to the briefing.
“Since being on the front lines in the 1990s, it has turned out that being smart on crime, and using data-driven solutions, has been so much more effective than being tough on crime…. We cannot arrest ourselves out of violence.”
– Chief J. Scott Thompson, Camden County (New Jersey) Police Department
Open Letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions Regarding Charging and Pleading Practices
Current and former elected prosecutors representing over 30 million Americans sent an open letter to Attorney General Sessions expressing concern that a return to failed “tough on crime” practices would increase incarceration without making our communities safer.
Washington Post: “Prosecutors Are Pushing Back Against Sessions Order to Pursue Most Severe Penalties”
Article references open letter released by FJP and expressing concerns by a bipartisan group of over 30 state and local elected prosecutors with Attorney General Sessions’ order that federal prosecutors pursue the most severe penalties allowable. Read more here.
NY Times Editorial: “Lurching Backward on Justice Reform”
A New York Times editorial notes the letter by 31 current and former prosecutors pushing back against Attorney General Sessions’ charging and pleading directive.
LA Times Editorial: “As Sessions Fails To Curb Police Misconduct and Draconian Prosecution, States Step Up”
LA Times editorial notes recent bail reform amicus brief and Sessions open letter and underscores the new generation of prosecutors stepping up in a host of areas as champions of justice and change.