Elected Prosecutors Offer Insight into Prosecution’s Changing Landscape and Opportunities for Reform
Newly elected and veteran prosecutors came together in Houston 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 solutions to advancing reform within their jurisdictions. Additionally, attendees held a press conference to reflect on prosecution’s changing landscape and to share a new vision for prosecution to guide the work of 21st Century prosecutors committed to common-sense, compassionate criminal justice reforms. Read the release.
“People from all walks of life agree that criminal justice reform makes us safer. Those who seek to maintain the status quo too often create a false choice between reform and public safety. A fair system improves public trust, and responsible use of taxpayer resources leads to healthier communities.”
— HARRIS COUNTY (HOUSTON, TX) DISTRICT ATTORNEY KIM OGG
New Roadmap Provides Blueprint for 21st Century Prosecutors
FJP, in partnership with the Brennan Center for Justice and The Justice Collaborative, 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 and increases fairness in the criminal system. Read 21 Principles for the 21st Century Prosecutor and the press release announcing the release of this important guidance for prosecutors.
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, 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 the press release.
“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
Prosecutors and Law Enforcement Leaders Call for an End to Cash Bail in California
Over 50 current and former prosecutors and law enforcement leaders joined an amicus brief in support of an indigent defendant’s challenge to the constitutionality of California’s money bail system. Amici—which include 26 currently sitting elected prosecutors—argue that money bail systems are not only unconstitutional, but also erode public trust in the justice system, waste taxpayer resources, and lead to tremendous damage to individuals detained based simply on an inability to pay their bail. This position aligns with that advanced by both petitioner, San Francisco DA George Gascon, and the respondent in the case. Read the press release and full brief.
Criminal Justice Leaders Support Unit to Review Past Convictions and Correct Injustices
Over 50 current and former elected prosecutors, state Attorneys General, and law enforcement leaders joined together in supporting District Attorney Mark Dupree’s efforts to create a Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU) in the Wyandotte County DA’s Office. Their joint statement outlines why CIUs are a recognized best practice for prosecutors to review and respond to instances of injustice, including claims of innocence, in a way that promotes enhanced accountability and transparency. Read the press release here and letter here.
“We should applaud prosecutors’ efforts to re-examine cases where the integrity of a conviction is at issue and recognize that everyone in our justice system bears the responsibility for a miscarriage of justice.”
–– Tucson (AZ) Police Chief Chris Magnus
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
Criminal Justice Groups to Create New Training Approaches For Prosecutors to Promote Prevention and Diversion over Incarceration
FJP and the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law are partnering to design and implement a new curriculum that will promote new paradigms, help district attorneys reduce incarceration, and seek to change the culture of prosecutors’ offices and how prosecutors conceive of their role in the criminal justice system. The curriculum will emphasize public health rather than incarcerative approaches to addressing substance abuse and mental illness; underscore effective interventions to reduce recidivism and racial disparities; and develop strategies for prosecutors to enhance community trust in the justice system. Read the full press release here and read the recent op ed by FJP Executive Director and FJP’s new Training and Curriculum Advisor and Brennan Center Senior Fellow Lauren-Brooke Eisen here.
“Prosecutors across the country are recognizing it’s time for change. We should be reorienting work towards goals built from decades of lessons learned, like reducing the number of people behind bars while improving public safety. As criminal justice reform groups continue to push for sentencing reform to fix our nation’s overly-punitive culture, we believe that the work can begin right now with the lawyers on the front lines….”
– Lauren-Brooke Eisen, Brennan Center Senior Fellow/FJP Training and Curriculum Advisor
Law Enforcement Leaders and Prosecutors File Amicus Brief Defending DACA as Critical Tool for Promoting Public Safety and Community Trust
In an amicus brief filed in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, over 60 law enforcement leaders – including 28 current Police Chiefs, Sheriffs, DAs and other elected prosecutors – argue that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program advances public safety by promoting trust between law enforcement and their communities. The program, which gives long-term residents protection from deportation, helps maintain the open communication and positive relationships necessary for immigrants to feel comfortable cooperating with law enforcement efforts to identify, respond to, and solve crimes. Read the press release here and full brief here.
“Rescinding DACA would be a devastating step backwards as my officers work to build trust with immigrant communities.”
– Chief Chris Magnus, Tucson (Arizona) Police Department
Amicus Brief Stresses that Children are Different and Argues for Review of 241-Year Juvenile Sentence
In an amicus brief filed with the Supreme Court, 75 prominent former judges, Solicitors General, current and former prosecutors, corrections and Probation leaders, and law enforcement officials argue that sentencing a 16-year-old boy to 241 years in prison for a nonhomicide offense is unconstitutional. As their brains develop, young people have the ability to mature, reform, and grow. The brief argues that this sentence ignores the latest brain science, fails to promote the interests of justice, and is at odds with Supreme Court precedent. Read the press release here and full brief here.
“Condemning a juvenile involved in a nonhomicide case to die in prison – with no opportunity for release – is unjust and irreconcilable with Supreme Court case law.”
– Ingham County (Lansing, MI) Prosecuting Attorney Carol Siemon
Amicus Brief Pushes Back on Efforts To Entangle Local Jurisdictions in Immigration Enforcement
FJP, the Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection at Georgetown Law School, and Hughes Socol Piers Resnick & Dym, Ltd. organized an amicus brief supporting California’s challenge to U.S. Justice Department requirements that seek to tie essential federal grant funding for local law enforcement initiatives to immigration activities. Thirty-five prosecutor and law enforcement leaders from around the nation, representing nearly 30 million people, signed the brief noting that, “community trust and cooperation are essential to public safety.” Click here to read the press release and here to read the amicus brief.
“It is encouraging to see prosecutors and law enforcement leaders from around the nation standing together and speaking out definitively about their grave concerns with federal policies that threaten to deepen the divide between law enforcement and the immigrant communities they are entrusted to protect.”
– Miriam Aroni Krinsky, FJP Executive Director
Teaming Up for Justice
Four-time WNBA champion Maya Moore, Kansas City (Kansas) DA Mark Dupree and FJP’s Executive Director Miriam Krinsky talk with former NBA star Jerry Stackhouse about the impactful role of prosecutors in advancing criminal justice reforms. Watch the video here.
“We have to know that there are consequences to our actions.”
– Wyandotte County (Kansas City, KS) District Attorney Mark Dupree
Fair and Just Prosecution Awarded Inaugural Art for Justice Grant
Fair and Just Prosecution is proud to be joining other esteemed criminal justice advocates, thinkers and partners as an inaugural grant recipient of the Art For Justice Fund. The grant was made possible through a generous donation by philanthropist Agnes Gund to the Ford Foundation, which administers the Art for Justice program. Read more here.
Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Announces Support for Fair and Just Prosecution
Fair and Just Prosecution is the recipient of a generous grant from The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. The grant will help support FJP’s work as it brings together a network of elected prosecutors committed to developing new thinking and innovation in the criminal justice system. Read more from CZI here and read the press release regarding the grant here.
Amicus Brief on the Need for Bail Reform
Nearly 70 current and former elected prosecutors – including 16 current elected DAs and AGs and officials from over 30 states – filed a brief supporting litigation challenging cash bail practices in Harris County, Texas and arguing that detaining poor misdemeanor defendants pending trial, solely due to an inability to post bail, erodes community trust and does not further public safety. Read the press release here and the Amicus Brief here.
Amicus Brief on Prosecutorial Independence
More than 40 current and former elected prosecutors and criminal justice officials filed an amicus brief in support of 9th Judicial Circuit (Orlando, FL) State Attorney Aramis Ayala’s exercise of prosecutorial discretion in deciding whether or not to seek the death penalty. Read the press release here and the Amicus Brief here.
Prosecutors Push Back on Using the Death Penalty as Leverage in Plea Bargaining
A group of over 30 current and former prosecutors as well as former high-level DOJ officials signed a letter responding to arguments that the death penalty should be maintained to give prosecutors “leverage” in plea negotiations. The signatories point out that this practice is unethical and risks increasing the likelihood of unjust and unreliable convictions. Read the full letter here.
“Our experience as prosecutors has shown us that whatever one thinks about the death penalty, it is simply wrong to use it as a tool or “threat” to coerce a plea. That is not justice and it is not what our system of laws should embrace.”
Statement Regarding Florida Supreme Court Ruling in Ayala v. Scott – Standing Up for Prosecutorial Independence
FJP issued a statement supporting Aramis Ayala’s prerogative as an elected prosecutor to exercise her prosecutorial discretion to determine whether or not to pursue a given punishment, including the death penalty. Read the statement here.