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.
How the Biden-Harris Administration Can Advance Criminal Justice Reform
After a year and election cycle that brought unprecedented progress for reform-minded prosecution, fair drug policy, and better policing practices, President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris will enter office with a mandate to transform the justice system. In “How the Biden-Harris Administration Can Advance Criminal Justice Reform: 13 Recommendations for Change and Federal Engagement,” we lay out key ways the new administration can take action to make progress towards the justice system that Americans overwhelmingly demand and that all communities in our nation deserve.
“These recommendations would mark a much-needed and unprecedented step towards [a] justice system that…strengthens communities instead of tearing them down, rehabilitates the people it detains, provides second chances predicated on the recognition that people inevitably change over time, breaks cycles of violence, and prioritizes fairness over vengeance.”
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.
“Community corrections have devolved into trail em, nail em, and jail em…. This surveillance-based probation and parole is harmful, it’s ineffective, and it’s very expensive.”
–David Muhammad, National Institute for Criminal Justice Reform Executive Director and former Chief Probation Officer of Alameda County, CA
80 Criminal Justice Leaders Object to Deploying Federal Troops to American Cities
80 current and former elected local prosecutors, Attorneys General and law enforcement leaders, as well as former United States Attorneys and DOJ officials filed an amicus brief in support of a lawsuit filed by Protect Democracy in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia objecting to federal law enforcement tactics and deployment in Portland, Oregon. The brief argues that federal law enforcement officers exceeded the limits of their authority in Portland and that their actions undermine public trust and safety. Amici stress that fortifying trust with communities is more important than ever and that local law enforcement leaders, not federal authorities, are best positioned to understand and guide the response to community unrest. Read the release and brief.
“We have been and are committed to protecting our communities, and we do not take that responsibility lightly. To do so, however, we need to be able to heal divisions between local law enforcement and our aggrieved residents without the federal government undermining or directly combatting our efforts.”
Nearly 70 Elected Prosecutors Will Not Prosecute Abortion Decisions, Even if Roe is Overturned
As states continue to pass anti-abortion laws across the country, nearly 70 elected prosecutors issued a joint statement affirming that they will not prosecute abortion decisions, even if the protections of Roe v. Wade are eroded or overturned. The statement notes that these laws not only violate constitutional rights that have been settled for nearly 50 years, but they also undermine community trust and therefore threaten public safety. Read the statement and the release.
“Enforcement of laws that criminalize healthcare decisions would shatter…precedent, impose untenable choices on victims and healthcare providers, and erode trust in the integrity of our justice system. To fulfill our obligations as prosecutors and ministers of justice to preserve the integrity of the system and keep our communities safe and healthy, it is imperative that we use our discretion to decline to prosecute personal healthcare choices criminalized under such laws.”
Fair and Just Prosecution Statement in Response to Weakening of DOJ Election Interference Policy
Fair and Just Prosecution Executive Director Miriam Krinsky issued this statement in response to reports that the US Department of Justice has weakened its long-standing prohibition against interfering in elections. Historically, avoiding election interference has been a fundamental overarching principle that guided DOJ policy on the timing of announcements in regard to voting-related crimes. In particular, DOJ policy has generally barred prosecutors not only from making any announcement about ongoing investigations, but also from taking public steps before a vote is finalized because the publicity could tip the balance of a race.
“At a time when trust in police is at a historic low, it is critical that all law enforcement officials do whatever they can to build faith in the legitimacy of our democratic institutions. This change in policy has the potential to be a profoundly damaging step in the wrong direction.”
New Project Finds Modern Death Penalty Deeply Entangled with N.C.’s History of Racism
The Center for Death Penalty Litigation, in collaboration with scholars, advocates, artists, historians, poets, and people directly affected by the death penalty, launched a new online project, Racist Roots: Origins of North Carolina’s Death Penalty. The project places the state’s death penalty in the context of 400 years of history and exposes its deep entanglement with slavery, lynching, Jim Crow, and modern systemic racism. The site features an essay by FJP Executive Director Miriam Krinsky and Director of Strategic Initiatives Liz Komar on a new generation of prosecutors who are saying no to capital punishment. Read the release and visit the Racist Roots website.
“The death penalty has been an instrument of systemic oppression and injustice in America, and it’s time we treat it as such.”
FJP and Mural Arts Announce Points of Connection Portrait Collection by Formerly-Incarcerated Artist in Residence at Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office
Mural Arts Philadelphia and Fair and Just Prosecution announced the public exhibition of the groundbreaking Artist-in-Residence program at the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office featuring the creations of artist James “Yaya” Hough. The 10-month residency culminated with works of public art that explore the human toll of incarceration and highlight the importance of creating alternatives to a punitive and incarceration-driven justice system. Hough’s exhibition, Points of Connection, will be on display across the city of Philadelphia, offering the public a chance to engage in direct dialogue on criminal justice reform issues. This unique project was funded by generous support from the Art for Justice Fund. Read the release and visit the Mural Arts website to see the full collection and watch a video on the project.
“The power of art transcends the divides between us and lifts up the voices of individuals who too often go unheard.”
Fair and Just Prosecution Statement on Ruling Finding Presidential Commission on Law Enforcement in Violation of Federal Law
FJP Executive Director Miriam Krinsky issued this statement in response to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia’s finding in NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund v. William Barr that the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice is in violation of the Federal Advisory Committee Act. Senior District Court Judge John D. Bates ordered the Attorney General to not publish or rely upon any report or recommendations produced by the Commission until the requirements of FACA have been satisfied.
“Today’s decisive summary judgement ruling is a victory for all those who are working towards building a more fair and just criminal legal system – one grounded in racial equity and that promotes community safety and well-being.”
Researchers Launch New Tool to Measure Success for 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. Read the release and visit the PPI website.
“Every prosecutor in the nation should embrace this tool to develop more holistic and reparative solutions, grounded in data, to build healthier and safer communities.”
Fair and Just Prosecution Statement on Charging Decisions in the Breonna Taylor Case
FJP Executive Director Miriam Krinsky issued this statement in response to the announcement of charging decisions in the tragic Breonna Taylor case. The outcome reflects the deep and ongoing flaws of our criminal legal system and the need for a reimagining of policing.
“Our communities need a fundamental transformation of policing, including addressing over-policing – especially in communities of color – and investment in community-led solutions. 21st Century Prosecutors must drive this shifting of priorities and be transparent in holding police accountable, while also advocating for systemic change.”
Fair and Just Prosecution Statement on DOJ Designation of Three US Cities as “Anarchist Jurisdictions”
In this statement, FJP Executive Director Miriam Krinsky criticized the Department of Justice’s designation of New York City, Portland and Seattle as “Jurisdictions Permitting Violence And Destruction Of Property” for purposes of restricting federal funding and highlighted that this is just the latest in a series of unfounded attacks on local leaders – including elected prosecutors – who are seeking to promote a new vision of justice.
“This designation is a chilling move and a dangerous pretext for continued attacks…on cities that are Democratic strongholds, coming weeks before the presidential election.”
79 Criminal Justice Leaders Call for Protection of Voter Rights as Suppression and Intimidation Tactics Threaten a Fair Election
The right to vote is fundamental to American democracy and inextricably tied to public trust and safety. Current efforts to undermine the voting process – including interference with the Postal Service and the threat of deploying law enforcement officials to police the polls – damage the fragile bonds of trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve. In this joint statement, 79 elected prosecutors and law enforcement leaders condemn these tactics and call on all leaders around the nation to help combat these disheartening and destructive efforts. Read the release and statement.
“As elected prosecutors and law enforcement officials sworn to uphold the law, we are steadfastly committed to preserving the rights set forth in our Constitution and all of the political freedoms it represents. The American people must be able to safely vote and they must have faith those votes will be counted.”
Criminal Justice and Policy Leaders Call for Federal Marijuana Law Reforms
The racial disparities and over-policing associated with marijuana criminalization have brought trust in the police to an all-time low while harming public safety. Over 60 current and former prosecutors and law enforcement officials sent a letter to the U.S. House of Representatives supporting the federal decriminalization of marijuana, a critical step that would promote equity and allow law enforcement to focus their resources on preventing harm and addressing true public safety concerns. In collaboration with The Law Enforcement Action Partnership, The Justice Collaborative Institute, and Data for Progress, FJP also released a report with new polling showing 62% of likely voters – including 60% of Republicans – support decriminalization, expungement of previous convictions, and investment in communities harmed by past drug policy. For more, read the release, letter, and polling report.
“As front-line public safety experts, we believe that responsible regulation and control of marijuana will be more beneficial to society than prohibiting and criminalizing it.”
More Than 60 Criminal Justice Leaders Urge VA Supreme Court to Protect Prosecutorial Discretion
Today, over 60 current and former prosecutors filed an amicus brief urging the Virginia Supreme Court to protect independent prosecutorial discretion. The brief supports a petition for writ of prohibition on behalf of Commonwealth’s Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti challenging an order by the Arlington County Circuit Court requiring detailed written justification by CA Dehghani-Tafti for decisions to dismiss, charge, and settle cases in her jurisdiction. In their brief, amici argue that this unprecedented and sweeping order is a clear violation of well-settled prosecutorial independence, an infringement on the will of the people of Virginia, and a threat to public safety. For more, read the release and brief.
“This intense scrutiny into purely prosecutorial functions is unprecedented, at odds with the well settled discretion of prosecutors, unwarranted, and potentially harmful.”
Over 70 Prosecutors and Youth Correctional Administrators Advocate for Closing Youth Prisons
The United States has long been the global leader in youth incarceration, locking up young people at a far higher rate than other industrialized nations, resulting in further trauma and fraying family and social ties, rather than improving children’s lives. By any measure, the United States’ overuse of incarceration for youth is ineffective, inefficient and inhumane. More than 70 elected prosecutors, youth correctional administrators and law enforcement leaders called for the closure of all youth prisons in the country in a joint statement with Youth Correctional Leaders for Justice. Read the release and statement.
“Youth justice should help both communities and youth themselves to be healthy, thriving, and safe. Our current approach too often leaves youth further traumatized and less able to pursue a productive and positive adult future, largely because we continue to rely on archaic, dangerous, adult-style correctional institutions – youth prisons – as the anchor of our system. These failures leave our communities less safe.”
Over 65 Prosecutor Leaders Speak Out In Defense of St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner
After an armed couple pointed weapons at Black Lives Matter protestors, elected Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner concluded, following a thorough investigation by local police, that the couple should be charged with the felony unlawful use of a weapon. From the beginning of this case, CA Gardner has been the subject of ongoing and vicious political attacks simply by exercising discretion squarely within the ambit of the job she was elected to carry out. Sixty-seven current and former leaders in prosecution rallied in support of Circuit Attorney Gardner and condemned the inflammatory and vicious attacks against her and aimed at furthering a political agenda. Read the full statement.
“We stand with Circuit Attorney Gardner as she pursues our shared mission for a fair, just, and compassionate vision of safer and healthier communities. And we stand together in calling for an end to racist, hateful and destructive attacks against local elected prosecutors duly carrying out the job they were elected to do.”
Thirty-five DAs Issue Open Letter to Governors Calling for Immediate Action to Address COVID-19 in Prisons
Read the open letter signed by 35 DAs from across the US to our nation’s governors demanding action to immediately decarcerate prisons. In the letter, these leaders call for governors to use all the tools at their disposal to halt the rising tide of the coronavirus outbreak in prisons, including ordering the immediate release of vulnerable individuals and those near the end of their sentence, providing support for reentry, and improving conditions within prisons. Read the letter and the release.
“Being confined in a prison or jail should not be a death sentence. Yet, in the context of COVID-19 that is exactly what it has become for far too many…As states and localities explore ways to safely reopen, Governors and state correctional leaders must act now to prevent our prisons from exploding as reservoirs and accelerants of mass infection and further shattering efforts to flatten the curve.”
Fair and Just Prosecution Statement on Governor Newsom’s Order Releasing 8,000 in California Prisons
In this statement, FJP Executive Director Miriam Krinsky praised California Governor Gavin Newsom’s decision to release 8,000 individuals from state prisons, while also calling for more rapid and comprehensive decarceration and urging governors in other states to follow suit.
“All governors can learn from Governor Newsom’s leadership – and also from the cost of the state’s delay – and take dramatic action before their own states suffer similar or higher death tolls.”
More Than 80 Criminal Justice Leaders Call for Access to Life-Saving Overdose Prevention Sites
Over 80 local, state and federal criminal justice leaders filed an amicus curiae brief before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in United States v. Safehouse. The brief was filed in support of the nation’s first lifesaving overdose prevention site, which the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania found to be legal and in accordance with federal law. Signed by current and former elected prosecutors, police chiefs, sheriffs, and former U.S. Attorneys and Department of Justice officials, the brief argues that overdose prevention sites (OPS) are proven harm reduction tools that save lives, promote community trust in the justice system, and help alleviate the adverse impact of substance use disorder. For more, read the release and brief.
“OPSs are evidence-based, public health-focused facilities that can help address the opioid crisis in a manner consistent with smart and effective criminal justice policies.”
57 Criminal Justice Leaders Rally Behind Landmark NJ Policy Limiting Local Entanglement in Federal Immigration Enforcement
Fifty-seven current and former elected prosecutors and law enforcement leaders filed an amicus curiae brief in support of New Jersey’s landmark Immigrant Trust Directive, a statewide policy that aims to fortify trust between immigrant communities and local law enforcement by limiting voluntary assistance in federal immigration enforcement activities. As the brief notes, when local law enforcement becomes involved in immigration enforcement it erodes public trust and exacerbates fear within immigrant communities, making them less likely to report crimes and cooperate with investigations, and leaving communities less safe. For more, read the release and brief.
“When community residents live in constant fear that interactions with local law enforcement officials could result in removal, that fundamental breakdown in trust threatens public safety and impedes justice system leaders from doing their jobs.”
Over 75 Criminal Justice Leaders Demand Transparency and Balance from Presidential Commission Examining Policing and Criminal Justice
Against the backdrop of the recent murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others, 76 current and former elected prosecutors and law enforcement leaders from around the nation filed an amicus brief highlighting the deeply frayed relationships between law enforcement and the communities they serve and elevating the urgent need for transparent, inclusive and thoughtful reform of policing policies. In the brief, amici argue that the Presidential Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice reflects anything but this open and balanced starting point and has failed to comply with the requirements of the Federal Advisory Committee Act. The brief concludes that this “flawed process … is the last thing a nation in crisis needs at this critical moment in time.” For more read the release and brief.
“Law enforcement must earn the public’s trust…But that is only possible when law enforcement officials pair their words with a meaningful commitment to learning from, and partnering with, the communities they serve.”
Blueprint for Police Accountability and Reform
To create a system of justice that lives up to its name, we can no longer tinker around the edges. We require structural change that fundamentally reimagines the role of police and prosecutors and shift resources away from punitive criminal justice responses that have fueled mass incarceration, and instead invest in communities and services that promote both public safety and wellbeing and enable everyone to thrive. With this in mind, Fair and Just Prosecution’s Blueprint for Police Accountability and Reform outlines concrete policy recommendations that elected officials, chief prosecutors, law enforcement heads, and other leaders must embrace to address police misconduct and racial injustice.
Joint Statement from Over 45 Elected Prosecutors on the Murder of George Floyd and Police Violence
In this joint statement, 48 elected prosecutors condemn the despicable and tragic murder of George Floyd, call for the perpetrators to be held accountable, and demand that all prosecutors and law enforcement leaders do more to address racially-biased policing and police brutality. The joint statement enumerates several key reforms, including increased accountability and oversight of law enforcement officers, national databases and changes that enhance the ability to identify and discharge problematic officers, increased transparency by both law enforcement and prosecutors, changes to use of force policies, and fundamental reimagining of the justice system to prioritize fairness, equity, and community wellbeing. For more, read the full statement.
“We demand accountability from police and our fellow prosecutors, and we demand systemic change – and commit to bringing about these changes in our own communities.”
Nearly 60 Criminal Justice Leaders Call for Release of Medically Vulnerable Individuals from Elkton Federal Correctional Institution
The obligation to keep community members safe does not end at the prison gates. That’s why 59 criminal justice leaders – including 37 current elected prosecutors and 11 current and former police chiefs and sheriffs – filed an amicus curiae brief with the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in support of the release or transfer of individuals currently incarcerated at Elkton Federal Correctional Institution (FCI Elkton), a low-level security federal prison in Ohio that has become a COVID-19 hotspot. The brief argues that an immediate and dramatic reduction of the incarcerated population at FCI Elkton is urgently needed to limit the deadly spread of COVID-19 behind bars, among facility staff, and through the broader community. Amici argue that as this serious virus has spread through custodial facilities, incarceration risks becoming a de facto death sentence, particularly for elderly and medically vulnerable populations behind bars. For more, read the release and brief.
“[P]ublic safety is not just a matter of stopping crime, it is also about saving lives, and amid this pandemic, public safety depends on smart public health choices.”
– Washtenaw County, MI Sheriff Jerry Clayton
FJP Statement to the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement: Fairness, Equity, and Trust are Essential to Public Safety
In this statement to the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement, FJP Executive Director Miriam Krinsky notes that public trust – rooted in fairness, accountability, and evidence – is at the core of public safety. The statement urges the Commission to build on the work of President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing and promote strategies that further the smart and strategic use of law enforcement and prosecutorial discretion. FJP also urged the Commission to embrace an accessible and inclusive process that complies with federal open meeting requirements. For more, read the full statement.
“Safety is furthered by – and never needs to be at the expense of – justice and fairness.”
– Fjp Executive Director Miriam Krinsky
Criminal Justice Leaders Call for Protection of Immigrants in Midst of COVID-19 Pandemic
Ten current and former elected prosecutors and law enforcement leaders from across California filed an amicus letter brief with the California Supreme Court in support of a requested court-ordered moratorium on transfer of individuals from local and state custody to overcrowded federal immigration facilities amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The letter argues that the dangerous conditions of confinement in the five immigration detention centers in California put detained individuals, staff at these facilities and the broader community at risk of contracting the deadly COVID-19 virus. Amici further argue that continued transfers only serve to erode trust between law enforcement, prosecutors, and the communities they work to protect, thereby hindering the ability to keep communities safe. For more read the release and letter.
“As a prosecutor, my job is to promote the health and safety of all members of my community, and in the midst of a deadly pandemic, our number one focus must be on saving lives.”
– District Attorney Chesa Boudin, San Francisco, CA
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
Over 400 Former US Attorneys, DOJ Leaders and Attorneys, and Judges Urge President Trump to Release Vulnerable Individuals from Federal Custody to Avoid Deadly Outbreak of COVID-19
In a letter from 419 former DOJ leaders, attorneys, and federal judges, including 36 U.S. Attorneys, these criminal justice leaders urge President Trump to take rapid action to release medically at-risk individuals from federal custody to protect them and our communities from the catastrophic spread of COVID-19 in federal facilities. The letter calls on President Trump to use his executive power to commute sentences for vulnerable individuals, urge policies to limit the number of new people entering federal custody, and secure emergency funding for reentry services and support of state and local efforts to similarly address the spread of COVID-19 in custodial settings. For more, read the release and letter.
“We, as former United States Attorneys, federal judges, Assistant United States Attorneys, and DOJ lawyers and leaders, understand the obligation to protect the safety and wellbeing of everyone in our community….To prevent the rapid spread of COVID-19 in facilities under your federal control, we urge you to start commuting sentences immediately.”
Elected Prosecutors Call for Immediate Reduction of Incarceration and Detention to Address the Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Those in Custody
Over thirty elected prosecutors joined in a statement calling on prosecutors, corrections leaders, and the federal government to immediately reduce the number of incarcerated and detained individuals in an effort to address the threat of disastrous COVID-19 outbreaks among these vulnerable populations. Prisons, jails, and detention facilities are severely overcrowded, forcing people into close quarters without access to proper hygiene or adequate medical care. An outbreak of COVID-19 in these facilities would be potentially catastrophic. That’s why elected prosecutors joined in this commitment to immediately reduce incarceration and detention, work with public health and other leaders to mitigate the unchecked spread of COVID-19 in facilities and uphold the rights and needs of those in custody, and reform immigration detention policies. For more, read the press release and full statement.
“We, as elected prosecutors, have an obligation to protect the safety and wellbeing of everyone in our community, regardless of their race, ethnicity, or country of origin. Those obligations extend behind prison walls. And they require elected prosecutors to step up in this time of growing public health concerns to address the needs and rights of individuals in these facilities.”
Elected Prosecutors Call for Relief for Individuals Sentenced to Life Without Parole as Children
In 2012, the US Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional to sentence children to life without parole and required an avenue for relief for people sentenced to life without parole as juveniles. In accordance with this precedent, many states have implemented policies that provide for review of juvenile life sentences, offering a pathway to release and a second chance. Missouri, however, has instituted a system that imposes substantial and improper impediments to parole, in direct contravention of Supreme Court decisions and the due process rights of individuals who received lifetime sentences as juveniles. That’s nearly 60 criminal justice leaders, including 30 current elected prosecutors from across the country, filed an amicus curiae brief in the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit challenging the Missouri parole board’s process. For more, read the press release and brief.
“Missouri has purposefully instituted a policy that is…a denial of fundamental rights that harms individuals and, ultimately, community safety by eroding trust in the integrity of the system.”
– Wesley Bell, St Louis County Prosecuting Attorney
Elected Prosecutors File Amicus Brief Urging Appellate Court to Affirm Right to Counsel in Bail Hearings
Legal representation is a fundamental right afforded to every person who must go before a court of law to defend against criminal charges. Yet, in Galveston TX, people every day are denied the right to counsel at one of the most critical stages in the criminal process: the initial bail hearing that determines whether an individual is detained or set free prior to trial. That’s why 44 current and former local elected prosecutors and state attorneys general from across the country filed an amicus curiae brief in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in support of a defendant’s right to counsel at these hearings. They argue that legal representation at critical stages in the justice process is essential to ensuring fairness. Further, they argue that failure to provide an attorney can result in uninformed decision making and serves to erode public trust in the integrity of the criminal justice process, which ultimately harms public safety. For more, read the press release and brief.
“My vision for our system does not criminalize someone simply because they are poor, it creates fair access to resources across the board such that criminal cases can be determined based on facts, rather than access to wealth.”
– Dallas County, TX District Attorney John Creuzot
Elected Prosecutors Denounce Attorney General Barr’s Baseless Attacks Against Proven Criminal Justice Reforms
A growing number of elected prosecutors are committing to a new vision for the justice system that is grounded in evidence-based policies that lift people up while prioritizing cases that cause communities real harm. But while these bold leaders are embracing smarter justice approaches and turning away from failed past tough on crime policies, they are being met with opposition by some who want to maintain the status quo. That’s why 41 elected prosecutors came together to denounce Attorney General William Barr’s baseless attack on prosecutors whose reforms have proven to be effective in fortifying community trust and promoting public safety, fairness and accountability. In a joint statement, signatories correct the record on Barr’s false claims, caution against a return to past failed “tough on crime” approaches and call for a continued embrace of policies that make communities healthier, stronger and safer. For more, read the press release and full statement.
“My fellow reform minded prosecutors and I don’t resort to fear, we deal in facts. For too long, we’ve seen individuals locked up for offenses that amount to the criminalization of drug use, mental illness and simply being poor. This has not made us any safer, but has instead, time and time again, resulted in the fracturing of families, intergenerational cycles of incarceration, a destabilization of communities and a growing distrust of law enforcement.”
– Ramsey County (Minnesota) chief prosecutor John Choi
Elected Prosecutors Push Back Against Attempt to Strip Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner of Ability to Correct Unjust Convictions
A prosecutor has a duty to investigate and remedy injustice. That’s why elected prosecutors from across the country have repeatedly filed amicus curiae briefs – in the trial court, on appeal, and in the Missouri State Supreme Court – to secure justice for Lamar Johnson, a man with a credible claim of innocence who has spent nearly 25 years behind bars. The briefs have urged Missouri Courts to not only grant Johnson a new trial, but, more broadly, to respect the power and obligation of prosecutors to investigate and remedy cases where wrongful convictions have occurred. For more, read the press release and full brief submitted by 45 elected prosecutors to the state Supreme Court. Also read the original release and brief submitted to trial court and the appellate brief and release.
“Allowing politics to determine whether relief is granted or denied in a case where there are credible claims of innocence and serious concerns about prosecutorial and law enforcement misconduct is unconscionable.”
– 13th Judicial Circuit (Tampa, FL) State Attorney Andrew Warren
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.
“The denial of plaintiffs’ right to receive care that would help them cope and avoid additional trauma while detained is beyond disappointing and speaks to the work that remains for us to see beyond the harsh punitive lens that colors our entire system of justice.”
– Arlington and Falls Church, VA Commonwealth’s Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti
Eighty Criminal Justice Leaders Defend DACA
Public trust is essential for public safety. That’s why the rollback of immigration reforms threatens the whole community and why 80 elected prosecutors and law enforcement leaders across the country spoke out in support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in an amicus brief filed in the Supreme Court of the United States. The brief argues that without DACA many immigrants will be less willing to report crimes and cooperate with law enforcement and prosecutors out of fear of deportation, and, ultimately, public safety will be put at risk. For more, read the press release and brief.
“Ending DACA would destroy the trust we have been building with communities for years, meaning a loss of lines of communication, witnesses to crimes, and critical information needed to promote public safety.”
– Washtenaw County Sheriff Jerry clayton
Seventy Criminal Justice Leaders Denounce Attorney General Barr’s Remarks to Fraternal Order of Police
A new generation of prosecutors and law enforcement leaders are working together to create a compassionate, equitable and effective justice system. That’s why 70 current and former prosecutors, law enforcement and judicial leaders from across the country have repudiated Attorney General William Barr’s attack on reform-minded prosecutors whose data-backed approaches to criminal justice have decreased incarceration and promoted public safety. In the statement, signatories correct patently false claims made by AG Barr and caution against a return to past failed “tough on crime” approaches. For more, read the press release and full statement.
“In a time when we are finally making progress on meaningful reform that can help us fortify trust within our communities, we must lead with facts and best practices that move us into the 21st century rather than return us to a bygone era grounded in fear.”
– Boulder County Sheriff Joe PelLE
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.
More Than 60 Criminal Justice Leaders Support Overdose Prevention Sites as Critical Tools to Save Lives
With an overdose crisis that grows daily, more and more criminal justice leaders are coming to the conclusion that different approaches to address substance use disorder are needed. This growing commitment to a public health response led more than 60 criminal justice leaders to join an amicus brief filed in United States v. Safehouse in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. In the brief, amici argue that the criminalization of substance use disorder only exacerbates the adverse impacts of drug use and erodes community trust in law enforcement. They further assert that harm reduction models, including overdose prevention sites, are a more effective response and save lives. Read the press release here and full brief here.
“I have a duty to protect the health and safety of every member of my community. Yet, when it comes to opioid use, we are hampered in that effort by a system that looks to outdated criminal justice responses, rather than the public health strategies we know work.”
– PHILADELPHIA DISTRICT ATTORNEY LARRY KRASNER
Elected Prosecutors Use their Discretion and Refuse to Enforce Abortion Bans
42 elected prosecutors joined in a statement making clear their collective view that prosecutors should use their discretion and refuse to criminalize abortion decisions. Noting recently enacted laws that seek to ban abortions, the statement argues that these laws violate constitutionally-protected rights and create untenable choices for women and healthcare providers. The statement notes that community trust is the foundation for a functioning justice system and discusses why prosecutors should use their discretion to decline to prosecute personal healthcare decisions that have been protected by settled law for nearly 50 years. Reach out to FJP here if you are a prosecutor interested in joining the statement. Read the press release.
“Elected prosecutors exercise their weighty discretion every day when choosing which charges, cases, and societal challenges to focus on. At the heart of these decisions is the question: How do I use my resources to bring about justice and make our communities safer? Criminalizing personal health decisions would fail to bring about justice and would harm rather than protect the community.”
– Ingham County (Lansing, MI) Prosecuting Attorney Carol Siemon
Law Enforcement Leaders and Elected Prosecutors Call for Medication-Assisted Treatment for Individuals in Custody Struggling with Substance Use
Law enforcement and criminal justice leaders joined in a letter calling for the expansion of medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for individuals in county jails and prisons dealing with opioid use challenges. The letter – signed by 58 current and former elected local sheriffs, current elected prosecutors and other law enforcement leaders – cites extensive research that demonstrates the benefits of MAT in increasing long-term recovery rates and preventing fatal overdoses upon release, underscoring the value of bringing life-saving harm reduction practices to correctional settings everywhere. Read the press release and letter.
“A prosecutor’s role does not end at the prison door. As members of the community tasked with enhancing public safety, we are obligated to use our voices to ensure in those instances when people absolutely must be incarcerated, they leave custody in a position to safely reenter their communities.”
– Chittenden County (VT) State’s Attorney Sarah George
Criminal Justice Leaders Speak Out in Support of Reforms to Address Past Injustices
Criminal justice leaders from around the nation spoke out in support of Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby’s efforts to ensure that prosecutors have a legal mechanism to correct past instances of injustice. The statement – joined in by 55 current and former elected prosecutors, and other law enforcement and criminal justice officials – underscores the obligation of prosecutors, as “administrators of justice,” to zealously pursue justice at all times, including by addressing and remedying past convictions and dispositions that no longer represent a fair or just result.
Legal Experts Rally Behind California Law to Keep More Kids Out of the Adult Justice System
Over 100 legal scholars from 18 law schools in California joined in a white paper supporting the constitutionality of a new state law that prevents children below the age of 16 from being prosecuted or sentenced in the adult criminal system. As the white paper argues, these sensible reforms are not only constitutional, but also based on what over two decades of brain development research has demonstrated. Children aged 14 and 15 are kids and should be treated as such – not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because it is the best way to promote long term public safety.
Amicus Brief with Over 80 Signators Challenges Money Bail as Unconstitutional in Federal Appellate Court Case
Over 80 criminal justice leaders – including over 40 current and former prosecutors, Attorneys General, and former U.S. Attorneys and judges representing 33 states and D.C. – filed an amicus brief in the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. Amici argue that Dallas County’s practice of detaining individuals pretrial based solely on their inability to pay pre-determined bail amounts is unconstitutional. Read the press release here and brief here.
“[Cash bail] leads to the unnecessary and unconstitutional detention of people who are indigent, deepens the cycle of poverty, disparately impacts Black and Latinx communities, and eviscerates public trust in the justice system. We can and must do better, and that means we must challenge the money bail system wherever it exists.”
– SUFFOLK COUNTY (BOSTON, MA) DISTRICT ATTORNEY RACHAEL ROLLINS
Criminal Justice Leaders Rally Behind Efforts to Identify Police Officers with Credibility Problems
Fifty-nine current and former elected prosecutors and law enforcement leaders banded together in support of St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner’s creation of a confidential Brady list (also sometimes known as a “do not call” or “exclusion” list) that identifies law enforcement officials with credibility issues who are unfit to serve as witnesses. The joint statement notes that this is a well-established best practice employed by prosecutors throughout the nation to ensure the integrity of the justice system. Read the press release and full statement.
“The Brady obligation dates back to 1963, is well-established case law and is non-negotiable.”
– FORMER SOLICITOR GENERAL SETH WAXMAN
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
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.