FJP At A Glance
Click here to download a one page overview of the focus, goals, and activities of Fair and Just Prosecution.
21 Principles for the 21st Century Prosecutor
Fair and Just Prosecution (FJP) – in partnership with Yale Law School Senior Research Scholar Emily Bazelon, The Justice Collaborative and Brennan Center for Justice – coauthored 21 Principles for the 21st Century Prosecutor, a blueprint for elected prosecutors seeking to move away from past incarceration-based approaches and advance new pathways that promote equity, compassion and prevention-oriented responses within the criminal justice system. 21 Principles for the 21st Century Prosecutor offers concrete steps prosecutors can take to reduce incarceration, increase equity and fairness, and make communities safer and healthier.
“The 21st century prosecutor is focused on building a new vision for the justice system grounded in fairness, compassion and common sense.”
– FJP EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR MIRIAM KRINSKY
Advancing the Use of Data in Prosecution
OCT. 2023 – Data and transparency are essential to the pursuit of justice, yet for too long, the inner workings of prosecutors’ offices have been a black box. Thankfully, a new generation of reform-minded prosecutors is leading the way in embracing data, redefining success beyond conviction rates, and sharing vital information with their communities. This FJP white paper explores lessons learned from these offices and provides a roadmap for other prosecutors looking to increase their data capacity and transparency in ways that both improve internal office management and build trust with the people they serve. A one-page overview of the white paper can be found here.
“I think one of the things we as a society need is a greater sense of ownership of the criminal justice system and a better understanding of it. The data can really start and generate conversation.”
– Ramsey County (St. Paul, MN) Attorney John Choi
The Prosecutor’s Power to Correct and Prevent Unjust Convictions
JUNE 2023 – The increased availability of DNA testing and surge in exonerations over the past three decades have cast a bright light on the prevalence of unjust convictions in the United States. As ministers of justice in their communities, elected prosecutors are responsible for ensuring that innocent people do not remain incarcerated for crimes they didn’t commit and that safeguards are put in place to prevent future mistakes. In this article in the German Journal of Criminology and Penal Reform, FJP Executive Director Miriam Krinsky and Senior Research, Policy and Communications Associate Rebecca Blair discuss the growth and impact of conviction integrity units (CIUs) in prosecutor’s offices and explain how some DAs are working towards a more holistic vision of post-conviction justice.
“Prosecutors’ efforts to advance justice in convictions both retrospectively and prospectively have contributed to a broader shift in the role of prosecutors in the U.S. legal system…. They are showing that an inquisitive, collaborative approach to post-conviction justice can yield stronger outcomes for defendants, victims, and the community at large.”
New Directions in Prosecutorial Reform
MAY 2023 – As communities around the country have continued to call for change in the criminal legal system, many have recognized that elected prosecutors have a critical role to play in leading the way. Over the past decade, reform-minded district attorneys have been elected throughout the nation and now represent nearly 20 percent of the U.S. population. In the American Criminal Law Review, FJP Executive Director Miriam Krinsky, New York Law School Associate Professor Justin Murray, and Tulane University Professor of Law Maybell Romero explore the growth and accomplishments of the reform-minded prosecutor movement, even in the face of significant pushback from those committed to past failed tough-on-crime approaches.
“In the span of less than a decade, reform-oriented DAs have already accomplished more than many criminal justice scholars and advocates once thought possible.”
Over 100 Criminal Justice Leaders Call on the Biden Administration to Establish a Presidential Task Force on 21st Century Prosecution
A bipartisan group of over 100 respected leaders in prosecution and law enforcement sent a letter to President Joe Biden urging him to establish a Presidential Task Force on 21st Century Prosecution that would catalyze innovation in the criminal legal system nationwide and chart a path to greater justice and equity in all communities. The letter coincided with the release of Fair and Just Prosecution’s new white paper, “The Case for a Presidential Task Force on 21st Century Prosecution,” which outlines why this effort is urgent for ending mass incarceration and fortifying trust in our justice system.
For more, read the letter, white paper, and release.
“There has been little to no focus on the role of local prosecutors and how to support the efforts of innovative leaders at a presidentially-supported national level. This long-overdue vehicle to propel change and promote data-driven thinking among prosecutors…can have a lasting impact on the future of our justice system.”
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.
“This transition comes at a time when our nation, and particularly communities of color, have been devastated by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic…. At the same time, the tragic deaths of George Floyd and so many others at the hands of police have heightened the need to address – once and for all – the systemic racism that pervades all parts of our criminal legal system. These intersecting crises underscore the need to bring new thinking, and leadership, to criminal justice reform.”
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.
“Combatting the racism interwoven throughout our nation’s justice system demands the immediate adoption of concrete and systemic reforms that will reset our priorities and our justice system.”
Conviction Integrity Units: Vehicles for Justice and Accountability
The over 21,000 years exonerees collectively spent behind bars is hard to reconcile with a system that we entrust to promote fairness and produce just outcomes. That is why a growing number of elected prosecutors have created Conviction Integrity Units (CIUs) that further a prosecutor’s fundamental duty to seek justice. In FJP’s Conviction Integrity and Review Statement of Principles we outline best practices for creating and operating a CIU that can effectively identify and correct past injustices and help to prevent future wrongful convictions, while strengthening community trust in the integrity and ability of our system to deliver justice.
“The obligation of every prosecutor is to pursue justice, an obligation that cannot be met if the public lacks confidence in the integrity of criminal convictions.”
– St. Louis County, MO Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell
FJP Testimony on How Prosecutors Can Reduce Racial Disparities in the Justice System
On April 2, FJP Director of Innovations and Site Learning Liz Komar testified before the U.S Commission on Civil Rights’ Connecticut State Advisory Committee on the prevalence of racial disparities in the justice system and how prosecutors can use data science and diversion to improve equity and public safety outcomes. Read the testimony here.
“In the realm of prosecutorial reform, the interests of safety and equity align. FJP works with a new wave of prosecutors who recognize that starting point and are modeling how safety is furthered by — and never needs to be at the expense of — justice and fairness.”
Prosecutors and Law Enforcement Leaders File Amicus Briefs Pushing Back Against Local Entanglement in Federal Immigration Enforcement
Dozens of prominent elected prosecutors and law enforcement leaders filed briefs in Chicago, California and Los Angeles cases challenging federal grant conditions that seek to involve local law enforcement in immigration enforcement duties. Read the press releases here and here.
Statement Regarding Florida Supreme Court Ruling in Ayala v. Scott – Standing Up for Prosecutorial Independence
FJP issued a statement supporting 9th Judicial Circuit (Orlando, FL) State Attorney Aramis Ayala’s prerogative as an elected prosecutor to exercise her prosecutorial discretion to determine whether or not to pursue a given punishment, including with the death penalty.
Open Letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions Regarding Charging and Pleading Practices
Over 30 current and former elected criminal justice officials 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. See the press release here.
“Our justice system isn’t suffering from sentences that are too short, but rather from inequities that have resulted in a loss of confidence and trust among communities most impacted by crime.”
– King County (Seattle, WA) Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg
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 brief here.
“A new generation of prosecutive leaders … is increasingly speaking out regarding the need for a justice system that doesn’t treat individuals differently based on economic status.”
– FJP Executive Director Miriam Krinsky
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.
Diversion Strategies, Programs and Principles – A National Scan
This FJP compendium offers guiding principles for implementing alternatives to incarceration and developing diversion programs. The brief lists a sampling of programs currently in use across the country. When tailored to a jurisdiction’s unique needs, these programs can reduce criminal justice costs, limit unnecessary individual contacts with the justice system, and reduce the potentially harmful long-term consequences of such contacts, while also enhancing public safety.
Moving Away from Punitive Practices and Toward Restorative Justice
Prosecutors have the power to heal communities by embracing restorative justice, which balances accountability, compassion and equity. In this New York Law School Law Review article, FJP’s Miriam Krinsky and Taylor Phares explore the promise of restorative justice approaches—including facilitated conversations between harmed and responsible parties—as an alternative to the justice system and an effective way for prosecutors to deliver what carceral approaches often fail to accomplish: healing of victims, a deepened sense of personal accountability, and stronger bonds of trust with communities.
“The job of a district attorney… [is] more than simply punishing people who commit crimes. It requires engaging with communities to determine what safety and justice mean for them, identifying the most effective ways to hold accountable those who do harm, giving victims a sense of justice and healing, and promoting strong, healthy communities.”
– Kings County (Brooklyn), Ny District Attorney Eric Gonzalez