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.
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.
“Every day, we fight for fairness and justice in our jurisdictions. We work in our jurisdictions to advance a new vision of justice, one in which all Americans are safe from harm and oppression, and empowered to collectively build a better future. We need allies and support in that fight. And we need national engagement.”
FJP Announces Kauai County, HI Prosecuting Attorney Justin Kollar as New Chief of Staff
Fair and Just Prosecution announced that Kauai County, HI elected Prosecuting Attorney Justin Kollar will leave his current job and join FJP in September in the new role of Chief of Staff. He will step into this leadership position at FJP with extensive experience in running a reform-minded prosecutorial office and a demonstrated commitment to transforming the criminal legal system. FJP is excited to welcome to its team a capable and bold reformer who will further FJP’s mission of creating and promoting a justice system grounded in fairness, equity, compassion and fiscal responsibility. For more, read the release.
“Hawaii’s loss is the national reform-minded prosecutor movement’s gain, and we’re honored to have Justin join FJP as we continue to build out this timely and vitally important work.”
– FJP Executive Director Miriam Krinsky
Nearly 70 Criminal Justice Leaders Call for an End to the Unnecessary Use of Deadly Force by PA Police
Our criminal legal system should not provide cover to police officers who abuse their authority and take the lives of others unnecessarily. A bipartisan group of nearly 70 criminal justice leaders filed an amicus brief urging the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to make clear that the police should not be allowed to use deadly force on people fleeing arrest who are not dangerous. The brief was filed in support of Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner’s appeal prior to the trial of former Philadelphia police officer Ryan Pownall, who is charged with homicide for the killing of David Jones. For more, read the brief and release.
“No law should unconstitutionally shield a law enforcement officer from prosecution for unlawful use of deadly force. No one is above the law, and no one is beneath it.”
– Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison
Over 70 Criminal Justice Leaders Condemn Criminalization of Transgender People
In the first half of 2021 alone, at least 105 bills that discriminate against transgender people have been proposed in 34 states and 10 have become law. Over 70 criminal justice leaders released a joint statement condemning these unconscionable attacks on trans people and pledging to not use limited resources to criminalize gender-affirming healthcare. The signatories emphasize that these efforts are a threat to public safety, serve no legitimate purpose, and erode trust that is critical to protecting all members of our community. For more, read the full statement and release.
“[R]ather than fighting for [transgender people’s] protection, the criminal legal system has painted their very existence as a threat, often criminalizing trans survivors of violence rather than protecting them.”
FJP Statement on the Sentencing of Derek Chauvin
Fair and Just Prosecution Executive Director Miriam Krinsky issued this statement in response to the sentencing of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd. While Chauvin was sentenced to 22.5 years in prison, individual convictions and sentences will never be the answer as long as a violent response is the starting point in the American policing system, rather than the last resort in all cases.
“While today’s sentencing of Derek Chauvin is an important recognition that the courts can hold individual officers liable for blatant police violence, no prison sentence – whatever the length – could have delivered true and meaningful accountability.”
Over 90 Criminal Justice Leaders Condemn State Voter Suppression Efforts
Despite the lack of any evidence of widespread voter fraud, voter suppression laws are being introduced and passed across the country on a scale unseen since the Jim Crow era. More than 90 elected prosecutors and law enforcement leaders issued a joint statement condemning these efforts to limit and criminalize voting and calling on local and federal policymakers to protect our nation’s fundamental right to vote. For more, read the full statement and release.
“As officers of the justice system, we must help restore integrity and confidence in our system of government. We do that today by urging state leaders across the country to stop passing laws that limit and criminalize voting.”
FJP Statement on Biden-Harris Administration’s Access to Justice Announcement
Fair and Just Prosecution Executive Director Miriam Krinsky issued this statement in response to the Presidential Memorandum from the Biden-Harris administration reinstituting the White House Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable and instructing the Department of Justice to restore and expand its Access to Justice function. The DOJ Office for Access to Justice was set up by President Obama in 2010 with the goal of helping the justice system efficiently deliver outcomes that are fair and accessible to all, irrespective of wealth, race, or status, but was closed by the Trump administration in 2018. The White House Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable will similarly fortify access to counsel, convene federal agencies and play a vital role in responding to crises in the civil and criminal legal systems created by this past year’s pandemic.
“Equal justice under the law, regardless of wealth or status, is a core principle of our American democracy, and… lifting up access to justice issues within both DOJ and the White House is an important step towards ensuring that our justice system lives up to that lofty goal.”
Nearly 70 Current and Former Elected Prosecutors and AGs File Amicus Letter Brief In Support of LA DA George Gascón’s Prosecutorial Discretion
Nearly 70 current and former elected prosecutors and Attorneys General filed an amicus letter brief in support of LA County District Attorney George Gascón’s prosecutorial discretion and urging the California Supreme Court to review a trial court’s denial of a motion from DA Gascón’s office to dismiss and withdraw sentencing enhancements filed under the previous DA. Amici argue that the trial court’s decision infringes upon policy decisions entrusted to the elected DA and undermines the will of the voters who elected DA Gascón on a platform that included reversing the course of excessive sentencing enhancements. Read the brief and release.
“[T]he Los Angeles community chose a District Attorney who promised to bring to his office a new vision of how to allocate limited resources and promote public safety. The trial court’s obstructionism threatens that community-embraced vision and, in doing so, would set a dangerous precedent undermining the discretion uniquely vested in our nation’s elected prosecutors.”
FJP, NJDC, and NCJFCJ Release Joint Statement on Need for Specialization of Professionals in Juvenile Court and Resource Guide on JJ Practice & Language
FJP joined the National Juvenile Defender Center (NJDC) and the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) in a joint statement underscoring the importance of specialization, training, and experience for judges, prosecutors, and defenders assigned to the all-important juvenile delinquency practice area, so they can better address the needs and ensure the success of young people. FJP, NJDC, and NCJFCJ also jointly issued a new guide, Seeing What’s Underneath: A Resource for Understanding Behavior & Using Language in Juvenile Court, which provides best practices for understanding behavior of, and using appropriate language with, young people who come into contact with the juvenile justice system. For more, read the joint statement, resource guide, and release.
“Every interaction a young person has with the juvenile court system alters the course of that child’s life [and can] either pull youth deeper into the system or help set them up for success.”
Over 80 Elected Prosecutors and Law Enforcement Leaders Call for Expansion of Clean Slate Initiatives
One in every three Americans today has a criminal record, resulting in significant collateral consequences including challenges obtaining employment, housing, public assistance, and education. That’s why over 80 elected prosecutors and law enforcement leaders issued a joint statement urging policymakers to expand clean slate initiatives that automatically expunge and seal criminal records. The signatories emphasize that those with previous involvement with the criminal legal system and their families deserve the opportunity to move forward without forever being saddled by the closed doors and endless public burdens resulting from past mistakes. Read the statement and release.
“Despite the fact that people with a criminal record have already served their time, their past history can be a life sentence to limited opportunities.”
FJP Statement on the Senate’s Confirmation of Lisa Monaco and Vanita Gupta for Key Justice Department Posts
Fair and Just Prosecution Executive Director Miriam Krinsky issued this statement in response to the Senate’s confirmation of Lisa Monaco as Deputy Attorney General and Vanita Gupta as Associate Attorney General of the United States Department of Justice.
“Deputy Attorney General Monaco and Associate Attorney General Gupta are seasoned criminal justice experts with the experience and vision to transform the DOJ into an institution that promotes fairness, equity and justice for all Americans.”
FJP Statement on Verdict in the Derek Chauvin Trial
Fair and Just Prosecution Executive Director Miriam Krinsky issued this statement in response to a jury finding Derek Chauvin guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter in the killing of George Floyd.
“We are thankful that Derek Chauvin will be held accountable for taking George Floyd’s life. Yet it cannot be said that justice was served today because true justice would be George Floyd – and all other victims of police violence – being alive today. We have a moral imperative to continue fighting for change so that we see the end of state-sanctioned violence against of our communities.”
Over 60 Criminal Justice Leaders Embrace Sentencing Review Mechanisms to Provide Second Chances to Those Serving Lengthy Prison Terms
64 elected prosecutors and law enforcement leaders joined together in a statement urging elected prosecutors and policy makers to embrace mechanisms that can provide second chances for the many people in our nation serving decades-long sentences who pose little or no risk to public safety. The statement notes that in order to end mass incarceration, justice system leaders must address the high number of individuals serving extreme sentences and cites well-established research showing that these lengthy prison terms have not deterred crime or promoted public safety. Read the statement and release.
“There is no reason to conclude that the commission of a crime—no matter the offense—must define a person forever.”
FJP Statement on Growing Evidence of the Public Safety Benefits of Non-Prosecution
Fair and Just Prosecution Executive Director Miriam Krinsky issued this statement in response to a groundbreaking study conducted by Rutgers University’s Amanda Agan, Texas A&M University’s Jennifer Doleac and New York University’s Anna Harvey, as well as new policies announced by the Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office. The study – published as a working paper by the National Bureau of Economic Research – found that declining to prosecute an individual for a misdemeanor offense reduces the likelihood of that individual’s future involvement with the criminal justice system. Similarly, Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby announced that the non-prosecution policies her office implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic will be made permanent given the growing evidence of the benefits of declining to prosecute many low-level offenses.
“Even as opponents of reform stoke fear about crime in America and attack the actions of reform-minded prosecutors, we must look to the data, which show us that criminalizing fewer people – especially for involvement in lower level offenses – strengthens communities.”
FJP Statement on Abolition of the Death Penalty in Virginia
FJP Executive Director Miriam Krinsky issued this statement in response to Virginia Governor Ralph Northam signing into law a bill to abolish the death penalty. Virginia has used the death penalty more than any other state, carrying out nearly 1,400 executions, and trails only Texas in the number of people put to death since 1976. They became the 23rd state to abolish capital punishment.
“If ever there were a time and an opportunity to fortify trust with the American people and exemplify a justice system grounded in racial equity and fairness, that time is now – and it must involve bringing an end to the death penalty in this nation, once and for all.”
FJP Executive Director Sends Letter Opposing the Death Penalty to Tennessee Governor
As the execution date of Pervis Payne – an intellectually disabled Black man – nears, Fair and Just Prosecution Executive Director Miriam Krinsky sent a letter to Tennessee Governor Bill Lee stating our unequivocal opposition to the death penalty and in particular, our concerns with the use of this sanction in the context of individuals with intellectual disabilities.
“Time and again, we have executed individuals with long histories of debilitating mental illness, childhoods marred by unspeakable physical and mental abuse, and trial lawyers so derelict in their duties and obligations that they never bothered to uncover long histories of illness and trauma. We have also likely executed the innocent.”
FJP Statement on Missouri Supreme Court Ruling in Missouri vs. Lamar Johnson
Fair and Just Prosecution Executive Director Miriam Krinsky issued this statement in response to a ruling by the Missouri Supreme Court denying Lamar Johnson’s appeal of the lower court’s order dismissing the motion for new trial by Mr. Johnson and Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner in the case of Missouri v. Lamar Johnson – a request based on serious concerns that misconduct resulted in Mr. Johnson’s wrongful conviction.
‘A prosecutor has a responsibility to ensure convictions are sound, not to defend them at all costs.”
FJP Statement on CA Supreme Court Ruling in O.G. v. Superior Court of Ventura County regarding SB 1391
Fair and Just Prosecution Executive Director Miriam Krinsky issued this statement in response to the ruling issued by the California Supreme Court in the lawsuit challenging California Senate Bill 1391. SB 1391 took effect January 1, 2019, and ensures that 14- and 15-year-olds who commit crimes are held accountable through the juvenile justice system, where the focus is more rehabilitative than punitive, and that they have greater access to supports and programming that will put them on a positive future trajectory.
“Ultimately, we all benefit when we give young people second chances and the support they need to change – and today’s decision will continue to make that pathway possible.”
FJP Statement on Merrick Garland Confirmation Hearings and the Urgency of Filling Key DOJ Leadership Positions
Fair and Just Prosecution Executive Director Miriam Krinsky issued this statement in regard to the start of confirmation hearings for Attorney General nominee Merrick Garland and urged quick confirmation of other key DOJ positions. After four years of failed DOJ policies, communities can’t afford to wait any longer for new leadership in this vitally important arm of our government.
“The long-awaited commencement of Merrick Garland’s confirmation hearing is an important step toward filling this critical position, promoting an independent and credible federal justice system, and addressing timely issues around racial equity in our nation.”
FJP Statement on Need for Action to Address Alarming Conditions in Texas Jails and Prisons
Fair and Just Prosecution Executive Director Miriam Krinsky issued this statement in response to reports of extremely poor conditions in Texas jails and prisons in the wake of the recent unprecedented storm and power outages sweeping the state. Over 35,000 people are detained in Texas jails for crimes of which they have not been convicted, often simply because they are too poor to post bail. Many do not have water, heat, or enough food. Yet some judges are apparently refusing to even hold hearings to consider lower bail amounts.
“Not only have many of these people not been tried or convicted of anything, but many are accused of relatively minor crimes like drug possession or low-level theft. If they were wealthy, they’d be at home, but they’re trapped in horrific and life threatening conditions because they can’t post bail.”
73 Criminal Justice Leaders Back Landmark NJ Policy Limiting Local Entanglement in Federal Immigration Enforcement
73 current and former criminal justice leaders filed an amicus brief in the Third Circuit Court of Appeals supporting New Jersey’s landmark Immigrant Trust Directive, a statewide policy that aims to fortify trust between immigrant communities and law enforcement by limiting local entanglement in federal immigration enforcement. As the brief notes, local involvement in immigration enforcement exacerbates fear within immigrant communities, making them less likely to report crimes and cooperate with officials, which threatens public safety. For more, read the brief and release.
“[I]nducing jurisdictions to entangle themselves further with federal immigration enforcement would send a dangerous signal to witnesses and victims within immigrant communities: cooperate with local law enforcement at your own risk.”
FJP Statement on DOJ Plans to Ask Trump-Appointed U.S. Attorneys to Resign
Fair and Just Prosecution Executive Director Miriam Krinsky issued this statement in response to the news that the U.S. Department of Justice was expected to ask U.S. attorneys appointed by former President Donald Trump to submit their resignations. After four years of failed DOJ policies, we need a new fresh slate of U.S. attorneys right away, and we commend President Biden for listening to the many calls from leaders and advocates to take swift and decisive action to bring in new leadership.
“Asking Trump-appointed U.S. attorneys to resign is a much-needed and important signal from the Biden-Harris administration that they are committed to ushering in a new vision of justice that reflects the transformative moment we’re in.”
FJP Statement on Ruling in Association of Deputy District Attorneys for Los Angeles County vs. George Gascón
Fair and Just Prosecution Executive Director Miriam Krinsky issued this statement in response to the preliminary injunction ruling issued yesterday in the lawsuit brought by the Association of Deputy District Attorneys in the County of Los Angeles (“ADDA”) challenging the reforms newly-elected District Attorney George Gascón announced when he took office, including new directives ending the practice of charging and seeking certain sentencing enhancements.
“DA Gascón’s directives were designed to create a more sensible, humane and effective starting point for charging offenses by ending the use of specified sentencing enhancements that mandate additional time on top of already significant sentences, which have fueled mass incarceration in our overcrowded county and state correctional facilities.”
FJP Statement on Hearing in Association of Deputy District Attorneys for Los Angeles County vs. George Gascón
Fair and Just Prosecution Executive Director Miriam Krinsky issued this statement in response to the preliminary injunction hearing held February 2nd in the lawsuit brought by the Association of Deputy District Attorneys in the County of Los Angeles (“ADDA”) and challenging the reforms newly-elected District Attorney George Gascón announced when he took office, including new directives ending the practice of charging and seeking sentencing enhancements that result in decades-long sentences.
“DA Gascón, and other elected DAs around the nation, have vast discretion to make policy decisions on how and when to charge cases and what sentences to recommend – those determinations should not be usurped by line prosecutors.”
FJP Statement on Confirmation of Alejandro Mayorkas as Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security
Fair and Just Prosecution Executive Director Miriam Krinsky issued this statement in response to the Senate confirmation of Alejandro Mayorkas as Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. After four years of cruel immigration policies rooted in bigotry and xenophobia, the Biden-Harris administration has the opportunity to create a truly fair and just immigration system, and Secretary Mayorkas’ confirmation represents a welcome shift from the last administration’s starting point.
“We hope this confirmation is the beginning of a new era in which American immigration policy will live up to the aspirations of our American values.”
Nearly 100 Criminal Justice Leaders Urge President Biden to Take Immediate Action to End the Federal Death Penalty
A bipartisan group of nearly 100 criminal justice leaders — including over 50 current elected local prosecutors, seven current Attorneys General, seven current and former Police Chiefs and Sheriffs, and 20 former U.S. Attorneys, DOJ officials, and judges — sent a letter to President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris urging them to take all actions within their power to immediately and definitively end the death penalty in the United States. The letter urges the new administration to take multifaceted and lasting steps that future administrations cannot readily undo: commuting the sentences of all those on federal death row and withdrawing current death penalty warrants, dismantling the death chamber at Terre Haute, urging the AG to instruct all federal prosecutors to not seek the death penalty in future cases, supporting and incentivizing state efforts to end capital punishment, and supporting legislation to end the federal death penalty. Read the letter and release.
“We should not leave the lives of all people still on federal death row — and many more who will become entangled with the federal system — in the hands of future administrations.”
65 Current and Former Elected Prosecutors File Amicus Brief In Support of Los Angeles DA George Gascón’s Reforms
65 current and former elected prosecutors, including two former Los Angeles County District Attorneys, filed an amicus brief in support of Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón’s implementation of a host of policies consistent with the vision for criminal justice he articulated throughout the course of his campaign. The amicus brief is in response to the lawsuit filed by the Los Angeles County Association of Deputy District Attorneys, which seeks to bar DA Gascón from implementing directives he issued upon assumption of office – sensible policies such as ending the use of sentencing enhancements that have fueled mass incarceration at great human and fiscal cost. The brief stresses the inherent discretion of elected prosecutors to enact policies that guide who, when and what to prosecute, and that DA Gascón’s policies are consistent with the interests of justice, public safety and the efficient use of limited prosecutorial resources. Read the brief and release.
“[W]e are deeply troubled by the attempt…to usurp the power of the elected district attorney and use the courts to override the lawful, discretionary policy decisions of an official, chosen by the voters of Los Angeles, to transform the criminal justice system in that community.”
Statement on Divided Court Ruling in United States v. Safehouse Barring Lifesaving Overdose Prevention Sites
FJP released this statement in response to the Third Circuit Court of Appeal’s divided ruling in United States v. Safehouse regarding plans by Safehouse, a Philadelphia non-profit, to open the first official overdose prevention site in the United States. As the overdose epidemic has surged during the pandemic, the statement expresses deep disappointment in the court’s decision and urges the Biden administration to take immediate action to prevent even more loss.
“Saving lives matter – and they should be our top priority at a time when our nation is increasingly divided and trust in government and the integrity of our criminal legal system is at an all-time low.”
Statement on Federal Government’s Rush to Carry Out Three More Executions in the Midst of Deeply Disturbing National Events
Fair and Just Prosecution Executive Director Miriam Krinsky issued this statement in advance of three executions the federal government is seeking to carry out the week of January 11th, even as challenges are still pending in the courts and thousands of Americans are dying every day of COVID-19. The administration is the first to carry out executions during a lame-duck period in over 100 years.
“After a 17-year hiatus in federal executions, the Trump administration’s rush to carry out executions is a stain on our country and our humanity.”
Over 60 AGs and Elected Prosecutors Condemn Attack on Capitol as Assault on Democracy
Following the January 6, 2021 attacks on the nation’s Capitol by armed insurrectionists, over 60 current elected prosecutors issued a joint statement condemning President Trump’s incitement of violence and attempts to defy the results of a fair and free election. The statement calls out the profound inequities exhibited by the hands-off response by many in law enforcement – a stark contrast to the aggressive and militarized use of force in response to protests around systemic racism over the past year. And it calls for accountability for anyone who incited or was involved in the attack and all who failed to prepare for and appropriately respond to it, and urges all elected leaders to immediately accept the results of the 2020 election. Read the statement and release.
“Public trust is at the heart of public safety, yet trust in government and our legal system has plummeted in the last four years. Words matter. And false narratives of a stolen election and efforts to disenfranchise countless Americans by ignoring their votes are attacks on our democracy and law and order, threatening the very wellbeing of our country.”
Statement on FJP Statement on Attorney General Announcement and Current Events in D.C.
Fair and Just Prosecution Executive Director Miriam Krinsky issued this statement in response to the news that President-elect Joe Biden would nominate Merrick Garland as his Attorney General and the events unfolding at the Capitol in Washington, D.C. After four years of failed leadership and an increasingly politicized Department of Justice, and with continued efforts to undermine our democracy, there could never be a more moment for leadership.
“After a year that saw a groundswell of support for reform to our criminal legal system and pleas from millions to address racial injustice, the new administration has a mandate to implement sweeping and enduring change. Judge Garland can lead the way towards this new vision of justice.”
Statement Commending Court’s Refusal to Grant TRO and Enjoin
Implementation of DA George Gascon’s New Criminal Justice Reforms
Fair and Just Prosecution Executive Director Miriam Krinsky issued this statement in regard to the refusal by the court to grant the temporary restraining order requested by the Association of Deputy District Attorneys (ADDA) for Los Angeles County – and the ADDA’s attempt to restrain ongoing implementation of new policies enacted by Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascon.
“Courts have repeatedly affirmed the discretion of the DA to guide the limited resources of that office in designing sensible charging policies that are integral to the fair and efficient administration of justice.”
How the Biden-Harris Administration Can Advance Criminal Justice Reform in the First 100 Days
With Inauguration Day almost here and the ongoing calls for change to our criminal legal system, we continue to highlight how the Biden-Harris administration can move us towards the vision of justice that Americans need and deserve. “How the Biden-Harris Administration Can Advance Criminal Justice Reform: Proposals for the First 100 Days” discusses how the new administration can immediately make an impact in the first 100 days through administrative or executive action.
“These proposed actions come at a critical moment in time, when our nation is facing a surging pandemic, loss of life among those behind bars, calls for long overdue fortifying of police accountability, and a reckoning with racial injustice.”
Fast Facts on Youth Justice
Youth crime rates have been steadily dropping for decades and are at their lowest levels since 1980. FJP’s new resource, “Fast Facts on Youth Justice,” highlights key information that can guide elected prosecutors, justice system leaders, and policymakers as we address how to improve outcomes and better attend to the needs of young people who come in contact with the criminal legal system.
“We owe it to our young people to give them what they need to become resilient, thriving, contributing members of our community.”
-District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine
FJP Statement on the Passing of the Comprehensive Youth Justice Amendment in Washington, D.C.
FJP Executive Director Miriam Krinsky issued this statement in response to the Washington, D.C. City Council’s passing of the Omnibus Public Safety and Justice Amendment Act of 2020, which contains the Comprehensive Youth Justice Amendment, allowing people who are incarcerated for crimes they committed before the age of 25 and who have served at least 15 years in prison to petition for release. Passing this legislation is an acknowledgment that lengthy prison sentences do not make our communities safer and that all people —and especially young people—have immense potential to grow and evolve.
“We commend the D.C. City Council for recognizing that justice requires us to acknowledge the human capacity for growth and the importance of second chances.”
Prosecutors Announce Groundbreaking Resentencing Efforts, Joining DAs Across the Country
Newly elected Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón and Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby announced expansive efforts to reconsider thousands of decades-long harsh sentences, joining a growing movement to take a second look at past extreme sentences that no longer comport with just results, squander limited government resources on incarcerating individuals who could safely return to the community, and have driven mass incarceration in this nation at a rate second to none. At a time when prisons are among the nation’s largest COVID-19 hotspots, these resentencing efforts are a significant step to address prison overcrowding, reduce incarceration and save the lives of those behind bars, as well as personnel who work in these facilities. Read the release to learn more.
“The pursuit of justice is timeless, therefore this policy will correct historic wrongs. Mass incarceration has broken families and trapped communities in cycles of trauma and poverty. We must begin undoing those failed policies by taking a second look at extreme sentences.”
– Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon
FJP Statement on House Vote on Federal Marijuana Reform
FJP Executive Director Miriam Krinsky issued this statement in advance of a floor vote in the U.S. House of Representatives on the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, which would federally deschedule cannabis, expunge the records of those with prior marijuana convictions, and reinvest in communities most impacted by the War on Drugs. Earlier this year, more than 50 elected prosecutors & law enforcement officials sent a letter to Congress supporting the MORE Act because they know firsthand the toll that the over-policing and criminalization of marijuana has taken on communities, and especially communities of color, without making them any safer.
“We urge every Representative to support this legislation and end decades of unnecessary and punitive marijuana policy that has disproportionately impacted communities of color.”
Nearly 100 Criminal Justice Leaders Call for an Immediate End to the Federal Death Penalty
A bipartisan group of nearly 100 criminal justice leaders — including over 60 current elected prosecutors (District Attorneys, State Attorneys, Prosecuting Attorneys and Attorneys General), nine former U.S. Attorneys, and 14 current and former Police Chiefs and Sheriffs — issued a statement calling for an immediate end to the federal death penalty and asking the president to commute the sentences of the individuals scheduled to be executed by the federal government over the next two months. The signatories warn that a rush to carry out executions before the presidential transition, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic hinders the ability of lawyers to fully and effectively represent their clients, would compromise trust in the American legal system and risk irreparable miscarriages of justice. Read the statement and the release.
“Case after case has revealed that our nation’s long experiment with the death penalty has failed. The process is broken, implicates systemic racism and constitutional concerns, and distinguishes our country from many other democratic nations in the world. If ever there were a time to revisit this practice, that time is now.”
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 50 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.