Manhattan’s new district attorney has ordered his prosecutors to stop seeking prison sentences in a slew of criminal cases, according to a set of progressive policies made public Tuesday.
In his first memo to staff on Monday, Alvin Bragg said his office “will not seek a carceral sentence” except for in homicide and a handful of other cases, including domestic violence felonies, some sex crimes and public corruption.
“This rule may be excepted only in extraordinary circumstances based on a holistic
analysis of the facts, criminal history, victim’s input (particularly in cases of
violence or trauma), and any other information available,” the memo reads.
Assistant district attorneys must also now keep in mind the “impacts of incarceration” including on public safety, barriers to housing and employment, financial cost and race disparities, Bragg instructed.
In cases where prosecutors do seek to put a convict behind bars, the request can be for no more than 20 years for a determinate sentence, meaning one that can’t be reviewed or changed by a parole board.
“The Office shall not seek a sentence of life without parole,” the memo states.
Bragg, who was sworn into office Jan. 1, also made clear his mission is to reduce the number of defendants locked up pretrial, telling his prosecutors, “Particularly given the ongoing crisis at Rikers, we must reserve pretrial detention for very serious cases.”
The 48-year-old also vowed to stop pursuing many low-level offenses in his note to staff, titled: “Achieving Fairness and Safety.”
A civil rights lawyer and former federal prosecutor, he drew on his own experiences growing up in the 1980s in Harlem in his note to staff — and during the campaign — saying it has influenced his belief in reforming the criminal justice system.
“Data, and my personal experiences, show that reserving incarceration for matters involving significant harm will make us safer,” the memo reads.
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