Defunding the DA and Prosecutorial Accountability
- Prosecutors wield vast power with little accountability and transparency to the people they are elected to represent. With this power they have fueled mass incarceration by measuring success through conviction rates and harsh sentences, destroying communities historically targeted by over-policing and rampant prosecutions. The newly elected district attorney should take significant steps to reverse the harm that has been done by the current office holder by relinquishing their own power and shrinking the size and scope of their office. 2020 began with calls to defund the police and reimagine public safety, and Manhattan’s newly elected DA should heed those calls and take affirmative steps to defund their own office and redirect funding to support and improve the city’s housing, health, and education infrastructure. The Manhattan DA’s office is allocated ample and ever-increasing funding and resources while the city’s “crime” rates continue a steady decline. Over the past five years roughly 40 to 50% of misdemeanor and 25 to 35% of felony arrests in New York County were ultimately dismissed.
- The newly elected DA must disincentivize conviction rates as a measure of success and instead focus on decarceral outcomes that address harm without creating further harm through collateral consequences of conviction and incarceration. They must take affirmative steps to make public all internal policies and practices and be guided by community groups and those who have been directly impacted by the racist and overly-punitive practices of the office holders that came before. The newly elected prosecutor must have a plan to ensure current staff will carry out new policies. They must not tolerate any form of prosecutorial misconduct and take immediate action when it occurs.