guide creation and methodology

  • This guide is not the opinion of 5BD as a whole, but of our working group, largely made up of practitioners in Manhattan criminal courts. Our evaluations are based on 90-minute interviews with the candidates that took place in November 2020, public statements, and information they have provided on websites and social media, synthesized and filtered through our experiences witnessing the racist and dangerously retributive policies of DA Vance and his assistants. We recognize that candidates continue to introduce new policy papers and even change positions as the race continues. We did our best to encapsulate the information we had access to at the close of 2020 in our analysis and evaluations. After publication of this guide, we will continue to monitor changes or inconsistencies in platforms or positions and provide updates via our Twitter account. 
  • This guide has a clear point of view: we are adversaries of the prosecutor and students of abolition who want to shrink the power of the prosecutor until it is abolished. Our questions were designed to understand and evaluate which candidate’s policies would focus on shrinking their power, not redirecting it. We sought to understand which candidates understood the racism that pervades every aspect of policing and prosecution and who has a plan to address and eradicate that harm. We also evaluated the candidates’ ability to follow through on their proposals, their understanding of the intricacies of criminal law, and the inner workings of the Manhattan DA’s office. We wanted to know if candidates had a plan to “clean house” and whether they had a team ready to implement their  policies.
  • We organized our interview questions into distinct issue areas and provided those general topics, but not the specific questions, to the candidates before the interviews. While candidates were allotted 90 minutes for the interview, every candidate was asked to restrict their answers to our specific questions and we often found ourselves without sufficient time to allow a candidate to expand at great length upon an issue of particular interest to their campaign. Additionally, for every issue area, we finished with “commitment” questions to which we asked candidates to only answer yes or no. After the interviews, we further refined the topics into the issue areas discussed below. We considered the candidates’ commitment to anti-racism in every issue area. It should be noted that some topics span many issue areas–for example, gang policing and prosecutions. When considering responses on gang policing and prosecutions, we mostly scored those answers in our “policing the police” issue area but also considered some aspects of candidate answers in the “support for decarceral outcomes and sentencing” issue area. 
  • Every member of the working group who took part in the evaluations participated in or watched every candidate interview and then worked in both small-group and large-group evaluations using a rubric we created together to rank each candidate’s positions and policies (see below). We first ranked Vance based on our experiences as practitioners to get a baseline. We then ranked each candidate, keeping in mind Vance’s scores and our score for the other candidates. We assessed candidates’ interview answers, public platforms, known history, and public comments in specific focus areas and applied the rubric to answers from each area. We then broke down each rubric into numeric values for easy assignment and placed the candidates on a comparative scale ranging from most potential harm to least potential harm.
  Most harmful approach: will continue to wield power and unfettered scope of the office with little change from current practice Harmful: will maintain scope of power but redirect prosecutions, e.g., the “progressive prosecutor” Least harmful approach: will shrink the power and reach of the office
Understanding of the past harm/issue        
Commitment to reducing the harm        
Plan/ability to follow through and be accountable to commitments       
Commitment to anti-racism