COMBATING SYSTEMIC RACISM
- The degree to which explicit or implicit racism drives, impacts, and undermines the asserted goals of criminal justice is incontrovertible. Black and brown communities are targeted by police by being stopped, questioned, and arrested at greater numbers than their white counterparts. For that reason, we chose not only to address the candidates’ understanding of systemic racism as a whole, but also their ability to isolate and address the racial implications of every aspect of prosecutorial policy. We want a DA who not only promises policies that promote justice, equality, and fairness, but also someone who understands their role in a system entrenched in racism.
- The person elected as DA should track data on cases brought by the police especially in situations where their policy dictates declining to prosecute the charge. They should track the race of every person they prosecute and disparities in pretrial incarceration and case outcomes. Thorough data tracking in real time should be shared office-wide to ensure course correction when bias is demonstrated and should be shared regularly with the public.
- The DA must not only support legislation that would allow persons with felony convictions to serve as jurors, but they must also commit to never using a peremptory strike on anyone from a jury pool so as to not deny the accused person the right to a jury of their peers. Too often prosecutors use peremptories to systematically exclude jurors based on race, and in Manhattan, this results in extremely white juries. While explicit race-based exclusion is prohibited by law, Justice Thurgood Marshall wrote that the “decision [in Batson] will not end the racial discrimination that peremptories inject into the jury selection process. That goal can be accomplished only by eliminating peremptory challenges entirely.” Batson v. Kentucky, 476 US 79, 103 (1986).
- The DA should end the use of the criminal enterprise statute and with it the practice of bringing conspiracy charges against young New Yorkers of color, which inevitably result in unjust dragnet prosecutions such as that of the Bronx 120. They should denounce the use of the NYPD’s Criminal Group Database, also known as the Gang Database. Over 99% of the people in the database are non-white. People need not be convicted of any crime to be included in the database, and people have no way to challenge the gang designations placed upon them. Criteria for designation includes: “living in a known gang area” and “association with gang members,” which disproportionately implicates Black and Latinx New Yorkers. About 30% of the people placed on the list are children, some as young as twelve. Unsurprisingly, the database is riddled with errors. The DA should support the abolition of the database and refuse to credit or use any information from it, including in bail, charging, and sentencing considerations. They should oppose the use of gang conspiracy charges, dragnet takedowns, raids that are often violent and abusive, and other common and harmful methods of gang policing.