Restructuring the Manhattan DA’s Office

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New Guidelines for the Manhattan DA’s Office

The lack of accountability in the current system has led to lopsided results for the well-connected while over penalizing everyone else.  When Diana was a prosecutor, she constantly fought with Vance’s concierge system of justice, which offered a special system of justice for the rich and powerful, and another system for everyone else. Under this system, million-dollar frauds committed against taxpayers were considered less serious than a theft of a smartphone. Diana relentlessly insisted on holding wrongdoers accountable proportionate to the crime they committed. She is committed to challenging the secretive, reactive, and regressive insiders’ club from the outside.

  • New Measures of Success — it’s not just about winning : Diana proposes to change the Manhattan DA’s Office performance standards by walking away from a model based on the number of convictions, trial wins or length of sentences. Instead, Diana will implement new measures of success that focus on improving victim relations including minimizing trauma by exploring alternatives to requiring a victim’s testimony at trial, increasing community collaboration and participation, reforming pre-trial detention, implementing restorative justice alternatives, and reducing mass incarceration and recidivism.

 

  • New Sentencing Guidelines : Mass incarceration has failed to address the real causes of violence or reduce recidivism. Incarceration will not be the default.
  • Clear System of Justice: The Manhattan DA Office needs to have one system of justice for all, regardless of money, connections, color, zip code, gender, sexual orientation or immigration status. Diana will end the concierge service for well-connected and wealthy people.

 

New Guidelines DANY Asset Forfeiture Investment Fund 

Diana believes that the money we receive from forfeiture in corporate resolutions belong to the people of Manhattan.

  • Diana will discontinue sending that money outside of New York, and reinvest it, with community input, into local programs in impacted communities.
  • Diana believes that people should have a direct say on how money is spent in their communities. For that reason, Diana proposes to implement a participatory budget process, which will employ a democratic process where Manhattan residents will decide how to spend the Manhattan DA’s asset forfeiture investment funds.

 

DA’s Staff – Diversity & Re-Training 

1.A More Diverse Staff : It’s absolutely essential that the DA’s office reflect the community it serves, and this is especially true in such a magnificently diverse city. Unfortunately, the Manhattan DA has not always lived up to this ideal and has struggled to maintain a workplace with opportunities for all. Diversity begins with recruitment, reinforced through retention and promotions. Diana will:

  • Appoint a diverse, culturally competent hiring board trained to recognize both explicit and implicit bias.
  • Direct the legal hiring unit to specifically target affinity groups at law schools (Black Prosecutors, Lavender Law, Asian Bar Association, Hispanic National Bar Association, etc.). 
  • Structure interviews to include a diverse panel of assistant district attorneys.
  • Make sure that all opportunities for promotion, along with stated qualifications and skills, are openly advertised and well-publicized. No more unlisted and invisible opportunities. 

 

2.Re-Training DANY Personnel: Training must not be an afterthought – assistant district attorneys, support, and non-legal staff will be required to attend regularly and frequently scheduled training sessions that will ensure understanding of the latest laws as well as social issues that have an impact on the criminal justice system and our community. 

  • Diana will revamp the current Legal Training Unit to include regular and frequent seminars for legal and non-legal staff on the latest laws, briefings on trends in criminal justice issues, reviews of the newest studies on confirmation and implicit bias, sensitivity training, and other areas that affect the work. 
  • Diana will change the current culture of the office. Diana will open the Manhattan DA’s doors to new perspectives by bringing community organizations, formerly incarcerated, and other non-traditional partners to train the Manhattan DA personnel. 
  • Regular training will support better adherence to legal requirements, such as the prosecutor’s Brady (disclosure) obligations that are in place to secure defendants’ rights as well as restore public confidence in the prosecutor’s role.  In addition, enhanced training will help maintain office-wide consistency on legal issues, office policies and positions. It will foster office-wide relationships.

 

3.Public Interest Covenant with CUNY & SUNY

  • Diana will require that the office look at the best public interest college programs and law schools to ensure access by graduates from those institutions into the ranks of DA employees. Diana pledges to reserve spaces to hire legal and non-legal staff that graduate from CUNY or SUNY.  
  • For example, New York City is home to one of the highest ranked Public Interest law schools in the country— CUNY’s School of Law. Diana will ensure that the Manhattan DA’s office hires more graduates from CUNY’s School of Law and other similar public interest programs.