Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg Releases Comprehensive Reforms to Deliver Safety and Justice for All

January 4, 2022

Policies Designed To Reduce Incarceration And Re-Offending
Changes Not Only Will, In And Of Themselves, Make Us Safer; They Also Will Free Up Resources To Focus On Violent Crime

Note, this memo has been clarified here

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg today released a detailed “Policy & Procedure Memorandum” setting out charging, bail, plea, and sentencing policies to increase safety and justice for all. DA Bragg sent the memo to the entire DA staff yesterday, followed by an all staff webinar at which Bragg explained the policies. 

“I have lived my entire life in Harlem and have seen all sides of the criminal legal system both professionally and personally,” said DA Bragg. “I had a gun pointed at me three by police officers, had a family member live with me after he was released from incarceration, and posted bail for a loved one.  And I served as a prosecutor holding accountable corrupt politicians and those who financed large scale drug-trafficking and, just months ago, walked my family through a crime scene on our doorstep.

“These policies are rooted in these life experiences and professional experiences and substantiated by data. They reflect both the need for fundamental reforms in the criminal legal system and the need for community safety. The two goals of justice and safety are not opposed to each other. They are inextricably linked. We deserve and demand both, and that has been the focus of my career, and indeed, my life.”

Click to read memo:

  • Invest More in Alternatives to Incarceration: Well-designed initiatives  that support and stabilize people – particularly individuals in crisis and youth – can reduce re-offending, conserve resources, and diminish the collateral harms of criminal prosecution. 
  • Reduce Pretrial Incarceration: Particularly given the crisis at Rikers, we must reserve pretrial detention for only the most serious matters. The data show that the overwhelming majority of those released pretrial do not commit a violent crime awaiting trial.  Studies also indicate that incarceration, in and of itself, can create public safety risks. 
  • Focus on Accountability, Not Sentence Length: Research is clear that, after a certain length, longer sentences do not deter crime or result in greater community safety.   Further, because survivors and victims of crime often want more than the binary choice between incarceration and no incarceration, we will expand our use of restorative justice programming.
  • Limit Youth in Adult Court: Research shows that brain development continues until up to age 25,  youth are physiologically subject to more impulsive behavior, and are still capable of growth and maturation.  Prosecuting youth in our adult criminal court system can lead to recidivism,  making neighborhoods less safe.
  • Actively Support Those Reentering: Supporting those returning from incarceration reduces recidivism and thereby makes communities safer.9 We will scale up our support for services for those reentering and participating substantively in the parole process.

DA Bragg added, “These policy changes not only will, in and of themselves, make us safer; they also will free up prosecutorial resources to focus on violent crime.  To that end, new initiatives and policies on guns, sex crimes, hate crimes, and other matters will be announced in the coming weeks.”