Written Testimony: City Council Public Safety Committee, FY25 Budget & Oversight Hearings

March 27, 2024

Good afternoon, Chair Salaam and members of the Committee on Public Safety. Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today regarding our Office’s Fiscal Year 2025 Preliminary Budget. We thank the City Council for its past support, the other four District Attorneys for their collaboration, and know that a safer and fairer city requires all of us working together.

The twin goals of the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office are delivering safety and fairness, and we know that we cannot have one without the other. We are achieving these goals with a targeted strategy focusing on the drivers of violence, addressing the underlying needs of those who commit crimes, and investing in preventative measures, all of which will keep our communities safe today and in the long term.

We are proud of the downward trend of serious crime over the past two years of DA Bragg’s administration, including a 21% drop in homicides from 2021-2023 and a 38% decline in shootings over the same period.

Similarly, we are encouraged by the drop in almost every index crime in Manhattan from 2022 to 2023, including an 8% reduction in robberies, 23% reduction in burglaries, and 28% reduction in rapes.

We are proud of our accomplishments, but we know we have more work to do. We will continue our targeted enforcement efforts through continued partnership with the community, elected officials, and other law enforcement agencies, and remain focused on driving these incidents even lower in the years to come to make Manhattan even safer.



Fighting the devastation of gun violence is one of the highest priorities of our office. As shown in the graphs above, in the years since DA Bragg took office, shootings have declined 38%. We are encouraged by the continued impact of our efforts this year: as of March 17, 2024, shooting incidents this year are down 43% compared to the same time period in 2023. A great deal of credit needs to be given to Manhattan’s tireless community leaders and community-based organizations for the work they do to prevent gun violence before it occurs. Of course, credit is also due to the hard work of the NYPD, and to our ADAs, who take on the fight through gun possession and gun use investigations and prosecutions. For example, our gun prosecutions have increased from 416 in 2020 to 592 in 2023.

*Cases with where the gun possession charge is the most serious (top or underlying) VFO or Class A non-drug felony on the case. Includes NA indictments.

To date, our Ghost Gun Initiative has prosecuted cases involving the seizure of over 104 ghost gun parts, 90 firearms, 442 high-capacity magazines, 47 silencers, and other gear including scopes and rapid-fire modification devices. Earlier this month we announced that our investigation into an East Village ghost gun factory uncovered an alleged burglary and alleged conspiracy to defraud the Pandemic Unemployment Insurance (PUA) program by government employees. Many of the victims were unhoused residents who were targeted by the conspirators through their positions as DHS employees with access to shelter residents’ digital and paper files.

We are also using white collar investigative tools to hold those who commit gun violence accountable. In one notable case, we identified a suspect in several gang motivated incidents, including a gunpoint robbery in August 2022 where an innocent bystander was grazed with a bullet to his head. During our investigation, we observed that the suspect’s social media included posts attempting to recruit others to deposit stolen checks. Our Financial Frauds Bureau then initiated an investigation into the alleged check fraud and, using wiretaps to intercept his cellphone and social media messages, we were able to secure a search warrant for the suspect’s apartment. During that search, a loaded 9 mm handgun was recovered which ballistics testing showed to be the same weapon used in the August 2022 shooting. The suspect was then indicted for the alleged shooting, gun possession, and check fraud.

In November, we announced the indictment of 5 individuals in connection with an alleged conspiracy to commit shootings and robberies, as well as the accidental murder of their own friend who was killed in the crossfire during one incident. In July, we announced the indictment of 3 individuals for the alleged drive-by shooting death of an innocent bystander in Washington Heights, a new grandfather only in town for the birth of his grandson. And the 2022 Own Every Dollar (“OED”) prosecutions are ongoing—we announced indictments of 10 individuals in August and another 7 in October in connection with an alleged string of shootings, gunpoint robberies and a murder, stretching from Washington Heights to Midtown, the Lower East Side, and the Bronx.

Our Men of Color Response Team has also played a critical role in building relationships in Manhattan communities, building a path to long-term safety in the wake of gun violence. According to NYPD data, 96% of shooting victims in New York City are Black or Latino and most of them are male. This team was formed in recognition of the reality that men of color may be reluctant to participate in the court process based on a variety of reasons, including possibly having had negative interactions with law enforcement, a lack of access to mental health care, direct or vicarious trauma from neighborhood violence, or a fear of retribution. Not only do the advocates and counselors support victims of gun violence as their case moves through the court process, but their trauma-informed work engages with men of color as they move forward in their lives to address the complex challenges they face, preventing future victimization or harm.


We are very grateful for the additional $626,000 in baseline funding we received from the Council last year, which helped us hire full-time staff for our Worker Protection Unit. We are still actively recruiting to grow this critical piece of our Office. With this additional staffing and prioritization of resources, we are expanding and enhancing our investigations and prosecutions into wage theft and other crimes committed by employers.

For example, we indicted two brothers and their company for allegedly exploiting two Spanish-speaking day laborers, refusing to pay them approximately $7,000 they had earned. When the workers demanded their money, one of the brothers assaulted them. This case underscores the public safety nature of our work – a worker was physically assaulted after confronting his boss. No one should be attacked because they asked for what they were owed.

The work of the Worker Protection Unit is also protecting the city itself from corruption and theft of resources. Samco is a licensed union electrical company that had multiple subcontracts with the School Construction Authority (“SCA”) and the NYC Housing Authority (“NYCHA”). These city contracts required Samco to pay prevailing wages and supplemental benefits to its workers, but Samco instead used non-union workers and paid its workers less than half the prevailing wage rate. Samco then stole the difference, which amounted to $1.7 million dollars. They set up shell companies, falsified payroll records, and issued fake IDs to workers to cover it up. They also bribed an SCA inspector who had learned of their criminal practices. In the end, they pled guilty, paid back $900,000 to workers, and were barred from bidding on lucrative SCA and NYCHA contracts for 5 years. The foreman was also sentenced to 6 months in jail.

We were also able to return $50,000 in stolen wages to seven now-defunct Ampak Electrical Services employees who performed electrical work at the site of the midtown Virgin Hotel through the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office’s Stolen Wage Fund. While we always try to secure restitution for workers through our criminal prosecutions, we have repeatedly seen victims of wage theft not made whole through criminal prosecutions. Sometimes additional victims come forward after a criminal case is closed and case-related restitution has already been distributed. Other times, the company goes bankrupt and has no assets to pay the workers. So, we are piloting a Stolen Wage Fund, using forfeiture funds that were seized through previous white collar crime investigations, to compensate Manhattan victims of wage theft who were not part of the original case.

Our unit goes beyond wage theft as well to address all manner of public safety as it intersects with Worker Protection. Last month, we brought charges against Valor Security and Investigations, a construction safety company that, for years, allegedly provided fake OSHA safety training certifications to more than 20,000 workers, sadly leading to a death at a job site. By falsely certifying that the workers were fully trained to undertake dangerous construction jobs, they allegedly put all the workers on the site at risk, as well as all of the pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists who navigate around construction sites every day. By holding those that commit this level of fraud accountable, we ensure public safety as well as fair and safe conditions for all workers. 


We are grateful for the additional funding we received last year for our Survivors Services Bureau (“SSB”), formerly known as the Witness Aid Services Unit. The SSB improves public safety in several ways. First, it helps hold accountable those who commit crimes by supporting victims through the court process. Second, ty seeking to heal trauma experienced by crime victims, it prevents future violence and revictimization. And third, SSB builds trust with communities and boosts the legitimacy of the justice system, which encourages more people to come forward to report crime as well as obey the law. 

Prioritizing this facet of our Office has led to an increase in crisis responses, from 386 responses in 2021 to 2183 in 2023. This is more than a 500% increase in the use of immediate survivor-centered support care.

Historically, SSB has worked primarily with survivors of intimate partner violence, sexual assault, or homicides. Survivor Services has increased outreach to those involved in domestic violence cases, from an outreach total of 3877 in 2021, to 5276 in 2022, and 6611 in 2023. However, it is the District Attorney’s vision that all victims of violent crime are supported by a team, including a prosecutor and victim’s advocate from the very beginning of their case. To this end, the office has developed and implemented a HEAT ticket system that connects a victim advocate to a case when the case is being drafted. Recently launched and still in pilot phase in one trial bureau, the HEAT system has expanded our advocacy exponentially to survivors who could benefit from help connecting to housing resources, safety planning, counseling, accessing reimbursement from New York State’s Office of Victim Services. Already we are seeing a substantial increase in referrals from the pilot, and the corresponding increase in individuals going through SSB intake is equally impressive. Historically, individual trial bureaus would refer approximately 10 individuals to SSB per month. Since HEAT was introduced to one trial bureau, that number increased to 64 referrals in a single month. Of those referrals, approximately 20 individuals have gone through intake. Given these encouraging statistics, we expect that once the HEAT system is expanded to cover all 6 trial bureaus, the number of trial bureau referrals will increase to over 2,200 per year – more than doubling 2023’s total of 1,022 intakes.

The demand for SSB services has greatly increased. Half of the roles we are actively filling are for licensed therapists. When a survivor comes to us, they are offered individual therapy at no cost and no time limit, with a maximum wait time of two weeks. In 2021, DANY therapists held 1912 of these free therapy sessions, and in 2023 that number jumped to 2726 sessions. For those survivors who prefer receiving help elsewhere, we also make referrals and offer to conduct sessions until a referral is available.

We have also made a concerted effort to expand the Survivor Services Bureau with advocates and counselors who speak the same languages as members of our Manhattan communities. As a result, non-English speaking witnesses who had previously been difficult for attorneys to connect with are increasingly engaging with our Office. Specifically adding team members who speak Mandarin, Cantonese, and Korean has gone hand in hand with our focus on addressing hate crimes against the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities in Manhattan. The increase in direct community outreach to SSB proves how critical language facility is for providing resources. For example, on top of providing ongoing counseling and court accompaniment, in one case, one of our advocates helped the non-English speaking family of a hate crime victim apply for compensation through the state’s Office of Victim Services to cover funeral costs, accompanied them to be present at the sentencing of the defendant, and helped them form a relationship with a prominent community advocate. We routinely refer victims to this State office, and with better language access we expect these referrals to increase. Having someone there as not just an interpreter but an actual advocate, who speaks the survivor’s language, and is able to explain what is going on is pivotal for helping survivors and family members navigate complex court proceedings without feeling alone and confused.

Due to the increased trauma experienced by survivors, and families of victims, of these familial crimes, the services we provide begin shortly after the case begins and often continues through sentencing and beyond. One example was the involvement of several of SSB’s staff sitting down with DA Bragg soon after an arrest was made to meet with a family of a woman murdered by her cousin. Several members of the family were quickly connected with SSB advocates and counselors to begin counseling, and one of our Men of Color advocates specifically started to work with the decedent’s son, brother, and male cousins to address their needs stemming from their trauma. He and other advocates accompanied the family to all court dates providing emotional support through the verdict and also accompanied them when they gave their witness impact statements.

Though emotional support and counseling is an important part of the services offered by SSB, for some domestic violence survivors, the assistance from our advocates and counselors directly result in their ability to reestablish their lives safely away from their abuser. After providing hotel placement, meal money, and safe transportation, one of our SSB advocates helped a mother and her three children make a safety plan, coordinated with NYPD for police escort to retrieve belongings from the home they shared with the abuser, helped establish emergency shelter placement, and then worked with a community-based organization to establish a plan for permanent housing. The survivor has specifically reached out to her SSB advocate expressing her gratitude and pride in her ability to now support and protect her children independently as they are now settled in their new home and established at work, school, and daycare. 

Again, all these efforts make us safer: by supporting victims in the justice process, we increase the chances that we can hold people accountable for serious crimes; and by addressing the trauma of survivors, we help prevent future criminal justice involvement. We want to specifically thank the City Council for joining us in prioritizing a survivor-centered focus and for the funding we received last year to support our Office’s expansion of survivor services.


The sheer volume of discovery material that we must produce and the timeline for producing it remain a huge issue for our office. As a result of voluminous discovery we receive and the short timelines for compliance, thousands of cases, particularly misdemeanors, are dismissed because of an inability to turn over “all material that relates to” the case in short time frame—even materials that are not directly relevant to the crime itself, such as the receipt from the car service that brought the victim to testify in the Grand Jury.

Before 2020, DANY used approximately thirty-two (32) terabytes of storage, but by early 2023, three years after the passage of the discovery reform statutes, DANY consumed approximately nine hundred and six (906) terabytes of storage, a 2,700% increase.  As of today, DANY consumes 1,513 terabytes.

Much of this growth is tied to the video and digital evidence that is now part of every investigation. Currently, our office does not have direct access to NYPD files nor do our data collections systems communicate precisely with the NYPD’s data system, so we do not receive notifications or alerts when any NYPD document updates or an additional document is added to the file. Employees at DANY and the NYPD must periodically check their respective databases for updated files, then transfer that data between the agencies, often duplicating files previously shared. It will take years to develop the systems and hire the staff necessary to make this transfer of data seamless.

Last year, we requested $13 million to help chart a path to a seamless discovery sharing process. We thank the City Council for providing $926,000 for Discovery related Information Technology (IT) funding during the FY24 Adopted Plan that will allow us to seamlessly share information both internally and externally. We are also grateful for the $2.2 million in baseline personnel funding starting in FY25 which will allow us to hire additional Legal (23 headcount) and Legal Support (11 headcount) staff. We appreciate the support of the Council and the Administration in working with our State partners in Albany to secure additional funding for our Office as well. Those efforts, and the funding from the State, are vital to our ability to comply with discovery timelines.


There is no question that stable housing is a cornerstone for public safety. Thanks to the $460,000 this Council provided to the Manhattan DA’s Housing and Tenant Protection Unit, we have been able to grow this team of specially trained ADAs and continue actively recruiting attorneys and investigators to support the work. This Unit prosecutes landlords who engage in large-scale systemic harassment to push people out of their affordable homes and developers who line their pockets by defrauding government subsidy programs and failing to fulfill their obligations to provide affordable housing.

Since this Unit was formed in 2022, we have received 457 complaints, increasing dramatically from 85 in 2022 to 310 in 2023, with another 65 in 2024 as of March 11. We have numerous active investigations currently pending against both landlords and developers. Our case against six real estate developers and their corporations for allegedly defrauding New York State’s 421-a affordable housing tax exemption program is still pending. These developers allegedly took tax breaks for a number of years and instead of providing what was meant to be desperately needed affordable housing for New Yorkers, rented units in six different buildings at market rate. This sort of case is a clear example of the targeted approach we take to address the complex criminal activity that results in harm to working class New Yorkers and unearned financial gain for developers.

We’re encouraged by the number of community members who have come forward and made us aware of activity that threatens their or their neighbors’ ability to stay in their homes. To ensure that everyone in our community is aware of their rights, and aware of how we can help, we have increased our community outreach and are more frequently visiting various Manhattan neighborhoods to give presentations, provide information, and share resources with our neighbors. This is an ongoing effort, but is a critical part of addressing the root cause of what threatens public safety while ensuring a fair and equitable system for all.


Three months ago, with an understanding that public health is an integral part of public safety, our Office created a Psychiatric Litigation Unit and appointed a Counsel for Psychiatric Litigation to refine the Office’s practices involving those whose mental health issues are so severe that they are legally unfit for trial: implementing detailed monitoring systems, providing intra-office reviews and consultation, facilitating policy discussions, and leading training sessions. In turn, the establishment of these procedures led us to reexamine best practices as the number of these cases continue to rise.

The number of orders of unfitness issued by courts statewide has nearly doubled since 2011. In just the last two years alone, there has been a 35% increase in the number of felony orders throughout the state. Further, in just these first three months of 2024, the rate of felony orders has already increased in comparison to 2023. As of March 11, our office has reached a record 223 open cases with a finding of unfitness, with a staggering 45% of these being violent felony offenses.  It is an unfortunate reality that public safety concerns within New York County are intrinsically tied with an ongoing, ever-worsening public mental health crisis. 

Navigating these cases requires an attentive and fact-driven approach. In particular, the emergence of Psychiatric Litigation has highlighted the importance of integrating and adequately examining the psychological root at the core of these matters. Though fitness for trial is a distinctly legal concept, it is a fundamentally scientific concept that takes scientific expertise to understand. As such, collaborating with forensic specialists over the course of a case is extremely valuable. We are currently hiring forensic professionals to work with our office on a permanent basis. Our goal with all these cases is a successful path forward through treatment and eventual reintegration into the community. By monitoring individuals after they are returned to fitness for concerning patterns of recidivism, not by attorneys but by mental health professionals, we will be better positioned to address the root cause of psychological issues and offer the appropriate support. We will also better be able to compile data of each of these misdemeanor and felony cases, and pointedly address misdemeanor cases where an individual found unfit will have their case dismissed as an operation of law, and potentially released from observation or care in 72 hours. Having a forensic professional available will allow for fruitful evaluations of fitness reports and screening cases with the specialized attorneys who currently staff our Pathways to Public Safety Bureau so that there is immediate consideration for the case to be sent to Mental Health Court. We look forward to working with our partners as we continue to evolve this practice.


In 2022, our Office received an additional $1.7 million in baseline funding from the City Council to hire full-time staff, train assistant district attorneys across the office to specialize in these cases, and expand our hate crime investigations, victim services, community engagement, trainings and education on cultural and linguistic competencies.

This additional funding was necessary to combat the unprecedented rise in hate crimes that we experienced in Manhattan and continue to see at an alarming rate. In 2020, there were 86 reports of bias motivated crimes, a number that more than doubled to 224 in 2021. The number has continued to rise ever since, to 256 in 2022 and 266 complaints in 2023.

In response, our hate crime prosecutions have reflected this increase, and the additional funding we received has supported our ability to handle the influx of cases we received. In 2020, DANY prosecuted 28 hate crimes, that number rose to 81 in 2021 with a sharp increase in anti-Asian hate crimes, then in 2022 we prosecuted 92 hate crimes. Last year, our workload rose even higher, as we prosecuted 114 hate crimes.

By the beginning of 2023, we successfully expanded the Unit from having one Unit Chief, Deputy Unit Chief, and one analyst, to having 20 cross-designated hate crime ADA’s, four investigative hate crime analysts and two investigators with law enforcement experience, both fluent in Cantonese. We also work closely with both our Survivors Services Bureau and DANY’s Community Partnerships Unit to engage and collaborate directly with existing community partners to organize hate crime presentations and trainings. We recently trained campus security and safety officers and title IX officers for 22 of the 25 CUNY schools on what constitutes a hate crime and how we handle them.  We continue to hold hate crime trainings in the community to arm the public with the requisite knowledge so they can feel confident in reporting these crimes to the NYPD and to us. And, of course, after our testimony last year, we have continued to hold several hate crime defendants accountable for their conduct.

During March 2023, Jarrod Powell pled guilty to Manslaughter in the First Degree as a Hate Crime and was sentenced to 22 years in prison for brutally assaulting Yao Pan Ma, a 61-year-old Chinese immigrant, for no other reason than his race – leading to his death 8 months later.

In December 2023, Brandon Elliot pled guilty to Assault in the First Degree as a Hate Crime and was sentenced to 15 years in prison for brutally assaulting and making anti-Asian statements to a 65-year-old woman of Filipino descent in broad daylight while she was on her way to church.

Beginning in October 2023, we began to see a steady increase in reports of Antisemitic and anti-Muslim hate crimes. That month, Lenny De La Rosa was indicted on four hate crime counts for allegedly defacing three synagogues and a Jewish volunteer ambulance. Then, in November 2023, Stuart Seldowitz was charged with Stalking in the Fourth Degree as a Hate Crime and other related charges for allegedly approaching a food truck where an Egyptian man was employed on three separate dates, making anti-Muslim statements and refusing to leave when told to do so.

However, there are other bias-motivated offenses that remain unchecked under our current laws. For that reason, we partnered with Senator Hoylman-Sigal and Assemblymember Lee to introduce the Hate Crimes Modernization Act that closes several loopholes in the statute by adding 31 new offenses, including gang assault, among others. With a robust Hate Crimes Unit and the addition of offenses where the hate crimes statute may apply, we will be more equipped to enhance safety and fairness in our city.


We recognize that the District Attorney’s Office plays a very specific role in the criminal justice system, and as a result, we need to support the community organizations that are more able than we are to form trusting relationships within neighborhoods. This is why we have invested $6 million in asset forfeiture funds into our Neighborhood Navigators program with our partners at The Bridge. This program involves community members with lived experiences building relationships with our neighbors who are experiencing homelessness, substance or mental health disorders, or simply require assistance to connect with available services or resources. These navigators meet people where they are, in the neighborhoods in which they reside, to build the long-term trusting relationships that are essential to reaching our most difficult-to-reach community members.

We have also invested $3 million in a similar program for individuals leaving arraignments.  Last October with the Fortune Society, we announced the court-based navigators program. Similar to the neighborhood navigators, these individuals will meet people after arraignments to offer a connection to services in an effort to facilitate stabilization and prevent recidivism. Resources will range from a ride home, a hygiene kit, something to eat to emergency housing.

All of this money comes from our rapidly draining asset forfeiture fund, which under the new laws will not be replenished. But we know that this work is critical to providing stability, preventing recidivism and bolstering public safety, and in the future will be looking to our partners in City and State government to pick up this funding.



Our only request for new funding is not for our office, but for our partners in problem-solving courts without who we could not do our jobs. We make our communities safer every day by connecting people with resources that lead to stabilization in the community – resources like healthcare, education, treatment, housing, job training, and employment to address some of the underlying issues that drive harmful behavior, including substance use disorder, untreated mental illness, joblessness, housing instability, and trauma. Of course, not every case is appropriate for an alternative to incarceration resolution. There are some violent crimes where a period of incarceration is necessary for accountability and safety. But incarceration has a cost, for those incarcerated, for their families and our communities. The data is clear that incarceration in New York City has a criminogenic effect – it makes those who are incarcerated more likely to recidivate upon their release, so we know that incarceration is not always the best outcome to make our communities safer.

Our Office reviews every felony case to identify and assess whether the person charged can be safely supported in the community and appropriate cases can be diverted. In so doing, we see that many of the people who come through our doors are suffering from substance use disorders, untreated mental illnesses, joblessness, housing instability, and/or trauma, and those issues are clearly driving their harmful behavior. In those cases, treating those underlying issues can do more to prevent causing further harm than incarceration.

That’s why we created the Pathways to Public Safety Division, to center the question of safety in all our work. We have Pathways Deputies embedded in each Trial Bureau to assess every felony case within 48 hours of arraignment, because we know that the sooner we get people into treatment, the more likely they are to stabilize.

The results from these efforts speak for themselves: Since 2022, in the 12 months after their felony problem solving court graduation, 96% of graduates have not been re-arrested for violent felony offenses, 91% have had no new felony arrests, and 86% have had no new arrests at all. Although there is no direct control group for comparison, these recidivism rates are dramatically lower than similar rates for those people released from city jails or state prisons, and the result is a safer City.

Our office funded the creation of a “Felony ATI” court in June of 2019 to fill the gaps in traditional problem-solving courts, and the court has become an integral part of our system: the number of people accepted into the Felony ATI track annually has increased by over 50% since 2021, from 108 people accepted in 2021 to 168 people accepted in 2023.  At every graduation ceremony, we hear a few consistent themes from the graduates: that they deeply regret the harm they caused, that the work they had to do on themselves to complete their mandates was difficult—perhaps more difficult than going to prison would have been—and that it was worth it.

Manhattan recognized the need, created, and funded a “mental health track” in our Judicial Diversion Court for drug and drug-related offenses. Unlike our other problem-solving courts, the Judicial Diversion court is statutory and as such is funded by the State. Those that are statutorily eligible can nominate to participate in diversion. However, our Office noticed that a large number of people in this court have co-occurring mental health issues, and the staff who are trained to address drug issues were not always adequately trained or prepared to support those presenting serious mental health issues. Therefore, we funded the creation of the Judicial Diversion “mental health track” to provide these individuals with specialized treatment.

To date, our Office has funded both our Felony ATI court and Judicial Division Mental Health track in our Judicial Diversion Court almost exclusively, using our asset forfeiture funds to create and pilot these courts, spending close to $3 million on these two courts in last year alone. Now that we are seeing positive outcomes from our problem-solving courts and have data that proves this is an effective enforcement strategy, we need other actors to continue this funding, as our asset forfeiture funds are dwindling and will not be replenished. The failure to fund these courts would be abandoning a viable enforcement strategy that saves hundreds of years of incarceration and enhances safety. At current funding levels, Felony ATI costs approximately $2.1 million per year, and the mental health track in Judicial Diversion costs approximately $700,000 per year. Relative to the ballooning costs of jail and prison, not only are these problem-solving courts an excellent investment in people and safety but, they are an excellent fiscal investment.

Not only do we need this responsibility to be assumed by government and receive baseline funding, we need to expand the reach of these courts. Since 2022, we have more than doubled annual referrals and acceptances to problem-solving courts. This has brought greater fairness and safety to Manhattan but has also strained existing resources. At present, individuals detained on Rikers Island can wait up to 6-8 weeks just to be assessed. Those who are not detained wait even longer. This poses a genuine public safety risk, as those who remain untreated without receiving resources are more likely to recidivate the longer they wait for treatment, and those incarcerated in our city jails languish there needlessly. As our referrals and acceptances grow, our system must also grow to support this increased volume. Doubling the existing funding to $4.2 million for Felony ATI and $1.4 million for the mental health track would be proportionate to the number of people who could stabilize in their communities with the benefit of these court mandates and resources. Not only would this save the City money overall, it would help deliver safety and fairness to our City.

Similarly, Manhattan’s Mental Health Court is not funded sufficiently to meet the needs of the increasing number of people who enter our system with significant mental health needs. That court plays a critical role in our mission to deliver safety and fairness, providing court-monitored, community-based treatment to help prevent recidivism and prevent unnecessary incarceration. This court is not funded by our Office and receives its funding from Health and Hospitals, but that funding is only sufficient to handle 50 cases at any given time. This is insufficient to meet the needs of a City in which over half the jail population has a mental health diagnosis and almost 20% have a serious mental health diagnosis. Our Office screened almost 50,000 arrests last year and has an active daily caseload of more than 9,500 cases; given that volume, funding for 50 cases in our mental health court is simply not enough. We estimate that expanding that court’s capacity from 50 to 200 cases would cost approximately $3.3 million and encourage the Council, Administration, and all stakeholders to work together to help us deliver our goals of safety and fairness in our mental health court.