The People's Coalition for Manhattan DA Accountability

Defund and defang manhattan's district attorney

About

The People’s Coalition for Manhattan DA Accountability was created by a coalition of advocacy organizations, grassroots-led networks, and legal aid providers that have come together to ensure that the issues central to our members and constituents are centered in the 2021 Manhattan District Attorney race.

Our organizations are oriented toward defunding and defanging the Manhattan District Attorney, now and in the future. We aim to ensure that the people most vulnerable to prosecution — Black and Brown communities with low income — are central to shaping the dominant narratives about the race, determining the eventual outcome, and holding the victor accountable to campaign promises and community-led demands.

It is our hope that with this platform, we can highlight distinctions between and among the DA candidates to ensure that all of Manhattan is represented.

Our Platform

What we
demand

January 27, 2021, at 7 PM EST

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Power of the DA Comic Strip

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The Manhattan District Attorney’s office has an annual budget of approximately $169 million – a nearly $15 million dollar increase over the last ten years. The DA should be focused on reducing the size, scope and resources of the office and advocating for those funds to be reallocated to community needs

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Despite public outcry and recognition that people of color face racialized policing, incarceration and more punitive prosecution, the Manhattan District Attorney continues to pursue overzealous charges and excessive sentences in many cases. The DA must commit to reducing the power of the office to dictate every step of the process and must seek alternatives to prosecution and confinement before recommending or requesting jail or prison sentences.

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The Manhattan District Attorney office is one of the largest and best resourced district attorney offices in the country. However the public knows almost nothing about the policies and impacts of the office. Moreover, the DA’s office is heavily intertwined with and dependent on other law enforcement entities, including the NYPD, leading to a lack of accountability and transparency within those agencies. The Manhattan DA must commit to a significant culture and structural shift within the office, centered on transparency and accountability.

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The Manhattan District Attorney has utilized broad conspiracy charges and gang allegations to indict large groups of people, to stigmatize people who have been accused of crimes in the public eye, and to pressure people to take plea deals through the threat of lengthy sentences. No one should be charged because of who they know, where they live, what they wear or what music they listen to. The DA must commit to ending the use of conspiracy charges to criminalize communities of color.

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As the most powerful actors in the local criminal legal system, prosecutors are in a unique position to hold police accountable. However, because the relationship between police and prosecutors remains interdependent, prosecutors often ignore egregious policing practices such as violence, abuse, false arrests and false testimony. DAs must use their position and power to hold police accountable, rather than continue to empower police by turning a blind eye

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Contact with the District Attorney’s office is inherently harmful, especially for young people of color. Too often, particularly in over-policed communities of color, normal youth behavior is criminalized and subjects youth to entanglement in the criminal legal system. DAs should focus on limiting their contact with young people, especially outside the boundaries of criminal cases.

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Immigrant communities are uniquely vulnerable to the harshest aspects of the criminal legal system, including facing additional penalties such as detention and deportation long after the end of their criminal cases. The Manhattan DA must be acutely aware of these negative consequences and adopt policies, practices, and standards to limit the impact of local and federal policies and programs designed to target, harass, and tear apart immigrant communities of color.

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Pre-trial incarceration is a primary driver of mass incarceration and an affront to core aspects of our criminal legal system such as the presumption of innocence. The DA holds significant power to address this injustice instead of using pre-trial incarceration as leverage to coerce plea agreements. District Attorneys should use their power to keep people out of jail and in their community, and ultimately should work to end pre-trial detention altogether.

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Pre-trial incarceration is a primary driver of mass incarceration and an affront to core aspects of our criminal legal system such as the presumption of innocence. The DA holds significant power to address this injustice instead of using pre-trial incarceration as leverage to coerce plea agreements. District Attorneys should use their power to keep people out of jail and in their community, and ultimately should work to end pre-trial detention altogether.

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Our communities thrive by having our people home and free. The Manhattan District Attorney’s office has historically opposed the release from incarceration of countless New Yorkers, which lessens the ability for our communities to thrive. Instead, the Manhattan District Attorney should, at every turn, support people in returning home to their communities. People returning home from incarceration confront many barriers, including, but not limited to, the punitive requirements of parole. The Manhattan District Attorney must recognize that people in prison, on parole, or otherwise affected by exclusions or discrimination related to a conviction record, remain under the control of the criminal legal system, and should instead support their full freedom.

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The label “violent” is used throughout the criminal legal system to treat people as undeserving of due process and access to services, and as deserving of harsh retribution. This label is applied in arbitrary, biased, and harmful ways that do nothing to address the root causes of violence. The criminal legal system itself, from the point of arrest onward, further perpetuates the main drivers of violence – shame, isolation, exposure to violence, and an inability to meet one’s economic needs. The Manhattan District Attorney must include in their commitment to decarceration and the presumption of innocence, a system of accountability that emphasizes restoration and addressing harm, rather than seeking retributive punishment, even in instances of significant interpersonal violence.

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Our Partner
organizations

Community Voices Heard, UAW Local 2325, Black Attorneys of Legal Aid, Brooklyn Community Bail Fund, Center for Community Alternatives, Citizen Action of New York, Color of Change, Five Boro Defenders, Katal Center for Equity, Health, & Justice, Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, Freedom Agenda, Getting Out & Staying Out, New York Communities for Change, the Police Reform Organizing Project, the Policing & Social Justice Project, Releasing Aging People in Prison: RAPP Campaign, Sunrise Movement NYC, VOCAL-NY, Working Families Party