Newly elected District Attorney for Manhattan, Alvin L. Bragg Jr., announced changes for the office’s charging, bail, plea and sentencing policies to promote safety and fairness on Monday. In his staff memo, DA Bragg outlined critical changes and continuities that will define his office’s approach to particular crimes in Manhattan.
The memo outlines five key principles for which DA Bragg intends to implement in the office. The first principle promises greater investment in alternatives to incarceration. These include efforts at restorative justice and diversion, along with nonprosecution of minor crimes without additional felony charges like failing to pay traffic fines, turnstile-hopping on the subway, resisting arrest without an underlying charge, possessing marijuana and prostitution. His hope is that doing so will conserve scarce office resources and help reduce the consequences of criminal prosecutions.
His second principle focuses on reducing pretrial detention and deploying it only in cases of serious crimes. The memo cites some consequences to pretrial incarceration, including loss of housing, employment and familial relationships. The third principle aims to reduce sentence length while increasing accountability, or focusing on certainty of punishment over its severity.
The fourth principle seeks to limit youth involvement in adult court. Lastly, DA Bragg promises to “scale up” services to those reentering society after incarceration. These five initiatives are part of a large nationwide trend of prosecutors seeking less punitive and carceral solutions to crime.
DA Bragg, who is the first Black District Attorney of Manhattan, won a tightly contested Democratic primary in July of 2021. He replaces DA Cyrus Vance, who chose not to run for a fourth term.