The Justice 2020 Launch Committee will consist of criminal justice reform experts, defense groups, service providers, law enforcement, formerly incarcerated individuals, clergy and community leaders.
Freshly sworn-in, Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez wasted no time to outline his Justice 2020 initiative during his inaugural address on Sunday. The DA’s newly formed agenda is focused to balance public safety with ensuring fairness to strengthen the communities’ trust in the criminal justice system. The initiative will rely on a Justice 2020 Launch Committee consisting of criminal justice reform experts, defense groups, service providers, law enforcement, formerly incarcerated individuals, clergy and community leaders.
“In Brooklyn, what we won’t do, is be passive in the face of cruel and misguided policies handed down from Washington DC, especially on immigration,” said Gonzalez. “We also won’t criminalize poverty by keeping people in jail just because they can’t afford to pay bail. In keeping with my support for, and commitment to, closing Rikers, we are leading the city in reducing reliance on cash bail.”
In his address, Gonzalez renewed his commitment to promote a justice system based on fairness, compassion and fiscal responsibility; to uphold the obligation of prosecutors to do justice, not just seek convictions; to create outcomes that restore and heal victims and communities, and to reduce racial disparities in the justice system. To implement his vision, Gonzalez will be relying on the Justice 2020 Launch Committee of experts who will be tasked to issue a report by the spring, reported the NY Times; Gonzalez plans to implement its recommendations in stages over the next two years. The committee will be overseen by two co-chairmen: Rudy Crew, the president of Medgar Evers College, and Jonathan Lippman, former chief judge of New York State.
The Justice 2020 initiative is a continuation of a slew of programs the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office has spearheaded such as an immigration policy to protect non-citizen defendants charged with low-level offenses from unintended immigration consequences; a new bail policy which requires prosecutors to consent to release in most misdemeanor cases; the Begin Again program that led to the the dismissal of 650,000 summons warrants 10 years or older which stemmed from unpaid fines; and the Brooklyn’s Young Adult Court which provides alternatives to incarceration to misdemeanor defendants ages 16 to 24.
“We have pursued all these reforms while keeping Brooklyn safe. We closed out 2017 as the safest year in my lifetime, and very possibly in yours: shootings and homicides hit record lows,” said Gonzalez.
Just in the beginning of the year, the DA’s office announced 2017 as the safest year in Brooklyn history. Statistics compiled by the NYPD show that the borough saw the lowest number of homicides, shootings and shooting victims since the beginning of record-keeping with percent decreases that even surpass the already impressive citywide declines during 2017. In the past year, a total of 110 murders were recorded in Brooklyn, which marks a 14.1 percent decline compared to 2016. There were 118 fewer shooting incidents compared to the same period in 2016 (a total of 287, down 29 percent) and 149 fewer shooting victims (a total of 341, down 30.4 percent).
“Even as we all share deep concerns about what is happening in Washington and the impact it is having on the most vulnerable among us, we also have, here in Brooklyn, a chance to be a national model of a criminal justice system that keeps us safe, is fair, and earns the respect and the trust of the community we serve,” emphasized Gonzales in conclusion.