Criminal Justice Reform

District Attorney Vance has made the advancement of criminal justice reform a part of the mission of the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, right alongside our centuries-old founding mission of public safety.

Since 2010, we have reduced unnecessary incarceration and ended the criminal prosecution of thousands of low-level, nonviolent offenses annually, slashing the number of people entering the criminal justice system in Manhattan nearly in half. Some of our signature reforms include:

  • Ending requests for bail in most misdemeanor cases
  • Ending the prosecution of marijuana smoking and possession cases
  • Ending the criminal prosecution of crimes of poverty including turnstile-jumping, unlicensed vending, and nonpayment of fines, except where there is a demonstrated public safety reason to do so
  • Dismissing more than 240,000 old summons warrants originally issued for minor, nonviolent offenses, which subjected New Yorkers to unnecessary arrest, housing, and immigration consequences
  • Ending the prosecution of most low-level, nonviolent violations and infractions through programs like our Manhattan Summons Initiative
  • Creating and funding pre-arraignment diversion programs to enable thousands of first-time arrestees charged with non-violent misdemeanors to avoid prosecution and an arrest record, while being held accountable in a community setting
  • Launching the Manhattan Hope Program, allowing individuals arrested for low-level drug offenses to complete a treatment program instead of entering criminal court, and
  • Supporting the closure of Rikers Island and laying the groundwork for it by contributing $14 million (of $17 million total) in funding for the citywide Supervised Release program

Our reform mission requires that we continually evaluate our own structure and policies, and update practices which result in unfair or unnecessary consequences for New Yorkers accused of crimes, and for the strength of our communities. These efforts include:

  • Inviting the Vera Institute of Justice to conduct and publish a two-year study focused on racial disparities in dispositions and implicit bias in prosecutorial decision-making
  • Implementing mandatory, comprehensive implicit bias training — based on Vera’s findings – for every ADA and staff member
  • Creating New York City’s first Alternatives to Incarceration Unit to help prosecutors reach community-based dispositions and reduce unnecessary jail time
  • Creating the Conviction Integrity Program, the first independent review in the five boroughs to investigate post-conviction claims of innocence, and prevent wrongful convictions from happening in the first place
  • Investing millions of dollars seized in our financial crime investigations into large-scale efforts to prevent crime and accelerate reform