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January 4, 2022

Fascinating sentencing sentiments and commitments in new policy memo from new Manhattan DA

A notable new staff memo from the new Manhattan DA is making new headlines, such as this notable one from the New York Post: "Manhattan DA to stop seeking prison sentences in slew of criminal cases."  Here is a bit of context from the press piece:

Manhattan’s new DA has ordered his prosecutors to stop seeking prison sentences for hordes of criminals and to downgrade felony charges in cases including armed robberies and drug dealing, according to a set of progressive policies made public Tuesday.

In his first memo to staff on Monday, Alvin Bragg said his office “will not seek a carceral sentence” except with homicides and a handful of other cases, including domestic violence felonies, some sex crimes and public corruption. “This rule may be excepted only in extraordinary circumstances based on a holistic analysis of the facts, criminal history, victim’s input (particularly in cases of violence or trauma), and any other information available,” the memo reads.

Assistant district attorneys must also now keep in mind the “impacts of incarceration” including on public safety, barriers to housing and employment, financial cost and race disparities, Bragg instructed.

In cases where prosecutors do seek to put a convict behind bars, the request can be for no more than 20 years for a determinate sentence, meaning one that can’t be reviewed or changed by a parole board. “The Office shall not seek a sentence of life without parole,” the memo states.

This "first memo to staff" includes a three-page introductory accounting of DA Bragg's vision of the work of his office, as well as a seven page "Policy & Procedure Memorandum." These documents, both available here, are fascinating reads and here are just a few notable excerpt from these documents (with footnotes, numbering and some context left out):

I have dedicated my career to the inextricably linked goals of safety and fairness. This memo sets out charging, bail, plea, and sentencing policies that will advance both goals. Data, and my personal experiences, show that reserving incarceration for matters involving significant harm will make us safer....

Invest more in diversion and alternatives to incarceration: Well-designed initiatives that support and stabilize people – particularly individuals in crisis and youth – can conserve resources, reduce re-offending, and diminish the collateral harms of criminal prosecution....

Focus on Accountability, Not Sentence Length: Research is clear that, after a certain length, longer sentences do not deter crime or result in greater community safety.  Further, because survivors and victims of crime often want more than the binary choice between incarceration and no incarceration, we will expand our use of restorative justice programming....

The Office will not seek a carceral sentence other than for homicide or other cases involving the death of a victim, a class B violent felony in which a deadly weapon causes serious physical injury, domestic violence felonies, sex offenses in Article 130 of the Penal Law, public corruption, rackets, or major economic crimes, including any attempt to commit any such offense under Article 110 of the Penal Law, unless required by law.  For any charge of attempt to cause serious physical injury with a dangerous instrument, ADAs must obtain the approval of an ECAB supervisor to seek a carceral sentence....

ADAs shall presumptively indict both top counts and lesser included counts when presenting cases to the grand jury, permitting a wider range of statutorily permissible plea bargaining options. This presumption can be overcome with supervisory approval....

For any case in which a person violates the terms of a non-carceral sentence or pre-plea programming mandate, the Office will seek a carceral “alternative” only as a matter of last resort. The Office will take into account that research shows that relapses are a predictable part of the road to recovery for those struggling with substance abuse, and the Office will reserve carceral recommendations for repeated violations of the terms of a mandate.

January 4, 2022 at 03:52 PM | Permalink


Remind me to steer clear of NYC, where the DA won't take armed robbers off the streets.

Posted by: Jason | Jan 5, 2022 10:17:18 AM


Although the population of NYC grew overaa during the past decade, the population of blacks, who are easily the most victimized group by violent crime, fell by 4.5%.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jan 5, 2022 11:55:23 AM

This idiot DA, evil too, is definitely making the case for the Second Amendment.

The Supreme Court should take notice.

Posted by: Federalist | Jan 5, 2022 4:16:04 PM


If the government is too weak or deluded to meet its first responsibility. -- the physical protection of its citizens. -- the citizens will protect themselves. It could hardly be otherwise.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jan 5, 2022 7:59:59 PM

Let’s see if John Roberts acknowledges the issue

Posted by: Federalist | Jan 5, 2022 9:42:39 PM

Federalist --

The Left has gone so overboard it's leaving him no choice. Same deal on another front with Manchin. What really got him ticked off, so I hear, is that when the WH tried so show him it was moving in his direction, what it actually showed him was a bunch of accounting tricks and gimmicks but no actual movement at all. This was both disrespectful and dishonest, and he didn't care for it a bit.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jan 7, 2022 3:04:29 PM

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