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LAS: Next Manhattan DA Must Reform Charging Policies

Attorneys at The Legal Aid Society and NYC criminal justice reform advocates are closely following the Manhattan District Attorney race to ensure that charging decision reform remains a top priority in an effort to reduce heavy sentences and prolonged incarcerations, as reported by New York Focus.

Reformers say it’s also time to review the use of charging enhancements that lead to prolonged sentences, as well as parole decisions.

Rigodis Appling, an attorney with The Legal Aid Society, said prosecutors’ charging decisions testify to their values when it comes to incarceration. Typically, she said, Manhattan prosecutors respond to the facts of a case by “taking a perspective that is the harshest you could take when looking at those facts.”

Critics of out-going Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance say this harsh approach to charging characteristic of his tenure – including the vigorous use of discretionary power to charge the highest possible charge whenever possible – has led not only to long (and life) sentences, but to an obstinate opposition to mitigation and alternatives to heavy sentencing.