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Prison break: DA lays out plan to end trend of excessive incarceration in boro

Proposing change: District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, center, unveiled his Justice 2020 action plan which aims to divert people away from the criminal justice system and incarceration. He presented the initiative together with its two co-chairs, Former New York Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, left, and Medgar Evers College President Dr. Rudy Crew, at his offices in Downtown Brooklyn on March 11.
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He wants to raise the bar.

District Attorney Eric Gonzalez on Monday unveiled his long-awaited plan to reform criminal prosecution in Kings County. The so-called Justice 2020 initiative aims to divert people away from the criminal-justice system by pushing prosecutors to avoid excessive incarceration — a trend the district attorney admitted to promoting himself in his two-plus-decade prosecutorial career.

“I’ve put a lot of people in jail, in prison, I’m not afraid to do that when it’s necessary. But I’ve also learned the lesson, in time, that many of the people I’ve put in jail did not need to be there,” Gonzalez said while announcing the plan during a press conference at his office in America’s Downtown.

The district attorney conceived of the 17-point initiative, whose terms he hopes to implement before the end of 2020, with help from a committee of more than 60 members, who included criminal-justice reform advocates, union reps, heads of local do-good groups, academics, cops, and community leaders.

In order to promote alternatives to incarceration, Gonzalez said he will direct some of his office’s resources toward treating the underlying causes of specific incidents, such as rapes and hate crimes, each of which in 2018 spiked by 22 and five percent in Kings County, according to police statistics. And he already began some of that work, including efforts to vacate dozens of low-level weed convictions last year, as well as the creation of a dedicated hate-crimes bureau in his office, along with another unit dedicated to keeping law-enforcement accountable.

“Often, less is more, often times prison does not equal public safety,” the top prosecutor said. “We’re going to make criminal convictions and incarcerations a last resort, and when we do seek it, we’re going to try to minimize excessive sanctions whenever possible.”

When asked if relying less on incarceration would promote criminal activity, Gonzalez argued that the current mindset of locking every perpetrator up is not necessarily a deterrent, and comes at a high cost to taxpayers.

“We want people to be accountable for the crimes they commit. It’s just that sending someone to jail is the most expensive and least effective way that we now know how to do this work,” he said.

The Justice 2020 plan also calls for more community engagement within the criminal-justice system, proposing the formation of so-called neighborhood-safety councils and new partnerships with local civic groups, both of which will survey residents about how they want justice to be served.

Creating these groups will help the district attorney’s office sooner identify the driving factors behind some crimes, and potentially allow law-enforcement officials to intervene before a bad deed is committed, according to Gonzalez.

“My wife is a teacher, and I’ve heard from many of her friends that teachers could tell you the five percent of students that they deal with, who they understand are at great risk. And there’s unfortunately nothing that can be done in those cases until they act out and commit crimes,” the top prosecutor said.

A press-conference attendee fired back that such community monitoring could easily devolve into over-surveilled neighborhoods and predictive policing, but Gonzalez countered that his team will tow that fine line by heavily communicating with cops and the local liaisons his office puts in place.

“We’ll work with our Police Department, we’ll use data, to understand who may be drivers of crime, or who is most at risk for committing serious offenses,” he said. “But we’re also going to work with our community leaders, stakeholders, clergy, and the other people who know the young people in their communities that need help before they go down the path, you know the wrong way.”

Reach reporter Kevin Duggan at (718) 260–2511 or by e-mail at kduggan@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @kduggan16.
Posted 12:00 am, March 12, 2019
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Reasonable discourse

Brooklyn DA says:
My plan : Let the criminals out. They’re you’re problem then!
March 12, 3:17 am
Law & Disorder from Formally of Brooklyn Now N C says:
You have got to be kidding. What are you doing NY.
March 12, 10 am
Whoopi Goldfarb from The View says:
These mentally ill Democrat politicians spend their entire time catering to criminals, illegals and every fringe group that they perceive as being ‘victims’ It’s like they go out of their way to punish the tax-paying, law-abiding, civilized citizens. Sickening people.
March 12, 12:35 pm
Homey from Crooklyn says:
Dimwits still refuse to acknowledge the elephant in the room....
March 12, 1:53 pm
Henry Ford from Bay Ridge says:
We need prison reform. POC are sent to prison more often and for longer sentences than whites. Don't believe me? Look at the Paul Manafort case and compare it to the Rosa Maria Ortega case. God bless the prison industrial complex, right?
March 12, 3:49 pm
Honey Pootèr from Williamsburg says:
Henry Ford - maybe they deserve it?
March 12, 3:57 pm
Justice for Judge Phillips says:
Since the link on the next story about the Slavve theater isn't post friendly, please look into the Judge John Phillips case and the lawyers who looted his estate. https://nypost.com/2015/02/16/family-of-judge-who-froze-to-death-settles-with-nursing-home/
March 12, 4:49 pm
Henry Ford from Bay Ridge says:
Hey Honey Pootèr from Williamsburg, maybe you deserve to lick my rim?
March 13, 8:44 am
Bob from Gerritsen Beach says:
I always felt there should be a two tier punishment for crimes perpetrated against society. The first time, when found guilty, the perpetrator is given an extensive tour of a desert island in the middle of the ocean with no prison guards and no means of escape. No access to the outside world via the media except for a daily drop of enough food to feed them for a day. These first-timers are instructed that the next time they commit a crime and found guilty, this is where they'll spend the rest of their life. And then do it.
March 13, 11:53 am
Response to Bob Gerritsen says:
Bob do you realize the average American breaks 3 laws a day often without knowing it?
March 14, 12:23 am
Response to Bob Gerritsen says:
http://thinkaboutnow.com/2018/01/2442/
March 14, 12:26 am
Bob from Gerritsen Beach says:
To my fellow contributor, Response. Perhaps I should've qualified my statement as people convicted of Violent crimes against society. There are people out there that just do not belong living in this society because of violent crimes they commit on other people for various reasons be it for profit or even mental disease. I just want them off the street and it's clear that the type of system we have today is not capable of correcting the reasons these people committed crimes but only to warehouse them for a specific period of time and then released them back to the general population to wreak more havoc. When I read that there are criminal's in their 20s arrested 5,-10 even 20 times, I can't believe anyone would defend this kind of system we are using at the present time. So right now, today, I want these people removed from society permanently until society could find a better solution.
March 14, 8:56 am

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