By Gwynne Hogan, Gothamists
Newly sworn-in Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has instructed his staff to halt prosecutions for a handful of low-level offenses, to only seek bail in certain cases and to never seek life sentences for any crime, according to a memo sent out to employees this week.
Bragg said the office will stop prosecuting people for theft of services, trespassing (unless it accompanies a stalking charge), aggravated unlicensed operation, routine traffic violations not accompanied by felony charges, obstructing governmental administration, resisting arrest, and prostitution.
The memo, released Tuesday, is among Bragg’s first acts as district attorney after running on a progressive platform and promising to use his powers to reduce the number of people behind bars in the city and state. The policies align with pledges Bragg made on the campaign trail and emerge from the theory espoused by progressive prosecutors across the country — undergirded by a growing body of research — that reducing low-level prosecutions may lead to less crime, not more.
“These policy changes not only will, in and of themselves, make us safer; they also will free up prosecutorial resources to focus on violent crime,” Bragg wrote in the memo. “While my commitment to making incarceration a matter of last resort is immutable, the path to get there … will be informed by our discussions … and our work together in the weeks and months ahead.”