May 26, 2020 FALL 2019

The Institute for Innovation in Prosecution Reimagines the Role of Prosecutors

Seeking to create a fairer, more equitable criminal justice system, the IIP is dedicated to transforming prosecutors’ roles  in the criminal justice system.

By Jocelyn Key

Since the inception of John Jay’s Institute for Innovation in Prosecution (IIP) in 2016, through a partnership with the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, its goal has been to improve the criminal justice system by uniting prosecutors and communities. And since Lucy Lang, Executive Director of the IIP, joined the team, the Center has been at the forefront of reimagining the role of prosecution. “For many years, prosecutors have served only in the courthouse function and have been unintentionally exacerbating the problems of mass incarceration and racial disparities in the criminal justice system,” says Lang, noting that her understanding of this came during her time as Assistant District Attorney at the Manhattan DA’s Office. “I was working on a homicide case and realized that I had become very detached from the people who had committed the murder,” she says. “There was no question that there needed to be consequences for the crime, but this experience showed me that  I needed to spend time in prisons to understand how to make better decisions where we are really holding people appropriately accountable and not just being punitive for the sake of punishment.”

Partnering for Criminal Justice Reform
One of Lang’s first projects at the IIP was “Inside Criminal Justice”—a semester-long course that expanded on her previous work of bringing prosecutors and criminal justice-involved students together to study the criminal justice system. “I created this class when I was at the Manhattan DA’s Office, because I became increasingly aware of the importance of education in prison. These students, the community members, and the frontline prosecutors are the people closest to these problems. They are also the people  who are most likely to be able to solve them,” says Lang. Working with the Queensboro Correctional Facility, Columbia Center for Justice, and Manhattan DA’s Office, participants take part in discussions and projects on the history of race and punishment in America. At the end of the semester, students present their project, receiving a certificate of completion and college credit.

As an advocate for bail reform, the IIP is working with the Data Collaborative for Justice to use data to improve policies that stem from the “War on Drugs” campaign. “A lot of policies made in the ’70s through the ’90s, were in response to people’s feelings about the climate of crime. They targeted those in minority communities creating barriers for housing, employment, and education upon release. Unfortunately, those consequences are still felt today,” says Lang, adding that these policies led to our current mass incarceration issues. Looking at mass incarceration, one in three black men and one in six Latinx men face the likelihood of being incarcerated, when compared to one in 17 white men. And for women, this likelihood is one in 18 for black women and one in 34 for Latinx women, when compared to one in 111 for white women.

Working Toward a Fairer Future
To address the factors that contribute to police use of force, the IIP convened a Working Group comprised of family members of police brutality victims, policymakers, prosecutors, and law enforcement, and published a “Toolkit” to prevent officer-involved tragedies and ensure appropriate accountability. And, through a recent partnership with the Vera Institute for Justice, the IIP is looking forward to creating materials to educate prosecutors on the history of race and the criminal justice system. “All of these initiatives go towards encouraging prosecutors to really think about themselves as people who are serving their community,” says Lang. “I hope that the IIP can play a critical role in beginning to dismantle the punishment bureaucracy of which prosecution is a critical part, without compromising public safety and the ability of criminal justice-involved individuals to thrive in their community upon reentry.”


Class of 2019 Then & Now

This past May, the class of 2019 graduated from John Jay College. We checked in with a few of them to find out how they’re launching their careers

President’s Letter

At John Jay College we’re used to taking on tough challenges. Our student body knows how to juggle jobs, academics,...

Campus News

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Awards a $1.5 million Grant to the Prisoner Reentry Institute.

By the Numbers

In 2019, John Jay College graduated the largest class in its history: 3,144 bachelor’s degrees and 698 master’s degrees.

Dive In

John Jay’s new pool will open up swimming opportunities for underrepresented populations. By Andrea Dawn Clark

Camera Ready

Understanding the Impact of Law Enforcement Wearing Body Cameras. By Sam Anderson

On the Edge of Glory

The new Completion for Upper-division Students Program (CUSP) supports seniors with 90-plus credits, removing any obstacles blocking their pathway to success. By Mary Anderson

Food For Thought

Tackling the growing food-insecurity problem, making sure that John Jay students are nourished both mentally and physically. By Andrea Dawn Clark

Read All About it

How the new Justice e-Reader is bringing together a collection of justice-focused texts, creating an intellectual hub for our community and classrooms. By Shirley Del Valle

Full Circle

Ronald F. Day ’19, Ph.D., proves what’s possible when people have access to an education. By Andrea Dawn Clark

Natural Born Advocate

Roshawn Boyce ’95 shines a light on social injustices. By Shirley Del Valle

The Real Nature of Sexual Violence

Professor Elizabeth Jeglic, Ph.D., uses research and straight-forward approaches in her mission to advance the prevention of sexual violence. By Mary Anderson

Tackling Educational Inequality

John Mara, President, CEO, and co-owner of the New York Giants, explains his passion for improving educational access opportunities. By Andrea Dawn Clark

Flashback – 1988

Mother Teresa at John Jay College of Criminal Justice for the 23rd Commencement.

Karol V. Mason

Vice President for Public Affairs
and Strategic Initiatives

Laura Ginns

Chief Communications Officer
Rama Sudhakar

Senior Editor/Writer
Editorial Director

Andrea Dawn Clark

Shirley Del Valle

Contributing Writers
Mary Anderson
Sam Anderson
Jocelyn Key

Senior Designer/Art Director
Laura DeVries

Stephanie Birdsong

Copy Editor
Carey Ostergard

Denis Gostev
Amber Gray

Sandy Bandes