December 3, 2020 FALL 2020

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.”

Contents

President’s Letter

“We’re living through challenging times.” I’ve found myself writing, saying, and contemplating those five words countless times this year.

Campus News

CUSP Takes Center Stage at 2020 Davos World Economic Forum

In the Media

“YOU’RE SEEING MORE PEOPLE OF COLOR, more working class folks starting to find their voice a little bit more. That’s...

Breaking the Cycle of Intımate-Partner Violence

In Kingston, New York, NNSC’s new approach has significantly reduced the deadliest forms of intimate-partner violence. By Michael Friedrich

Measuring the Impact of Reform

The Data Collaborative for Justice evaluates the success of New York City’s Criminal Justice Reform Act.

On the Front Line

Despite the hardships and health risks, John Jay students, alumni, faculty, and staff continue to keep our communities safe throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. By Andrea Dawn Clark

Educating Through the Crisis

How John Jay students, faculty, and staff successfully transitioned to a distance-learning model. by Mary Anderson

Charting New Territory

Olivia Orta, Ph.D. ’07 blazed a path for John Jay alumni, being the first John Jay grad to earn her doctoral degree from Harvard. By Andrea Dawn Clark

Responding to the Call

Alumna Shawyn Patterson-Howard ’05 makes history as the first female Mayor of Mount Vernon, New York. By Andrea Dawn Clark

A Voice for Victims

Political Science Associate Professor Verónica Michel Explores Victims’ Rights in Latin America. By Shirley Del Valle

Donor Profile: Living with Integrity

Nasser J. Kazeminy, Chairman of the Ellis Island Honors Society, shares how he’s faced every challenge in his life with curiosity, compassion, and integrity. By Andrea Dawn Clark

Flashback -1984

Reverend Jesse Jackson, a potential democratic nominee for president of the United States spoke at John Jay one evening in...

Understanding the Legacy

John Jay students, faculty, and staff visit the birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement and contemplate the unsettling history of race in America. By Andrea Dawn Clark

LEAP Forward

The newest student-success initiative that supports second-semester freshmen, through their sophomore year, with intensive academic advisement, experiential learning, and career-focused internships. By Mary Anderson

In Solidarity with El Paso

Through its ties with the University of Texas at El Paso and the El Paso Project, John Jay’s Latin American and Latinx Studies Department seeks to educate, encourage, and empower our Latinx community. By Shirley Del Valle

President
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

Writer/Editor
Shirley Del Valle

Contributing Writers
Mary Anderson
Michael Friedrich

Senior Designer/Art Director
Laura DeVries

Designer
Stephanie Birdsong

Copy Editor
Carey Ostergard

Photography
Arpi Pap
Andrea Dawn Clark
Gabriel Hernández Solano

Illustration
Victoria Stewart-Meyers