Primary Media Contact: Yoel Y. Haile (415) 621-2493, x309
SAN FRANCISCO—The ACLU Foundations of California, with invaluable contributions from the National Center for Youth Law (NCYL), Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC), East Bay Community Law Center (EBCLC), partners from the labor movement and others, today launched the Community Justice Platform.
“This tool is the first of its kind in the United States,” said Yoel Haile, who leads the Meet Your DA project at the ACLU Foundations of California. “District Attorneys do much more than prosecute crimes like we see on television shows. It’s their duty to work with community members and pursue justice for everyone. This platform provides community driven and concrete policy demands to tell California DAs exactly what we want them to do to end mass incarceration and racial disparities, and for justice.”
The platform was designed as a simple roadmap to criminal justice policy for everyday people. The tool highlights the power, scope of responsibilities, and full accountability of the 58 local District Attorneys (DAs) that serve residents in California’s 58 counties.
“As Attorney General Jeff Sessions and President Donald Trump try to bully Californians for their pro-immigrant values, it’s more important than ever for people to know that local DAs can have a profound impact in preventing deportation as well," said Rose Cahn of the Immigrant Legal Resource Center. “The platform illustrates the important role that DAs can play to intervene and interrupt the deportation pipeline and highlights key strategies for increasing public safety and protecting immigrant families from the fear of deportation.”
"Young people in the criminal justice system are especially vulnerable, overwhelmingly low-income youth of color, often with developmental disabilities," said Frankie Guzman, of the National Center for Youth Law. "DAs must commit to using their discretion to protect them. Youth are fundamentally different from adults - and they must be treated appropriately for their level of development. When young people are arrested, especially for low-level offenses, they should be diverted to community based treatments instead of jail. DAs should stop prosecuting them as adults, limit the number of felonies they charge young people with, and decline to prosecute school related offenses. It's the DA's duty to seek justice in ways that make our communities safer, like education and rehabilitation, not convictions and harsh punishments."
“DAs can make a huge difference in the lives of Californians. They can and should use their discretion to unwind some of the cruelest features of our criminal justice system. For example, they can use vacatur petitions to help immigrants escape unjust deportations and protect victims of human trafficking," said Vinuta Naik of the Clean Slate Practice at the East Bay Community Law Center. "They can also dismiss and reduce felonies to misdemeanors, which opens up employment and housing opportunities. DAs have a unique responsibility to fulfill their mandate to do justice by actively supporting the granting of these life-changing remedies.”
Visitors to the Community Justice Platform can type in their zip code, navigate a list of important issues like immigration, mass incarceration, justice for women, or pretrial detention, and formulate questions for DAs. Users can explore their own interests and print or email their own customized platform. The public education tool can also be used by residents at community meetings, Town Hall events, or to directly email questions to local DAs.
“Californians know their own priorities. The platform simply connects those priorities to existing policies, and makes visible the critical role that DAs play in our criminal justice system,” said Mr. Haile. “It can be really confusing to understand how local DAs shape policy and change lives. Now, organizers and every day people can learn more about topics that interest them, put their concerns into questions, and hold DAs to account for their policies and practices in our criminal justice system.”