NYC District Attorney Alvin Bragg blasted by critics over lighter punishment for violent criminals

NYC District Attorney Alvin Bragg blasted by critics over lighter punishment for violent criminals

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He is being accused of pursuing criminal justice policies that will let criminals run wild on the streets of New York City, but new Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg is pushing back.

“We have a time where we have both violence rising and incarceration, and the goal is to simultaneously reduce both,” Bragg told Fox News.

“I had a shooting on my block a month ago, I’ve had a knife to my neck, I’ve had a semi-automatic weapon to my head, I know these issues intimately. So what we are doing is not working, plain and simple and this is our path forward. This is how we reduce violent crime the most.”

District attorney candidate Alvin Bragg speaks during a Get Out the Vote rally at A. Philip Randolph Square in Harlem on November 01, 2021 in New York City. 

District attorney candidate Alvin Bragg speaks during a Get Out the Vote rally at A. Philip Randolph Square in Harlem on November 01, 2021 in New York City.  ((Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images))

Bragg has announced that he will not seek jail time for a variety of offenses, following a path of other progressive prosecutors in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Philadelphia, among others.

On his third day in office, he sent a memo stressing  “diversion and alternatives to incarceration”…such as crisis intervention programs, instead of sending some criminals to jail. The no-jail time exceptions are murder, a crime that involves someone’s death, or a felony. And several serious crimes, such as some cases of armed robbery, are being reduced to misdemeanors. He also vows to limit sentences to 20 years, even for murder convictions.

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Bragg’s office will also largely no longer prosecute some trespass offenses, the charge of resisting arrest, subway and bus fare beating and sex work. He is also reducing charges for stealing from stores or from home storage areas, and drug dealing.

Bragg says it is time for a fresh, new approach to the country’s criminal justice system that is failing the most vulnerable. He says the system needs to focus on mental health and substance abuse, which he notes are often the causes of repeat offenders.

District attorney candidate Alvin Bragg speaks during a Get Out the Vote rally at A. Philip Randolph Square in Harlem on November 01, 2021 in New York City. 

District attorney candidate Alvin Bragg speaks during a Get Out the Vote rally at A. Philip Randolph Square in Harlem on November 01, 2021 in New York City.  (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

“We have to address those drivers of that conduct, and that is going to make us safer,” Bragg says “We have to do more on guns and sexual assaults, that is where we should be spending our time.”

Police unions and crime victims’ advocates have blasted the new policies, accusing Bragg of adopting policies that will only encourage criminality.

“There are already too many people who believe that they can commit crimes, resist arrest, interfere with police officers and face zero consequences,” says Police Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch.

“Bragg gives criminals the roadmap to freedom from prosecution and control of our streets,” says the head of the NYPD Detectives’ Endowment Association, Paul DiGiacomo. “In Bragg’s Manhattan, you can resist arrest, deal drugs, obstruct arrests, and even carry a gun and get away with it.”

“He’s paving the way for an even bigger bloodbath than what we have seen in New York City already,” says Jennifer Harrison, head of the crime victims advocacy group, Victims Rights New York.

Democratic candidate for Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg speaks to the press after casting his ballot in the New York City election in the Manhattan borough of New York, U.S., November 2, 2021. Reuters/Mike Segar

Democratic candidate for Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg speaks to the press after casting his ballot in the New York City election in the Manhattan borough of New York, U.S., November 2, 2021. Reuters/Mike Segar

But Bragg told Fox News “it depends upon your definition of criminal. For all too long, we have dealt with this ‘othering,’ that anyone we put in jail is a criminal. Well, you know what, we are putting in jail homeless people, who literally in one example used one counterfeit bill to buy food and toothpaste, got a sentence of four to eight years, so if that’s your definition of criminal, I suggest that we really need to reorder ourselves.”

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“I challenge anyone to suggest that what is going on right now is working. A system that is rife with racial disparities, a system where we have increased gun violence and increased incarceration. I mean, that can’t be anyone’s prescription or recipe for what’s working. We’ve laid out a path that is going to reduce incarceration, reduce violent crime, get people services, make neighborhoods safer, get New York City back up on its feet, it’s the road forward and the pathway to safety and justice.”

Ben Evansky contributed to this report.