San Francisco District Attorney's Office Launches Groundbreaking Initiative To Promote Racial Equity
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 30, 2014
ADA Alex Bastian, DA Gascón’s Office, (415) 553-1931
Chris Munzing, Vera Institute of Justice (212) 376-3031
SAN FRANCISCO DISTRICT ATTORNEY’S OFFICE LAUNCHES GROUNDBREAKING INITIATIVE TO PROMOTE RACIAL EQUITY
SAN FRANCISCO, CA – District Attorney George Gascón announced today that the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office has partnered with the Vera Institute of Justice (Vera) on a project to proactively study the exercise of prosecutorial discretion. Through rigorous research and evidence-based practice, Vera’s Prosecution and Racial Justice Program (PRJ) will offer the SFDA the means to monitor the exercise of discretion among its prosecutors, encourage fairness, promote efficiency, and enhance the integrity of the prosecutorial role.
“We must take the steps necessary to modernize our justice system so that it is more thoughtful and efficient as it relates to people,” said District Attorney George Gascón. “Our work with Vera will help us in taking that step by working to eliminate biases in the system.”
“Vera is proud to work with a new generation of prosecutorial leadership across the nation, and we believe that the results of our work with DA Gascón’s office will lead to a fairer, more equitable justice system for all San Franciscans,” said PRJ Director Whitney Tymas.
Prosecutors have the power to make critical decisions throughout the lifecycle of a criminal justice case, from charging and bail recommendations to plea bargaining and sentencing. To ensure the integrity of the justice system, it is critical that outcomes do not disproportionately affect members of certain racial and ethnic groups—and that any disparities be identified so solutions can be developed.
During the next year, the SFDA will provide PRJ researchers access to statistical data-on aggregate case outcomes for defendants and victims- that will lead to a set of findings and recommendations addressing the exercise of prosecutorial discretion along a continuum of decision points in the criminal justice process. PRJ will work collaboratively with its partner to analyze this data and, if warranted, assist in developing routine policies and practices that promote fairness.
To date, PRJ has partnered successfully with prosecutors’ offices in Milwaukee, Charlotte, San Diego, and New York City. PRJ began working with Nebraska’s Lincoln County Attorney’s Office last month.