Meg Reiss (chief prosecutor to Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg) boasted about her success in releasing violent felons – including killers – by using restorative justice to prevent them from being incarcerated.
Reiss stated that incarceration does not solve all problems during a Peace Institute event held in May 2021. Reiss claimed that criminals were not “bad guys” and criticized juries for believing that police officers who are facing misconduct accusations deserve the “benefits of the doubt.”
Reiss continued to explain how the Manhattan District Attorney helped a murderer escape jail time for a victim of a homicide who had few relatives.
She stated that a man facing a manslaughter case for the death of another person in a violent altercation was free to leave prison without any jail time.
“It was an accident between two people who knew each other well. It was a sort of… fight that resulted in one person being killed and the other person being charged with substance misuse issues. It seemed more appropriate to have restorative practice than a harsh sentence after looking at the case.
Reiss stated that the victim had only one relative and did not know his family. Reiss stated that the victim’s daughter had never met her father. This daughter of the father was not incarcerated, but the Manhattan DA helped her to participate in a restorative circle.
Mike Gonzalez, Heritage Foundation, stated that “Restorative practices” is the antidote to “systemic racism”, which critical race theorists claim has plagued America.
Reiss stated that many violent criminals are given referrals to avoid incarceration.
Reiss stated that they are trying to make restorative outcomes the default for the work they do. “So, there are some situations where this already happens… for people who are charged with actual violence or causing harm… where they actually cause harm to another person.”
Reiss stated that she screens cases for Common Justice to divert violent criminals who are facing felonies in adult court, usually between the ages of 18 and 26.
She said, “That’s a mistake in our office.”
“In New York City, we operate the… alternative-to-incarceration and victim-service program… that focuses on violent felonies in the adult courts,” the organization said.
Common Justice assists its partners in “developing and advancing solutions to violence that… foster Racial Equity without relying upon incarceration.”
Reiss also condemned the notion that New York criminals illegally possessing firearms should be sentenced to prison.
She stated that the office offers a “gun diversion program” for illegal firearms owners.
We do gun diversion with a restorative component. New York State has a minimum requirement for straight gun possession. It prohibits violence and straight gun possession must not exceed three years.
Criminal possession of firearms in New York is a Class E felony that carries up to 4 years in prison and a fine of $5,000.
Manhattan District Attorney’s Office did not respond to a question about whether they have a general policy of diverting violent criminals and Class E felons from the criminal justice system.
Bragg’s office is in the news as it leads the investigation into hush money and indictment against former President Donald Trump on 34 Class E felonies. If he is convicted, he could spend over 100 years in prison.
Trump’s indictment was the first time that a U.S. President, current or former, has been charged with a crime. Trump accused Bragg, a Democrat of bias against him.
Reiss founded the Institute for Innovation on Prosecution to promote racial equality reforms that are rooted in critical-race theory ideology.
The Institute believes in an ideology-driven approach to prosecution that considers historical factors. In a report signed by Reiss, the Institute stated that prosecutions must “acknowledge our nation’s shameful past of slavery and racism, which continues to cloud the criminal justice system.”
The IIP recommended that prosecutors intentionally weaken the charges brought forward by police officers as part of their racial equality mission.
IIP stated that the charging authority gives you the power to counterbalance and check some police actions. “Recognize the systems upstream of your office that could perpetuate racial disparities within the justice system and take steps to stop them in your own office.”
“Meg Reiss is a former homicide prosecutor who has worked collaboratively with all stakeholders throughout the criminal justice system and has been in public service for decades. She is a widely respected attorney who ensures every case is evaluated based on the facts and the law,” a spokesperson for the DA’s office stated.