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Aug. 10, 2021 -- The Westchester County District Attorney’s Office and the Youth Shelter Program of Westchester, Inc. will join the Vera Institute of Justice’s Motion for Justice initiative in an effort to examine and reduce racial disparities in the Westchester County criminal justice system, District Attorney Miriam E. Rocah announced.

As part of the Motion for Justice initiative, the Vera Institute will provide financial support to the Youth Shelter Program of Westchester, and assist the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office with data analysis, staff training, community engagement support, and policy expertise.

“We are pleased to join with the Vera Institute and the Youth Shelter Program of Westchester to reimagine justice in our community. Prosecutors have tremendous responsibility and discretion and we must critically examine the impact of our prosecutorial decisions on communities of color,” DA Rocah said. “With this partnership, and the additional resources it provides, we can better evaluate the impact of our prosecutions in communities of color and implement policies more centered in racial justice.”

The Motion for Justice initiative creates opportunities for prosecutors to help strengthen the relationships between law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve to create lasting policies and practices that tackle racial injustices in the criminal legal system. As part of this program, prosecutors have an opportunity to partner with a community-based organization to work on rectifying the decisions and policies that have historically harmed marginalized communities and inspire others across the nation to adopt similar measures to address the racial inequities in the criminal legal system.

“As a former prosecutor, I know the unique and immense power that prosecutors wield. They can either perpetuate the injustices of the criminal legal system or work to rectify them,” Jami Hodge, Director of the Reshaping Prosecution Initiative at the Vera Institute of Justice, said. “Local prosecutors are on the frontlines of justice and thus have the responsibility and discretion to address the racial inequities inherent in the criminal legal system. We are far past time for prosecutors to operate through a racial equity lens and in partnership with the community, so I am thrilled to partner with both the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office and the Youth Shelter Program of Westchester to tackle the deep-rooted injustices that continue to plague our communities.”

Vera will provide the following support to the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office and the Youth Shelter Program of Westchester:

  1. Policy and strategy recommendations;
  2. Data on the disparate impact of prosecution practices on Black people and other marginalized communities;
  3. Educational materials and programming designed and delivered in partnership with people from communities most impacted by the criminal legal system; and
  4. Financial support to a community-based organization that partners with prosecutors to implement racially equitable policies and practices.

 

"Working alongside the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office on the Vera Institute Motion for Justice initiative will allow us to collectively examine the policies and practices that shape key decisions prosecutors make,” said Joanne Dunn, Executive Director of the Youth Shelter Program of Westchester. “As an organization that serves young people, particularly Black and Brown youth who are on the receiving side of the prosecutor’s decisions, the Youth Shelter of Westchester will be able to contribute a lens of racial equity, trauma-informed circumstances and recommend sentences that consider the individual as a whole and not just the crime they committed."


The Vera Institute has previously partnered with Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins in Massachusetts, Ingham County Prosecuting Attorney Carol Siemon in Michigan, Ramsey County Attorney John Choi in Minnesota, City of St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner, and Commonwealth’s Attorney for Arlington County and the City of Falls Church Paris Dehghani-Tafti to make similar changes.

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Jess Vecchiarelli, Director of Communications
(914) 995-3586
jvecchiarelli@westchesterda.net

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